Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Cambridge in August? (

David_Perry Jul 31st, 2006 03:57 PM

Cambridge in August?
My wife and I are planning a trip to the UK for next summer - late August. We would like to stay in Cambridge and use it as a base to see Stamford, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, Ely, etc.

The only thing I am hesitant over is the huge number of tourists in Cambridge during the summer. From this standpoint, would Bury be a better place to place ourselves for a tour of this region?

flanneruk Jul 31st, 2006 11:09 PM

I'm not familiar with Cambridge during the summer break - but I am very familiar with Oxford, which attacts far more tourists.

Unlike Bury or Stamford, Cambridge boasts a remarkable range of things to amuse you at night, which go on even out of term - from Shakespeare in college gardens, to all kinds of music, to an array of restaurants the citizens of Bury would kill to have available. It's easy to punt your way away from the crasser incomers for an evening picnic.

And Cambridge gets few daytrippers. Most resident tourists, if they're anything like Oxford, are reasonably similar to term-time students: pubs and the cheaper eateries feel much the same during the summer as in the middle of term, only the carousers don't speak English as fluently. The true atmosphere of our ancient universities at night these days isn't a learned group of gowned, male, scholars disputing Schopenhauer: it's a bunch of boys and girls discussing how to finish off the eighth pint and still get the essay in on time. Little difference whether the disputers are full-time (and half-pissed) undergraduates or the far more sober attenders of one-week summer schools. And late at night or early in the morning, the atmosphere's still distinctive.

Bored-looking groups of foreign tourists do rather clutter the main shopping streets of Oxford - but that's mainly because Oxford's handy for Bicester Shopping Village, which is what the Chinese really want to see: Cambridge just doesn't get the least interested. Even so, staying in Cambridge, rather than Bury or wherever, means you get to see the real honey-pots (like King's Chapel) at a time of your chosing, when hte groups are still forming.

There's only one other place like Cambridge anywhere in the world. Staying in a small provincial town (and it's amazing how quickly you run out of the nice bits of Bury) is a wholly inadequate substitute. Sharing Cambridge with a few confused-looking Japanese language students really isn't that painful.

janisj Jul 31st, 2006 11:18 PM

Ely, Bury, Stamford are all good for a visit, but for a stay Cambridge would be the one to choose. Where did you get the idea of &quot;<i>huge number of tourists in Cambridge during the summer</i>&quot;?

There are tourists, sure. But not huge numbers by any means. flanneruk's description of the Oxford situation is about the same as what you'd see in Cambridge only less so. Some coach groups, some walking tours, some shoppers from the outlying area, and so on. In fact it is probably less crowded then than at some other times of the year. I've been there in summer a few times (though much more often in Oxford) and there just weren't huge masses anywhere.

Morgana Aug 1st, 2006 04:26 AM

I was born and bred in Bury (although I now live in North Yorkshire) and somewhat reluctantly agree with flanner about the town. It is rapidly becoming 'like everywhere else' and everytime I return I feel it is losing some of its lovely character. It only has one decent restaurant - Maison Bleue- which isn't a lot of good if you don't like fish!
The Theatre Royal in Bury is a little gem. Don't miss exploring the Abbey ruins, Norman Tower, Cathedral etc.
Hope you don't mind me mentioning some places you might wish to visit in the area.
1) Ickworth House (National Trust), just outside Bury
2) Anglesey Abbey, just outside Cambridge, also NT
Details on National Trust site for both places and many more in East Anglia.
3) Newmarket, half way betweeen Bury and Cambridge. World famous for horse racing. Home of National Stud.
4) Lavenham and Long Melford. Beautiful medieval villages south of Bury. Magnificent wool churches. Wonderful places to explore.
Give me a yell if you need any details on any of the places I have mentioned.

David_Perry Aug 1st, 2006 05:58 AM

Thanks for the replies. I hadn't realized that Cambridge was so different from Oxford regarding the number of tourists. Cambridge sounds like the kind of place we would enjoy for a few nights.

I read in some guide book that daytrip tourists from London were a big nuissance in Cambridge. This is why these forums are helpful. I simply don't know many people who have ever travelled to this area of England.

seetheworld Aug 1st, 2006 06:55 AM

I won't repeat what others have said. Go to Cambridge, you won't be sorry! And be sure to check out The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival which runs during July and August - fabulous!

Morgana Aug 1st, 2006 06:58 AM

The thing about East Anglia is that because of its geographical position you don't actually travel through some of it to go anywhere. I think this keeps part of it quiet and unspoilt. I am especially thinking about some of the Suffolk coastline (Orford, Thorpeness, Walberswick etc) which is quite delightful. I have directed many overseas visitors towards the Lavenham area and none have been disappointed!

fodderfodder Aug 1st, 2006 08:04 AM

If you do go to Cambridge, you have must visit the American cemetary, it is amazing

lauralamb Aug 1st, 2006 08:16 AM

I am currently living in Cambridge and can say that the city center does get very packed out in July/August at the weekends. The weekdays are much quieter and then it is a real delight to stroll round the colleges and shopping areas, stopping for coffee and browsing in the shops. However, even in high summer it's a great place to be. Also, you have some very beautiful parks close to the centre to which you can always escape. I think Cambridge is a fine place to visit any time of year. You may even bump into Professor Steven Hawking as I did last week!! I have been to Bury St Edmunds a few times and I think it's nice for a day trip or perhaps an overnight stay.

David_Perry Aug 1st, 2006 08:50 AM

Cambridge does sound like a great place. I think that's where we'll go. As a side trip, I would like to rent a car in Cambridge and drive through Lavenham down to Dedham and back, seeing some of the Suffolk villages.
I would really like to see Lavenham and Kersey in particular.

David_Perry Aug 1st, 2006 04:48 PM

As a follow-up to the last post? Is the drive from Cambridge, down to Lavenham and
Kersey and back to Cambridge a full day's drive? I know the country roads are slow.

gertie3751 Aug 1st, 2006 05:03 PM

OK flanner, I take the bait. Where is the one other place in the world like Cambridge? Cordoba? Bologna? Padua?
Put me out of my agony please.

SandyBrit Aug 1st, 2006 05:31 PM


How many days will you have to explore the area? There is so much to see and do. Last year we spent an entire day in Ely. The cathedral is magnificent.

Close to Woodbridge - Sutton Hoo, where an Anglo-Saxon burial ship was found filled with treasure is another possible day trip.

Go to for lots of information that include discovery tours based on your interest.

Enjoyed the hop on and off bus in Cambridge and this will take you out to the American cemetery. Very moving indeed.


David_Perry Aug 1st, 2006 08:02 PM

In response to SandyBrit, we have 5 full days in the area. I figure we'll devote 2 to Cambridge, with day trips to Stamford, Ely, and possibly the wool villages like Clare, Kersey and Lavenham.

The rest of our 10-day trip will be spent in London, since my wife has never been there before.

Morgana Aug 2nd, 2006 12:19 AM

In response to your question - yes, it would be a very full day to travel from Cambridge down to Kersey (and on to Dedham/East Bergholt I assume?)although of course it depends how long you want to linger at these places.
My suggestions for this day would be -
Borley (if you are interested in the legend of Borley Rectory, which no longer exists) The church is lovely.
Long Melford - church, Bull Hotel for lunch? The Bull was built in 1450!
Lavenham - church, timbered houses, Guildhall etc
Kersey - there's a stream running across the main street in Kersey. Very pretty village. Great church.
Polstead - Maria Marten legend
East Bergholt/Flatford Mill/Dedham

David_Perry Aug 2nd, 2006 09:39 AM

From what Morgana said, it looks like we couldn't get to the Dedham vale and back in a day - we do like to linger in these places.

I definitely want to see Lavenham, Clare and kersey, at the minimum.

If the Dedham vale is one of those &quot;Can't miss&quot; places, maybe I could adjust the itinerary by reducing the number of days we spend in London and devoting a couple of nights to staying at Lavenham Priory.

But my wife has never been to England before - isn't London a must see for first-time visitors?

Morgana Aug 2nd, 2006 11:31 PM

There's no right or wrong answer - it's just decision time! 'Constable Country' around Dedham is lovely, but if you did a day tour with Lavenham/Long Melford as your furthest point and didn't venture into the Stour Valley I don't think you should worry.
However, a day or two at Lavenham Priory does sound tempting! I am sure you and your wife would love this place, and to stay right in the middle of Lavenham would, I think, suit you very well. So why not have Lavenham as your base? What a fabulous place to come home to after a day touring? You could still visit Cambridge/Ely of course.

SandyBrit Aug 3rd, 2006 03:31 AM

Morgana - excellent information - agree there is no right or wrong answer but choices.

Morgana can you comment on Stamford and Burghley House. Thanks.


Morgana Aug 3rd, 2006 04:41 AM

I don't know Stamford well However, as I live in North Yorkshire but come from Suffolk (where all my family still live) we occasionally break the tedious drive up and down the A1 by stopping here for a few hours.
It's a very attractive town, and its old fashioned appearance and stone buildings makes it an ideal film set for period dramas/films including Pride and Prejudice.
The George used to be the place to stay, but I have heard quite poor reports about it recently.
Burghley House is magnificent!
I always feel this part of England is very much off the tourist path, and am so pleased that the original poster is exploring it. I am sure he won't be disappointed, and Lavenham Priory will just blow him away! I think the same about Suffolk too in terms of being neglected by tourists. Everyone seems to want to rush off to the Cotswolds, and yet Suffolk/Cambs/Lincs are in such easy reach of London, and with so many attractions of their own.

Marz Aug 3rd, 2006 05:54 AM

I can add to the Stamford part.

As Morgana said about The George in Stamford, it is a lovely place, but I have had bad reports of the food recently and I myself given up going there in recent years (eating, not staying).

Burghley House is in regular use for film making - I guess perhaps the biggest so far is the Da Vinci code. They were filming there again recently, but the name of the film escapes me at the moment.

If you go to Burghly House, the grounds may be starting to get busy with preparations for the horse trials which start early September which may spoil some of the feel of the grounds.

I had tea at the Orangery a couple of years ago and it was very nice. It used to be run by a local company called Simpole Clarkes who have a very good name for themselves for food and their deli in town. I am not sure if they still run it though.

David_Perry Aug 3rd, 2006 05:56 AM

Stamford sounds wonderful - and being off the tourist path is a bonus. My wife loves 16th and 17th century British history, so Burghley house would be a must-see for her.

janisj Aug 3rd, 2006 07:09 AM

One more bit about Stamford - the open air Shakespeare theatre at Tolethorpe Hall is wonderful. You can eat in the restaurant, have a picnic or get sandwiches and snacks and then see the play.

David_Perry Aug 3rd, 2006 10:59 AM

How does one get from the Stamford train station to Burghley and back?
Cab? Bus? Walk?

David_Perry Aug 4th, 2006 05:59 AM

While on the subject of Suffolk, could anyone tell me anything about Lavenham airfield? It was a US bomber base during WWII. I heard some of the original buildings are being restored.
Is it possible to tour the airfield?

janisj Aug 4th, 2006 06:02 AM

Looks like it is pretty derelict . . .

janisj Aug 4th, 2006 06:20 AM

Oh - meant to add - there is a bus every hour from Stamford that stops at the gate to Burghley House. It takes about 5 minutes. Burghley is only a mile out of town, so you could walk/bus/taxi depending on the timing/weather.

David_Perry Aug 4th, 2006 06:38 AM

Derelict - a ruin! Like Tintern Abbey!I wonder if it's accessible to the public?

janisj Aug 4th, 2006 06:41 AM

look at the link . . . .

janisj Aug 4th, 2006 06:43 AM

from the linked site:

... you should note that the majority of the Airfield is private property. Most of it is owned by John Pawsey, so please contact him before going up to the airfield. Email [email protected] or phone (01284) 828226. (When phoning from outside the UK, please replace the leading '0' with '+44'.)

... you'll find the perimeter track of the airfield is now gated and locked during non-working hours (4.30pm to 7.15am), but can be accessed from the Alpheton entrance at any time.

Marz Aug 4th, 2006 06:47 AM


If the weather is fine it would be nice to walk from the station to Burghley House. You would have to walk right through the park to get to the house which is a nice walk, especially if the deer are about.

I would guess depending on how fast you walk it would take about 30-45 mins to get to the house.

As your wife like 16/17th century history Stamford town would be a good place wo wander about.

You could try lunch or coffee at Fratellis on St Marys Hill and ask to see/be seated in the cellar, it is very nice down there with the nice vaulted ceilings.

Morgana Aug 4th, 2006 07:18 AM

Hi again
There are deserted air fields scattered all over Suffolk. I learnt to drive on one!
Did you have a particular interest in the Lavenham one? I could point you in the direction of others but there's not usually much to see. Just lots of long strips of tarmac that have never been removed (and lots of learner drivers of course!).

David_Perry Aug 4th, 2006 07:34 AM

Doesn't have to be Lavenham airfield. As long as there are runways
and/or a control tower - anything left of the Yoxford base?

Morgana Aug 5th, 2006 11:41 AM

I imagine you might want to visit the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, just outside Cambridge?
Also it may be worth writing to them about your Yoxford questions.

owain Aug 8th, 2006 12:04 PM

Anyone who suggests that Lavenham etc. is too much of a stretch for a day trip - nonsense! Once you're out of Cambridge, is a simple journey via the A14 and A134.

Re. Suffolk airfield: there's three museums based at WW2 sites, at Parham, Martlesham and Rougham. See

Others are either derelict as described above (Horham, for example), or have been used for industrial or residential development (Eye, Debach, Ipswich).

owain Aug 8th, 2006 12:06 PM

Oh, and my copy of Suffolk Airfields in the Second World War (seriously!) says the tower at Lavenham is now a private house.

David_Perry Aug 8th, 2006 06:26 PM

&quot;Anyone who suggests that Lavenham etc. is too much of a stretch for a day trip - nonsense! Once you're out of Cambridge, is a simple journey via the A14 and A134.&quot;

I was asking if it might be too much to go all the way from Cambridge through Lavenham and onto the Dedham Vale, especially because we like to linger in places.

But, I am now thinking that because there are so many good things in East Anglia, and because London is so expensive, we might stay for a 6th day in Suffolk. Maybe we'll take 2 days to see the Suffolk countryside. I admit,the Dedham Vale sounds really nice.

David_Perry Aug 8th, 2006 06:39 PM

Martlesham Heath looks interesting. Seriously interesting - and it's close to Sutton Hoo. We may end up spending the entire 10-day trip in East Anglia! Never thought I would see the day!

owain Aug 9th, 2006 01:29 AM

Bear in mind that if you want to see runways, Martlesham will disappoint - the control tower, plus a couple of hangers in use as storage by industrial firms, are all that survive.

David_Perry Aug 9th, 2006 03:59 PM

A question about meals in this part of England. Is restaurant food in East England cheaper than London? We've budgeted, tentatively, about 38 pounds/day for the 2 of us. Is this a realistic figure for Cambridge/Ely/Stamford?

owain Aug 9th, 2006 08:44 PM

Cheaper than London, yes, but that's not saying a lot! Assuming it doesn't include drink, then your budget is realistic, but certainly not indulgent. When you're out in more remote areas, the Good Pub Guide is a very useful way to find a decent meal for a decent price:

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:11 AM.