A personal view
Cambridge (some 15 miles from St Ives) is only just over half an hour away by guided bus, and there's a frequent service. Parking in Cambridge is notoriously difficult, and much of the centre is closed to cars (but watch out for the numerous bicycles, including all those going the wrong way down one-way streets!). The university dates back to at least 1226, when the students were mostly clerics or clerks in holy orders. The oldest college, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284, and its hall is the only building to survive from the 13th century. Many of the colleges are worth seeing (King's,with its famous Chapel? Clare, with its gardens? Trinity? St John's? Queens', with its Mathematical Bridge?). The much photographed King's College Chapel in the photo above was taken on a summer evening from a path from the Backs, a most attractive open green area, particularly popular in the summer. St Bene't's (short for St Benedict's) Church pre-dates the university. It has a tower, built in 1025 during the reign of King Canute, which is the oldest building in the county. The Fitzwilliam Museum has an internationally important collection of paintings and antiquities, and Kettle's Yard is interesting too. This is the museum and gallery, converted from four old cottages off Castle Street, that was once the home of Jim and Helen Ede who befriended young artists and bought their work, before leaving their house and collections to the university in 1966.
You can go punting (the photo on the right was taken from Magdalene Bridge in March). There's a daily market right in the centre of the city - and there are excellent bookshops (Heffers and Waterstones) and a good public library. As well as the students, Cambridge attracts numerous tourists, so it can all get quite crowded. But it's a fascinating place to wander around, and there's always a lot on, especially during term time, not to mention all the pubs and other places to eat and drink.
For a very good list of Cambridge websites, see: http://www.gwydir.demon.co.uk/cambridgeuk/
Ely (about 15 miles from St Ives) is also well worth a visit. There's even a free car park in Barton Road not too far from the cathedral from where you can also walk down to the river! The cathedral with the surrounding buildings were part of a monastery going back to the 7th century. Work on the present-day cathedral began in about 1083 and was not completed until just over a hundred years later. It boasts magnificent Norman architecture.The prior's door (see the photo on the lower right) dates from about 1150. It wasn't really a prior's door at all, but was the entrance used by townspeople in monastic times when the nave acted as their parish church.There is a most impressive 14th century octagonal lantern in the centre of the cathedral, a remarkable example of the work of mediaeval craftsmen. The ceiling painting running the entire length of the nave was the work of a gifted amateur painter in the 19th century, who had to work on his back, in very poor light, impeded by scaffolding. He died before the work was complete (he did not fall off the scaffolding, as the story once went!), and it had to be finished by a friend.
There'squite a hefty admission charge to the cathedral - but there's a lot to see, so it's worth the money. You can buy a joint ticket that will also let you visit the stained glass museum in the gallery (from which you get a very good view of the painted ceiling).
Oliver Cromwell's House is also worth seeing. This is a few hundred yards to the west of the cath
Wimpole Hall is 8 miles south west of Cambridge, off the A603. It's a magnificent house in an extensive wooded park. First built between 1640 and 1670, it has been much remodelled by subsequent owners but without obliterating what went before. The impressive Yellow Drawing Room and the Bath House with its 2000 gallon tank were added in the 1790s. The house was empty and neglected when it was bought by Captain George Bambridge and his wife Elsie (the daughter of Rudyard Kipling) in 1938. They refurnished it, adding a new collection of paintings, and left it to the National Trust when Elsie died in 1976.
There are colourful gardens (don't miss the Walled Garden), with impressive landscaping, including a folly (a ruined gothic temple) by Capability Brown, as well as very pleasant and extensive walks. There is also what began as a model farm in 1794, which is still working and where many rare breeds can be seen, as well as old farm machinery. There's plenty for children to see and do here, including an appealing playground. Watch out for lambing weekends (see the photo) and other special events. Also see the National Trust site.