I was able to indulge my two guilty pleasures food and travel recently on a trip to Saint Ives, Cambridgeshire, England. If you are tired of the big city rush with too many tourists, St Ives may be your spot. Close to Cambridge if you need a big town fix, St Ives is a place for Anglophiles, history buffs, beer lovers, and the wind-down.
I typically stay with friends, but decided a stay in town and exploring on my own was what I wanted. Several old public houses in town still take in tourists. My choice, after some investigation, The Golden Lion Public House lodging included daily breakfast and being located on the high street, amid the hustle and bustle of town, at 70£ a night it’s a steal.
St Ives has a long, interesting history, built on the banks of the River Great Ouse; the district inhabited since the Stone Ages. The first Anglo-Saxon settlers are believed to have arrived in the 5th or 6th century; the present parish church of All Saints rebuilt in the 15th-century. Step inside and look at the interior, if you’re lucky as I was the Vicar would be playing the organ, I was compelled just to sit and listen.
St. Ives Free Church is one of the oldest non-conformist churches in the country; tracing its history as far back as the 1630s when Oliver Cromwell lived in the town. The current building dated back to 1864 and modernized in 80’s providing a church building central to the local community but also serves the community on many levels with various programs. Although these churches do not display the opulence of many other great European cathedrals, a visit to both churches should be on your agenda. I found them fascinating.
During the 17th & 18th centuries St Ives became a vital waterway route. Horse-drawn carriages were used to bring coal from other ports before returning with corn. A walk to the old Bridge should be on the to-do list, as you stroll on the quay stop at the Oliver Cromwell, for a “pint” and traditional English Steak and Kidney Pie or Fish and Chips. After lunch takes a ride in the electric boat that runs on the hour for some spectacular English countryside scenery, and an informative narrative and history lesson shared by the guide. I went on a working day and was the only customer; it was one of the high points of the trip.
The town is easy to navigate in and out of the small streets and alleys ways reveal old housing, some still inhabited others repurposed as offices or shops. Each Monday and Friday the high street is closed to traffic to accommodate the Markets whose beginnings date back to the 1200’s.
Take a day trip over to Cambridge via the bus there are several pickup locations in St Ives, then walk around Cambridge College founded in 1209, the second oldest university in England. Take a Punting Tour through Cambridge for some fantastic views of the “backs” the chauffeured tour bring you to the heart of the University of Cambridge past some of the most iconic buildings in the world. If the Fairs are up and running indulge yourself in the street food,
Post wedding on the “backs”
Tourist and locals spend an idyllic day on the water
St Ives has numerous restaurants offering many cuisine types that are sure to please. Don’t neglect to indulge yourself in the quintessential English foods, Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mash, Steak and Kidney Pie, Shepherds Pie, and my favorite Sunday Roasted Dinner served in most pubs, and don’t neglect the local beers
My favorite Bangers and Mash
Fish and Chips with mushy peas, very British
Traditional Sunday Roasted Diner
My favorite pub
Dave was a great source of history and many a late night laugh
My beer of choice
St Ives is a place to slow down, take your time enjoying the leisurely pace, the many historic buildings and meeting the friendly people.