If you dream of moving out of London but cannot quite give up your urban conveniences, historic Cambridge may be for you. the city has a cosmopolitan feel thanks in part to its student population and, with plenty of green spaces, it offers a slightly quirky and less frenetic place to live. Where else do you get to cycle past grazing cows en route to hear a world-class choir sing evensong or see Shakespeare performed in a college garden before punting upriver for a pub supper, all within 10 minutes of home?
You should start your house search within the city if you prefer church bells to rush- hour traffic. Being fairly flat, it is ideal for cycling and the centre of Cambridge itself is largely pedestrianised and fairly compact. it consists of beautiful medieval buildings fanning out from a cobbled market square, with a string of historic colleges backing onto the River Cam (known as ‘the Backs’). the downside is that housing stock in the city is limited and prices are high.
Cambridge is well-connected to London: there are two fast trains an hour to Kings Cross that take from 52 minutes and a slower service to Liverpool Street, which runs four times an hour and takes from 68 minutes. A new Cambridge north rail station is due to open later this year. other commuter hubs are Royston and St neots (48 and 55 mins respectively to Kings Cross) and Audley End (51 mins to Liverpool Street). Proximity to the airports at Stansted (45 minutes) and Luton (60 mins) is a bonus.
The most sought-after villages outside the city tend to be the pretty necklace villages of Grantchester, Coton, Madingley and the Shelfords, which have good pubs, schools and shops and are all within cycling distance of the city. other villages worth considering are those on the Liverpool Street train line like Whittlesford and Great Chesterford; those around the commuter hub of Royston such as Barley and Therfield; and those like Thriplow and Six Mile Bottom with good access to Cambridge and Royston via the M11 or A14. House prices tend to be higher in the rolling hills of South Cambridgeshire than in the flatter fenland to the north.
You might also consider some of the pretty villages around Saffron Walden on the Cambridgeshire/Essex border such as Ashdon, Bartlow and the Camps – marginally less convenient for Cambridge but commutable from Audley End. Saffron Walden itself is a pretty market town, perhaps more laid-back and artsy than Cambridge. Schools here include Dame Bradbury’s (a day school for ages 3–11, part of the Stephen Perse Foundation, The Friends’ School (a small independent co-ed day and boarding school for ages 3–18) and the highly-rated state secondary school, Saffron Walden County High (ages 11–18).