Our first trip out in the caravan this year along with our two dogs, exploring the area around Cambridge. One of the dogs, Indie, is a relatively recent addition this year, so it’s also our first holiday experience with him.
Indie is an old dog who’s been in and out of the dog’s home a few times. Not sure exactly what’s happened in his past, but he’s now got separation anxiety and can’t bear to be left alone. Not a problem at home now that I’ve retired, but it meant that the dogs would have to accompany us absolutely everywhere whilst on holiday – we planned our sightseeing accordingly!
We based ourselves at the Camping & Caravanning Club site at Trumpington, on the outskirts of the city. Easy access to the city centre via local bus services or the nearby Park & Ride. We chose to drive in with the dogs, and use one of the many council car parks dotted around the edges of town. Nice to note that a small proportion of the local shops and cafes make an effort to put a bowl of water out on the pavement for passing dogs!
A great resource for our week away was the GPS Cycle and Walking Routes website. This gives descriptions and mapping for a variety of walks, short and long. We used their 4-mile ‘Cambridge Backs Walk‘ on our first full day, to give us a quick overview of Cambridge’s colleges and the area around the River Cam.
The day of our visit coincided with the Cambridge 5k and 10k ‘Race for Life’ in aid of Cancer Research, so although closed off to through traffic the centre was still exceptionally busy with visitors and of course the runners. The race finished on Jesus Green, a large grassy open space just north of the colleges.
On Monday we travelled to the pretty little market town of St Ives, on the banks of the River Great Ouse. There’s a large free Park & Ride car park on the edge of town, as part of the unusual ‘guided busway’ service from Huntingdon through St Ives to Cambridge. The guided busway makes use of the disused trackbed from a former railway between the towns, and there’s also a well-maintained cycle and pedestrian pathway alongside. Near to St Ives, the pathway passes through the Fen Drayton Lakes nature reserve.
After exploring the view of the nature reserve in the first few miles of this 12 mile walk which would eventually reach Cambridge, we headed back to the park & ride and then a short distance in the opposite direction into St Ives town. Some of the former railway heritage is still evident in a few of the buildings on this first stretch towards the attractive market square in the centre of town. A side street from the Market Square leads you to a lovely view of the River Great Ouse, and an interesting Medieval Bridge (closed to traffic but accessible on foot).
Tuesday looked like a good forecast, so we headed out again, this time to visit the nearby cathedral city of Ely.
We used another short circular 2-mile walk from GPS-Routes, which took us from the cathedral down to the riverside, then followed the River Great Ouse through Ely Country Park, Fen Rivers Way and back through the Rosewell Pits before returning to the city centre.
Ely Cathedral does allow well-behaved dogs into certain areas, but with our uncertainty about how Indie might react coupled with an admission price of £9 per adult, we decided to forgo the interior and instead explore the perimeter of the cathedral and all of its associated buildings.
After our walk, we stopped for a while at the cathedral refectory which opens up onto a grass area with picnic benches to the side of the cathedral entrance. Tea and coffee, plus a thoughtful bowl of water for the dogs!
Midweek, for a dog-friendly pub meal we visited the nearby Green Man in Trumpington. No dogs in the restaurant, but we were allowed in the bar area to eat, and the staff were very helpful when we phoned in advance to reserve a suitable table in a quiet corner. Good steaks, and some excellent customer service.
Later in the week we visited the quaint local village of Grantchester. Yes, it’s the one where the ITV series is set! There’s a small Pay & Display car park near the centre of the village, at The Orchard tea rooms.
A walk through the village took us past the local church (14th century) and a handful of picturesque thatched properties, some of which were in various states of renovation.
From the High Street, we were able to cut through to Grantchester Meadows and cricket pitch, in a beautiful location by the banks of the River Cam. Then on to the Mill Pond, with a pair of swans and a family of ducks on the water. The old mill buildings looked to be private residences now, with no further attractions for us to visit.
We finished our walk back at The Orchard tea rooms. A lovely setting, with tables and deckchairs set out in the shade of apple trees in a working orchard. We stopped for a drink, and also picked up an interesting little book about local history from the cafe for just a few pounds – ‘Old Grantchester, a sketch book by E N Willmer’, ISBN 0 905 232 011.
Towards the end of our week we visited another local attraction, Wandlebury Country Park. It’s on the Gog Magog hills a few miles south of Cambridge, and is run by a local charity ‘Cambridge Past, Present and Future’.
The park is centred upon the site of an Iron age hill fort and defensive circular ditch, and provides for some nice long wooded meadow walks through the grounds, taking in a viewpoint for Ely Cathedral, the track of a Roman road, and of course the hall buildings in the cente of the estate. On the day of our visit, some schoolchildren were also busy doing a treasure hunt exercise in the large grounds.
Limited on the availability of dog-friendly restaurants, we decided to finish our week with a Thai takeaway from The Navigator in Little Shelford. I so wish I had discovered this place much earlier in our holidays. A quaint village pub set in a 16th century coaching inn in the middle of nowhere, but with the food menu entirely given over to Thai cuisine. It was clearly a very busy restaurant and pub when I went to collect our Pad Thais!
Overall a very pleasant week away, if a little different to our usual sightseeing because of having to be more limited by our responsibility to our canine companions. It’s really made me appreciate the handful of places who ‘go the extra mile’ to accommodate visitors with pets.