St Neots in South Cambridgeshire is a delightful historic market town with twice weekly markets and a great annual medieval festival. Conveniently situated just 18 miles west of Cambridge, the town is located along the River Ouse and features an award-winning museum digging deep into a history stretching back a thousand years to the time of the now lost Medieval Priory of St Neots. One of the largest market squares in England is here alongside a host of independent shops and fine eateries.
If you adore old market towns then St Neots in the Ouse river valley offers much of interest. The position of the town and surrounding two ancient parishes of Eaton Socon and Eynesbury along the Ouse and the Great North Road contributed much to its early development, with a prosperous water mill flanking the river front.
St Neots has a Cornish flavour (there is another St Neots in Cornwall). The link is with the priory constructed around a thousand years ago just to the north of Eynesbury. This was a popular site of pilgrimage and home to bones of the St Neot, a hermit from Cornwall.
Things to do & see
The 12th century market square, the largest in England, is the focal point of the town which today feels more Georgian than Medieval. The remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle also feature as well as heritage trails and plaques highlighting historic buildings and characters. Visit the award-winning St Neots Museum housed in an old Victorian Police Station and Magistrates Court to discover the complete history of the town, including details on the no longer standing priory.
Pick up boat trips along the River Ouse from The Priory centre to Eaton Socon Mill every weekend and on Bank Holidays from April to September. Social hub the Priory Centre is the site for many of the town’s festivals and events including a CAMRA real ale festival aptly named ‘Booze on The Ouse’ in March and a Folk Festival in early June.
Riverside Park is also a popular spot for leisurely relaxation and numerous events including the lively summer Festival Dragon Boat Challenge at the end of August and the Rowing Regatta hosted by St Neots Rowing Club which has produced many a rowing champion. More water based fun is on offer at Grafham Water just north of St Neots, a great spot for open water swimming in summer.
Thursday is Charter Market day in St Neots town centre, held from 9am to 4pm with market stalls selling everything from fresh bread and fruit to meats and vegetables. A FARMA accredited farmers market also takes place in Market Square on the 2nd and the 4th Saturday of each month, from 8am to 1pm. Around 15 stalls, run by the farmer suppliers, sell the best of local produce including crafts, gifts, preserves, homemade cakes and fresh fish and meat. Various specialist food markets also run through the year.
Nestling in the south west of Cambridgeshire, St Neots is easily reached by road just off the A1. The town is just 19 miles from Cambridge via the A428. Rail links are excellent too. St Neots has its own railway station with a First Capital Connect service to London and Peterborough. Regular local bus services run to Cambridge, Bedford, Milton Keynes and England’s other famous university city Oxford.
Where to stay
The St Neots area contains a variety of accommodation options including Bed & Breakfast guest houses, inns with rooms and a great selection of cottages and lodges around the town, many of which sit close to popular Grafham Water. Quality chain hotels are also located off or near to motorway links and a great camping and caravan park is available in the area.