Plan your visit
For those who love art, heritage, and historic buildings these tours provide a chance to get up close with iconic paintings, sculpture, stained glass windows and other decorative arts in some of Cambridgeshire’s most impressive historic houses, museums and galleries. Please check the attraction website for opening times.
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge & The Stained Glass Museum, Ely
This tour starts at The Fitzwilliam Museum, with a suggested start time of 10.00. The museum is in the centre of a busy city so is best accessed on foot, bus or taxi, as the area around the museum is subject to vehicle restrictions. Should you want to drive the nearest car parks are the Grand Arcade, Queen Anne, or Gonville Place. And Park & Ride sites are located in Madingley, Trumpington and Babraham. The U bus from Madingley Road Park & Ride, Cambridge Station and Addenbrooke’s Hospital stops outside the Museum (Mon-Fri). Cambridge station is also only 20 minutes’ walk away.
The Fitzwilliam houses over half a million objects ranging from Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities to the arts of the present day, with one of the finest collections of paintings, drawings and prints in Britain, including works by well-known artists such as Monet, Titian, Millais, Van Dyck and Gainsborough. A great way to browse the collection is to pick up an eGuide. The guide is arranged in tours, including Explore all Galleries, Director’s Choice, thematic tours, and special guided tours of temporary exhibitions when available. The guide can be downloaded in advance, free of charge, from Apple and Android app stores, or can be hired from the Museum at a cost of £4 (3 concessions), free to Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum. Entrance to the Museum and its exhibitions is free.
Make your way to The Stained Glass Museum in Ely Cathedral by train. Cambridge station is only 20 minutes’ walk from the Fitzwilliam, and the train journey takes 15-20 minutes. Once in Ely, the Cathedral is just 15 minutes’ walk away. If you’re feeling peckish, you might also like to stop off for a cream tea at one of the many tea shops or pubs en-route. If you are driving there are several free car parks (short and long-stay) in Ely within 300 yards of the Cathedral.
Once you’ve entered the majestic Ely Cathedral, ascend the spiral steps from the south-west transept to get to The Stained Glass Museum. Inside you will gain a unique insight into the history of stained glass with superb examples from the 13th to 20th centuries. Entrance to the Museum is £4.50 for adults, £3.50 for concessions, and accompanied children under 16 enter for free. After exploring the museum’s treasured collection, why not finish your day with a tour of the ground floor of Ely Cathedral to admire its stained glass, or attend one of the free services. Admission to the Cathedral is free after 17.00.
Audley End House and Gardens & Wimpole Estate
You will need a car for this tour and we suggest starting at Wimpole Estate at 11.00. Wimpole is a working estate with a home farm and an impressive mansion at its heart, looked after by the National Trust. Explore the Hall where intimate rooms contrast with beautiful Georgian interiors, including James Gibbs’s splendid Library and Sir John Soane’s extraordinary Yellow Drawing Room. Highlights such as the 1780s state bed, and the exquisite gilded sofas made especially to fit the curved walls of the Yellow Drawing Room, show how a grand country house would have looked in its heyday. Look out for the collection of 18th and 19th century conversation pieces that decorate the drawing rooms, delicate French porcelain figures, and collections of carriage prints. Check website for prices.
Wimpole Estate also has impressive grounds to walk around, but if you’re after art it’s best to continue your journey on to Audley End House and Gardens, which is 30 minutes’ drive away. Both sites have cafés and picnic spots, so you can eat at either attraction depending on the time (or how hungry you are!).
Audley End House and Gardens is a decadent Jacobean mansion house, looked after by English Heritage. More than 30 lavishly decorated rooms are open to the public, displaying in their historic context the accumulated Howard Neville and Cornwallis collections. These include Robert Adam furniture, a late 18th-century state bed and important natural history and silver collections. Paintings include works by Holbein and Canaletto, and an outstanding series of 16th-19th-century British portraits. Check website for prices.
Audley End House and Gardens has a lot more to offer, including impressive gardens, so if there’s time you may like to finish your visit with a late afternoon stroll.