Great Walks in Cambridgeshire & North Essex
The Walks
Not generally considered high on the list of serious walking areas, Cambridgeshire and northern Essex nonetheless offers much to the discerning rambler. Gently undulating countryside and charming villages complement the majesty of Cambridge itself
  Background Briefing

Rowing On The Cam

A Fenland Farmstead

Oliver Cromwell's House

King'S College

The American 
War Cemetery

Jeffrey Archer's

Wimpolw Hall

Balsham Village Green

The Infant River Granta

The Nene Valley
Steam Railway

The George Inn

Little Gidding Church

Summer Landscape
Near Alconbury

Folk Museum

Ely Cathedral

Grafham Water
At Sunset

Country Park

Imperial War Museum

The American War

Wimpole Hall























The Ferry Boat Inn
Old English Inns


Quy Mill Hotel
Near Cambridge
Best Western


Cambridgeshire is a large and diverse county, offering a range of very different walks. Our excursions into northern Essex add even more variety.

The upland areas in the south and west are characterised by undulating farmland and wooded hills. There are ancient ridgeways and green lanes, used by drovers and travellers over the centuries.

The broad skies of fen country, stretching north from Cambridge, provide very flat but rewarding walks punctuated by isolated habitations and remote farmsteads. Nowhere can the extreme flatness be better experienced than on the second leg of our Figure of Eight, setting out from near the fenland village of Clayhithe. The first section goes along the tow path on the River Cam before crossing the river at picturesque Baits Bite Lock.

Indeed, Cambridgeshire contains parts of some of East Anglia's most attractive rivers, including the Great Ouse, the Cam and the Nene. Several of our walks incorporate sections of these important waterways.

History is everywhere in the county. The village of Buckden was home to Catherine of Aragon for many years after she was ‘divorced’ by Henry VIII. Buckden Abbey and the remains of Catherine’s palace can still be seen near the start of our Buckden Riverside walk.

Slightly less historically verifiable is the possibility that highwayman Dick Turpin stayed overnight at Buckden on his flight up The Great North Road to York, where he was promptly hanged!

A few miles to the west, Kimbolton Castle was Catherine of Aragon’s final home before her death in 1536. The castle is now a minor public school, and the start of our Kimbolton countryside walk. Stride out from the castle gateway, between the elegant houses and shops of the High Street, and ascend sharply to high woodlands looking down into neighbouring Bedfordshire.

Hinchingbrooke House was the birth-place of Oliver Cromwell. The future Lord Protector was educated at the little Grammar School, now a museum, in Huntingdon High Street. Our walk from Hinchingbrooke Country Park, now operated by Cambridgeshire County Council as a nature reserve and leisure park, also passes through the nearby village of Brampton – once the home of the famous diarist Samuel Pepys.

You can also visit Oliver Cromwell’s later home as an optional extension from our Ely Cathedral and waterfront route. This walk takes in the water meadows aside the River Cam, beyond which the magnificent cathedral seems to rise up to the heavens. The magnificent edifice sits upon one of the very few hills in these parts, adding to the visual effect.

The city of Cambridge is, of course, steeped in history. Our short walk around ‘The Backs’ takes in many of the University’s oldest, and most famous, colleges.

Just outside the city is Madingley Hall, where the future King Edward VII lodged whilst attending Cambridge University. It is thought his father, Prince Albert, contracted the Typhoid Fever at Madingley from which he died in 1861.

On the hill above Madingley village is the American War Cemetery. Who knows what unfulfilled destiny would have awaited these young airmen whose lives were taken between 1942 and 1945. One at least was intent on high office. Instead, it was his younger brother, Jack, who became America’s first Catholic President. Joseph P. Kennedy Jnr. is listed amongst the hundreds of names on the long wall commemorating those whose bodies were never recovered. Our Madingley to Coton walk passes through the cemetery.

Throughout this area there are attractive villages and hamlets, often with welcoming pubs and historic churches. Just beyond the southern edge of Cambridge lies the village of Grantchester – immortalised by the poet Rupert Brooke. Like too many of his generation, Brooke’s life was cut short by the First World War. Still his name lives on; as one of the four pubs in Grantchester and at the Orchard Tea Room gardens which he knew well.

Next door to The Orchard lives an even more famous modern-day writer; Jeffrey Archer. Great Walk Guides feels some sense of responsibility to Lord Archer. No sooner had the elegant statuary visible in the Archers’ grounds been published in this guide than someone backed up a pick-up truck and stole them. Originally the police thought they would be melted down for the bronze. But the boys in blue soon recovered them and the shepherd and his flock were restored. See them on our Grantchester walk.

Moving round to the north-east of the city you come to Fen Ditton. Once an isolated riverside village it is now a suburb of Cambridge. The ancient water meadows are now used by joggers. The River Cam, meandering from the city centre out towards the Fens, is the practice ground of the many college rowing teams. Enjoy a riverside stroll right into Cambridge Quayside on our Fen Ditton walk.

Cambridgeshire boasts several elegant National Trust properties. Wimpole Hall and Park is actually used as a start point for two, rather different, walks. The magnificent house was completed in 1643, and then much altered over the years. It evolved to become the grandest country house in Cambridgeshire, under the Earls of Hardwick, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The then fashionable ‘naturalisation’ of the Wimpole landscape was undertaken largely by Robert Greening, under Lord Hardwicke, in the 1750s. The job was completed by Capability Brown from 1767. In typical style, Brown replaced formal gardens and enclosed fields with a sweeping landscape, avenues of trees and a natural-looking lake. You can walk those same grounds today.

Our walk out to Orwell village goes to the top of Johnson’s Hill, clearly visible from Wimpole Hall, where you can visit the folly built by Capability Brown to designs by one Sanderson Miller. The structure gives every impression of an ancient, ruined abbey. But closer inspection reveals nothing more than a purpose built overgrown ornament – the garden gnome of its day.

Our ramble from Balsham explores the quite hilly countryside close to the Cambridgeshire – Suffolk border, barely a stone’s throw from the headquarters of British horseracing at Newmarket. Indeed, many of the properties in this area are the training stables of some of the wealthiest and most successful people in the racing industry.

Many of the fine houses and immaculately tended estates to be seen nearby testify to the prestige of their residents. Wandering around these country lanes you often see exotic motor cars, including Ferraris, Bentleys and Range Rovers, no doubt driven by the top jockeys and horse owners. The National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket High Street is particularly interesting for those of a horsy bent. You can also visit the National Stud, situated to the west of the town, near the entrance to the Rowley Mile course.

Down on the Essex border our Hildersham route ascends to the ancient ridgeway which was once a Roman road, reaching into the heart of East Anglia. Nearby Chilford Hall boasts one of England’s most successful vineyards. It offers a fascinating visitor centre and café facilities. Regrettably there is no public footpath or bridleway through the vineyard, but you can easily go by car for refreshment after completing the Hildersham walk.

Into Essex itself for our Audley End ramble, which takes in the stately home of that name, and the lovely market town of Saffron Walden. There are a number of possible variations on this walk, traversing the Audley End estate.  

Up nearer Peterborough we come to a part of Cambridgeshire which could be forgiven for having something of an identity crisis in recent decades. For, until the 1970s the area was divided between the old Huntingdonshire, and the completely separate ‘Soke of Peterborogh’ (which actually had a Northamptonshire postal address!). For the sake of ‘efficiency’ the two little counties were amalgamated. No sooner had that union been consummated than the government came along and merged the lot with neighbouring Cambridgeshire.

Just outside Peterborough our walk from the charming village of Castor initially takes to the banks of the lazy River Nene, before meeting the railway line on which the Nene Valley Railway runs its superb collection of steam locomotives and associated rolling stock. Our route passes close by the N.V.R. headquarters station at Stibbington, although it is confusingly called Wansford Station. You can visit the station and exhibition, and on many days you may see the locomotives steaming along the line.

Not far away we have a lovely walk from the Cotswold-like stone built village of Elton. You’ll actually edge over the border into Northamptonshire to visit the site of Fotheringhay Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned and finally executed in 1587.

Stilton, of course, is famous for its distinctive blue-vein cheese. Even today there is an annual cheese rolling competition which runs the length of the village’s high street. The only slight snag is that Stilton cheese was never actually made here. Having been imported from Leicestershire, Stilton cheese first came to fame when it proved popular with travellers whose coaches stopped here to change horses. Our walk from Stilton takes to the hills above the village.

Nearby, Sawtry is the starting point for a route which ascends to Aversley Wood, high up on a ridge with stupendous views over the fens to the east. The wood is now owned and managed by The Woodland Trust. Visitors are granted free ‘permissive access’ along the many ridings and pathways within its boundaries.

Still in Huntingdonshire, our Grafham Water walk circumnavigates a lake which appears entirely natural (unless you see the large dam at the eastern end). In fact Grafham Water was flooded in the late 1960s to provide a water resource for the expanding towns nearby.

Now to the extreme west of the county you can take a walk which visits the three sister villages of Great Gidding, Little Gidding and Steeple Gidding. Of the three only ‘Great’ is still really a village. ‘Steeple’ has only about three houses, and ‘Little’ exists only as a modern-day Christian community centred on the tiny Church. Little Gidding is featured in the T.S. Eliot poem of the same name.

Whether in the hilly uplands, the flat, flat fens or by the great rivers, you’ll enjoy walking throughout Cambridgeshire, into north Essex and sneaking across the border to Northamptonshire. 


Cambridgeshire & North Essex walks, pictures and
background info have been compiled by:
Eric Joyce, Claire Thomson


The two walks detailed below can be downloaded from this Demo web site as PDF files by clicking on the icons


A riverside stroll out to the famous steam railway
8.3 miles or 5.8 miles (13.2 km or 9.3 km)
Toughness Rating : 2

A walk round this historic village outside Cambridge
4.6 miles or 5.7 miles (7.4 km or 9.2 km)
Toughness Rating : 1


Download your walk report by clicking on its icon

  Walks Without An Icon Will Be Ready This Summer   

Walk through undulating farmland.
7.8 miles or 6.2 miles (12.5 km or 10.0 km)

Toughness Rating: 3  

Brookside pathways and gentle hills.
8.3 miles (13.3 km)
Toughness Rating: 2

Into North Essex for a delightful walk around Saffron Walden
10.0 miles (16.0 km)
Toughness Rating: 2

A walk of good length and quite hilly.
12.4 miles (20 km)
Toughness Rating: 2 

A walk around hilly south Cambridgeshire. and Essex
7.0 miles (11.2 km)
Toughness Rating: 3

A low level walk partly on the Ouse Valley Way
8.4 miles (13.5 km)
Toughness Rating: 1

A riverside and village walk
8.3 miles (13.2 km) or 5.8 miles (9.3 km)
Toughness Rating: 2

A ramble through gently rolling farmland.
11.3 miles or 7.8 miles (18.0 km or 12.5 km)
Toughness Rating: 3

Walk the banks of the River Cam.
6.1 miles or 4.3 miles (9.8 km or 6.9 km)
Toughness Rating: 1

Cotswold – like villages and an historic site
8.5 miles or 5.9 miles (13.5 km or 9.5 km)
Toughness Rating: 2

City centre and riverside walk.
4.1 miles (6.5 km) or 5.4 miles (8.5 km)                                              
Toughness Rating: 1

A riverside stroll to and from the city centre.
7.5 miles or 4.7 miles (12.0 km or 7.5 km)
Toughness Rating: 1

A short city walk, or extension to Fen Ditton to Cambridge Quayside.
1 mile (1.6 km)
Toughness Rating: 1

An easier walk from Fenstanton to the nature reserve.
7.0 miles (11.2 km)
Toughness Rating: 2

A walk over flat but charming countryside.
8.1 miles (13.0 km)
Toughness Rating: 2

Three of Cambridgeshire’s most westerly villages.
8.4 miles (13.5 km)
Toughness Rating: 3

A varied walk partly on the Ouse Valley Way.
9.0 miles (14.5 km)
Toughness Rating: 3

Circumnavigate this man-made lake.
10.0 miles (16.0 km)
Toughness Rating: 1

A walk around this historic village.
4.6 miles (7.4 km)
Toughness Rating: 1

Ascend from Wimpole Park up to the Harcamlow Way
10.6 miles (17.0 km)
Toughness Rating: 4

A gentle walk through pastures to Houghton Mill
Miles or (km)
Toughness Rating: 2

The Roman Road and Granta Valley.
9 miles or 6.5 miles (14.5 km or 10.5 km)
Toughness Rating: 4

Woodland and waterside stroll around the country park.
6.5 miles (10.4 km)
Toughness Rating: 2  

A walk through rolling farmland.
10.5 miles or 4.6 miles (17.0 km or 7.5 km)
Toughness Rating: 3 

Through the American War cemetery and beyond.
7.2 miles (11.5 km)
Toughness Rating: 2

Enchanting riverside paths & villages.
6.3 miles (10.0 km)
Toughness Rating: 2  

A hilly walk by woods and farmland.
7.5 miles or 4.0 miles (12.0 km or 6.5 km)
Toughness Rating: 3

A walk through farming villages and hamlets.
11.0 miles or 6.9 miles (17.5 km or 11.0 km)
Toughness Rating: 3

An easier walk from an historic coaching village.
5.4 miles (8.6 km)
Toughness Rating: 2

Walk Wimpole Park and farmland.
7.5 miles (12.0 km)
Toughness Rating: 3

Very flat but characterful Huntingdonshire countryside.
5.0 miles or 3.4 miles (7.9 km or 5.5  km)
Toughness Rating: 1


All our Cambridgeshire & North Essex routes can be undertaken by reasonably fit walkers able to utilise our map segments, together with the route guidance notes. Always consider recent and forecast weather.

Each walk has been allocated a Toughness Rating:

  1.     Easier walks with modest ascent and generally on well defined paths. There may be stiles or narrow gateways to negotiate.

  2.     Routes which are more demanding. They may include more ascent and possibly paths which are looser or more difficult underfoot.

  3.     More strenuous walks with some steep sections, higher paths or places which may be wet and boggy.

  4.     The most demanding walks in this edition. There may be prolonged steep ascents. Conditions may be challenging underfoot.

Toughness Ratings are allocated in the context of the terrain in the edition area.
For example a walk rated as demanding in Cambridgeshire may be equivalent to an easier or moderate route in the Brecon Beacons.

Directory of Local Information Sources

     WHAT TO SEE      

Our selection of the most interesting things to see
or visit on or near the walks

Anglesey Abbey
National Trust property
Lode, near Stow cum Quy
Tel: 01223 810 080  

Cambridge Folk Museum
2 Castle Street, Cambridge
Tel: 01223 355 159

Cambridge University Botanical Gardens
Bateman Street, Cambridge
Tel: 01223 336 265

Ely Cathedral
Tel: 01353 667735

Fitzwilliam Museum
Trumpington Street, Cambridge
Tel: 01223 332 900

Flag Fen Bronze Age Settlement
Northey Road, Peterborough
Tel: 01733 313414  

Grafham Water Visitor Centre
Marlow Park, Near Grafham
Tel: 01480 812154

Hamerton Wildlife Centre
Cuddly animals for all the family
Tel: 01832 293362  

Hinchingbrooke Country Park
Nature Reserve and Leisure Park
Brampton Road, Huntingdon
Tel: 01480 451568

Imperial War Museum
Tel: 01223 835 000

Linton Zoo
Tel: 01223 891 308  

Madingley American War Cemetery
Madingley, near Cambridge
Tel: 01954 210 350

National Horseracing Museum
99 High Street
Tel: 01638 667 333

Nene Valley Railway
Steam Railway
Wansford Station, Stibbington
Tel: 01780 784444

Oliver Cromwell’s House
Museum and Cromwell’s former home
29 St mary’s Street, Ely
Tel: 01353 662062

Peterborough Cathedral
Magnificent Cathedral with Exhibitions
Minster Precincts, Peterborough
Tel: 01733 343342

Sacrewell Farm and Country Centre
Farm Animals, Play Area and café
Thornhaugh, Near Peterborough
Tel: 01733 782254

Scott Polar Museum
British Antarctic Survey
Lensfield Road, Cambridge
Tel: 01223 336 540

Wicken Fen
National Nature Reserve
Wicken, near Ely
Tel: 01358 720274

Wimpole Hall
National Trust Property
Old Wimpole village
Tel: 01223 206 000


        GETTING HELP        

Tourist Information Centres

Free local guide brochures available by post.
Information and an accommodation booking service
is available at the centres listed below, or online at

3 Minster Precincts
Tel: 01733 452 336

Wheeler Street
Tel: 01233 457 581

Oliver Cromwell’s House
29 St. Mary’s Street
Tel: 01353 662 062

Tel: 01480 388 588

National Organisations

The Ramblers Association
Representing walkers throughout Britain
Tel: 020 7339 8500

English Heritage
Preserving and maintaining our heritage in England

The National Trust
Properties described on their web site
Tel: 0870 458 4000


      WHERE TO STAY     

The Tourist Information Centres listed in Getting Help offer accommodation advice, Also refer to:

Cambridge Tourist Information Centre

Free accommodation guide including B & Bs, Guest Houses and Hotels available by post upon request. Booking service for a small fee.
Tel: 01223 457 581

Other Organisations

Youth Hostels Association
All properties in the area and throughout
the U.K. are described on their web site.
Directory available free to members
Tel: 0870 770 8868

Camping & Caravanning Club
Details of 1400 camp sites on the web site
Tel: 0845 130 7632

Town & Country Hotels

FREE directories and web sites for regional and national hotel groups or franchises:

Best Western Hotels
Franchised hotels throughout Britain
Tel: 0845 33 00 415

Corus Hotels
Country & town centre hotels throughout Britain
Tel: 0845 300 2000

The Independents
Consortium of 2 & 3 star hotels throughout Britain
Tel: 0800 88 55 44

Marston Hotels
Independent four star hotels throughout England
Tel: 0845 1300 700

Old English Inns
Classic Inns across England
Tel: 0800 917 3085

Premier Travel Inn
470 budget hotels across the U.K.
Tel: 0870 242 8000

Budget accommodation across the U.K.
Tel: 08700 850 950

Welcome Break
Budget accommodation at motorway services
Tel: 0800 731 4466




Safe & Courteous

Walking Our Routes

Toughness Ratings

         Local Info        

Getting Help

What To See

Where To Stay

        Best Links        

Weather To Walk

Ramblers Association

English Heritage

The National Trust

Camping and
Caravanning Club

Youth Hostels

Town & Country
Hotel Groups




Great Walks text and pictures are the copyright of Synchra Communication Ltd 2009

Mapping is the copyright of Synchra Communication Ltd 2009
Developed under License from The Ordnance Survey