FROM CAMBRIDGE TO LONG MELFORD FOR A LONG WEEK-END
Visiting the renowned University town of Cambridge is an ABSOLUTE must and can be done in one day. However, on a long week-end you can explore the charming surrounding area, driving through the unspoilt countryside dotted with typical villages and quaint cottages; you could visit the Suffolk area, its landscape of timeless beauty and its villages where some cottages are half-timbered, thatched and washed in pretty pink, also dubbed “Suffolk Pink”. So, what are you waiting for? Get your supercar ready! Haven’t got one? No worries, you can rent a car at a very reasonable price, and share the costs among your friends or travel companions. That will be a great way to experience the long winding roads typical of the English countryside.
Here is an itinerary ready for you which covers around 3 days, going from Cambridge to Long Melford.
Places you will explore: Cambridge, Grantchester, Saffron Walden, Audley End, Thaxted, Finchingfield, Hedingham Castle,Long Melford, Stoke-by-Nayland, East Bergholt
Number of days: 3
Distance: 177 km (110 miles)
Best time to visit: from April to October as the weather is generally more pleasant and the countryside green and blooming.
Sleeping: the fairest of the listed places, East Bergholt, is one hour from Cambridge. You may choose either to keep Cambridge as a base, wandering around the countryside and enjoying the Cambridge nightlife or decide to spend 1 or 2 nights where it’s more convenient for you.
Cambridge, which lies on River Cam, is one of the most important English towns and you can visit it for one day or just a few hours. It is a young student town renowned for its 31 colleges, its medieval university and its historic centre where you can admire fantastic architecture and green spaces. Compared to bustling London it has indeed a relaxing feel and it’s really charming to stroll around.
You should be able to visit the main sights in 3 or 4 hours or you can linger longer.
Cambridge is not car-friendly, and much of the centre is pedestrianized. There are five car parks available, but it’s more convenient for you to leave your car at the Grand Arcade Car Park, and follow the indications to the tourist office (marked with a 1) where you can pick up a map.
In the map below the major Cambridge sights are shown:
Stroll along the Backs (3), which offers a fantastic view over the back of four famous colleges: Queens’ College, King’s College, Clare College and Trinity Hall.
Keep on exploring the many points of interest the town has to offer including:
Kettle’s Yard (4), which hosts a little museum, filled with paintings and fine sculptures.
St. Peter, the second most ancient church of the town.
Cambridge and County Folk Museum (5), where 20,000 objects and documents recall rural life in Cambridgeshire
Pepys Library housing the diaries of Samuel Pepys.
The half-timbered Tudor houses on Magdalene St by Bridge St, where erotic carvings hint where once there may have been a brothel.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (7), one of four Norman round churches in England, dating from the 12th century.
St John’s College (8), founded in 1511 where it is possible to visit St. John’s Chapel
Trinity College (9)
King’s College (10), whose chapel is probably one of the most spectacular buildings in Cambridge.
Visiting Cambridge Colleges
Visiting times at Cambridge Colleges vary from college to college. Some charge for entrance at certain times. Colleges may be closed to visitors in the exam period.
Places to Eat in Cambridge
Fitzbillies and its Chelsea Buns
Pay a visit to Fitzbillies, 52 Trumpington St, CB2 1RG; it’s a delightful cake shop where you can observe all of Cambridge life while enjoying tea and lovely cakes. This is an institution in Cambridge for the Chelsea buns, which are sweet sticky buns available to eat in or take away. Have a try! Dinner is served over the week-end and it’s inexpensive.
Good Italian Restaurant in Cambridge
Cotto is a café, deli, restaurant and gallery which uses a lot of local organic produce. Prices are moderate and it is really appreciated by guests. Cotto Cambridge. 183 East Rd, Cambridge, CB1 1BG.
AFFORDABLE ACCOMMODATION IN CAMBRIDGE
There are several good places where you can spend a night in Cambridge without spending a fortune. Here are my three picks: for your budget options, centrally located and with great ratings, starting from the cheapest:
YHA Hostel Cambridge
97 Tenison Road, Cambridge, CB1 2DN, United Kingdom
Rated 8.5/10 in Booking.com
Refurbished in 2014, the YHA Cambridge Hostel offers dormitory bedrooms with shared bathroom facilities. Some rooms benefit from en-suite bathrooms. The majority of rooms contain bunk beds. WiFi is accessible in public areas.
Cheap Central Accommodation in Cambridge
32 Chesterton Road, Cambridge, CB4 3AX, United Kingdom
Rated 8/10 in Booking.com
The Waterman is one of the most affordable B&Bs in central Cambridge. Perfect value for your money for your cheap stay in Cambridge. The Waterman is perfect for 1 night stays and offers a real English atmosphere besides delicious pub food, and a free breakfast too. The location of this bed and breakfast is very close to the river and city centre.
Buses to the rail station and Cambridge city centre can be caught from outside The Waterman, and run every 10 minutes. Many local shops and cafés can be reached within a 5-minute walk.
Public parking is possible at a location nearby (reservation is not needed).
Lensfield Hotel Boutique Wellness Spa
53-57 Lensfield Road, Cambridge, CB2 1EN, United Kingdom
Rated 7.3/10 in Booking.com
Situated in the historic city of Cambridge, this fairly-priced and charming hotel is just 15 minutes walk from the rail station and University colleges; it boasts elegant accommodation and indulgent spa and wellness facilities. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout.
Each morning guests can enjoy a traditional English breakfast or a continental buffet. There is also a comfortable residents coffee lounge serving a range of fine beers and wine. Prices are very reasonable.
Limited parking is available on a first-come first-served basis.
Arundel House Hotel
Chesterton Road, Cambridge, CB4 3AN, United Kingdom
Rated 7.7/10 in Booking.com
Overlooking the River Cam, Arundel House Hotel is just a 10-minute walk from Cambridge’s historic centre. The Victorian hotel has a conservatory restaurant, free WiFi and free on-site parking.
The elegant bedrooms each have a private modern bathroom and tea/coffee facilities. All rooms are traditionally decorated, and some are located in the charming former coach house building while others are in an annexe. You can find offers at just over £ 100.
Looking for some other hotel?
7.7 miles from Cambridge
Image copyright: Juan Delgado
Grantchester is a quaint village with thatched cottages and historic inns, a corner of England where time seems to stand still. It is situated only 7.7 miles from Cambridge. You can reach it in 5 minutes by car and you can combine the visit of the two towns in the same day.
Tip: Stop by the Orchard Tea Garden for a traditional English afternoon tea.
16.1 miles from Cambridge
Image copyright: Roland Turner
After visiting Cambridge and Grantchester, stop at Saffron Walden, a little medieval market town on the River Cam. It’s a real gem set in the unspoilt Essex countryside worth visiting for its half-timbered buildings and a Tudor-style town hall.
Points of interest
You can stop by at the Saffron Walden Museum, one of the oldest public museums in Great Britain. It is open daily and stands in a meadow, beside the ruins of 12th-century Walden Castle.
Essex; CB11 4JF
- Woman of Straw (1964) Film
- Great British Bakeoff (2010) TV Series
Image copyright: Caroline
A 15 minute drive from Saffron Walden, Thaxted is a pleasant, small town which boasts ancient, timberframed houses and a 14th-century Guildhall complete with jail.
Points of interest in Thaxted
On the hilltop, you can visit one of the finest parish churches in the country from the 14th century, the magnificent Church of St John the Baptist named also the “Cathedral of Essex”.
Picture copyright: Amanda Slater
15 minutes from Thaxted lies Finchingfield. Get your camera ready because this is a picture-postcard village, one of the most photographed in England! You will find thatched cottages, a village green, a duck pond, a windmill and the Norman Church of St John the Baptist.
Essex; CO9 3DJ
Image copyright: giborn_134
After a 20 minute drive you are at Hedingham Castle, largely unchanged over 900 years.
The grounds and surrounding woodlands are especially lovely in spring when carpeted with bluebells. Various events, such as historic re-enactments, classic cars, falconry, etc. take place throughout the year. It is closed, except on certain days, during the winter, so check when planning a visit.
Essex; CO10 9AA
Image copyright: Spencer Means
Stop at Long Melford and take a stroll along the long high street lined with specialist and independent shops, galleries and antiques emporia, bars, restaurantsand old inns.
Points of interest in Long Melford
Holy Trinity Church from the late 15th century.
The National Trust has done a splendid job at Melford Hall. The property is in excellent condition, the gardens delightful and the volunteers both very informative and friendly. The house, set in a peaceful rural environment with grazing sheep and gently rolling pastures, is very interesting with some splendid portraits and maritime art, plus a wonderful collection of miniatures and some interesting pieces which were taken as booty from Spanish treasure galleons. The downstairs kitchens, servants’ quarters, etc are also very interesting and authentic. The tearooms serve a delicious light lunch for a very reasonable price.
Kentwell is a moated, red-brick Tudor mansion, with gardens dating from the 1500s, purchased by a private couple in 1971 and restored. The grounds include farm animals and equipment, a walled garden, fish pond, and of course the house, which looks more like a castle. There is a guided tour every day at 2:30. Be sure to try the maze laid out in the cobbled stones of the courtyard.
Suffolk; CO6 4QU
Image copyright: Simon Cope
Points of interest in Stoke-by Nayland
St Mary’s Church, with its fine octagonal font and a well-preserved oak door, was built from the profits of the local wool trade and dates mainly from the 14th and 16th centuries.
Suffolk; CO7 6UP
Image copyright: Tom
East Bergholt is renowned for two things: it’s the birthplace of John Constable and it’s the village that boasts more pubs than any other in Suffolk. With a fine day, a stroll along the Stour is a must.