Cambridge in August?

Jul 31st, 2006, 02:57 PM
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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?
David_Perry is offline  
Jul 31st, 2006, 10:09 PM
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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.
flanneruk is offline  
Jul 31st, 2006, 10:18 PM
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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 "huge number of tourists in Cambridge during the summer"?

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.
janisj is online now  
Aug 1st, 2006, 03:26 AM
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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.
Morgana is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 04:58 AM
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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.
David_Perry is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 05:55 AM
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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!
seetheworld is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 05:58 AM
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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!
Morgana is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 07:04 AM
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If you do go to Cambridge, you have must visit the American cemetary, it is amazing
fodderfodder is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 07:16 AM
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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.
lauralamb is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 07:50 AM
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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 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 03:48 PM
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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.
David_Perry is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 04:03 PM
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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.
gertie3751 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 04:31 PM
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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.


SandyBrit is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 07:02 PM
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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.
David_Perry is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 11:19 PM
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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

Morgana is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2006, 08:39 AM
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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 "Can't miss" 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?

David_Perry is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2006, 10:31 PM
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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.
Morgana is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 02:31 AM
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Morgana - excellent information - agree there is no right or wrong answer but choices.

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

SandyBrit is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 03:41 AM
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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.
Morgana is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 04:54 AM
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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.

Marz is offline  

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