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Why does Ely have an Eel Festival?

The simple answer is that Ely derives its name from the Isle of Eels when Ely was an island surrounded by marshland.

Eels were historically part of the local staple diet as well as a valuable source of income.  Jellied eels were popular until recent times and clients would come from London, such was the reputation of Ely's eels.  Eels are no longer caught in the Great River Ouse, due to dwindling stocks and the retirement of our last commerical catcher in 2014.

Smoked eels, now considered a delicacy, can be purchased on Ely's Farmers Market and dishes such as roasted eel can still be found on restaurant menus in the area throughout the year and of course especially during Eel Festival Weekend, courtesey of our Eel Food Safari.

It is therefore fitting that Ely should have its very own Eel Trail.  This circular route is the best way to explore Ely as it takes you past all the key parts of our historic city including of course the river.  The trail is waymarked by over 70 bronze eel plaques set in the pavements so it is easy to follow.  Five pieces of stunning public art, celebrating the life cycle of an eel also forms part of this trail.  For more information, pick up a copy of the leaflet at the Tourist Information Centre or download one from here.  The Tourist Information Centre even stocks a range of eel related souvenirs!

It is no wonder then that Ely celebrates our relationship with the humble eel in a whole weekend of celebrations.

Below are some interesting facts about the wonderful Eel:

For more details about eels please contact Environment Agency.