Cambridgeshire is a county of rolling hills and flat fenland, with a world famous university town and the fastest growing population in England. Arguably, the M11 has been the making of modern Cambridgeshire and an improved rail network has ensured the county is within easy commuting distance of London (King’s Cross to Cambridgeby rail 49min).

Cambridge might have inspired countless bright young sparks but historically the county has never been prosperous. But over the last two decades a wealth of new industries, many working in the shadow of the university’s science departments, has brought about a turn in Cambridgeshire’s fortunes. The addition of the old county of Huntingdonshire has widened Cambridge’s scope ? it now stretches from Duxford in the south to Peterborough in the north.

Where to buy?

The southern landscapes of the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire borders, with their rolling hills, are more immediately appealing than theflat fenlandof the north, yet this characteristic Cambridgeshire scenery has won many admirers. The villages of Swaffham Bulbeck and Swaffham Prior might seem like they are on the edge of the world but are remarkably unspoiled and have charming period buildings.

Cambridge has a versatile property market, heavily influenced by the comings and goings of university staff and students. The most expensive and exclusive village around Cambridge is Grantchester. Situated two miles to the south Granchester features pretty cottages and riverside houses with large gardens. Madingley, due west of Cambridge is also a popular choice as it boasts stunning views of Cambridge’s spires set against the backdrop of the Gog Magog hills.

Newmarket, according to Paddy Prichard-Gordon of Knight Frank, is witnessing boom conditions at the moment. As the home of racing (4200 horses live there) the area has more swimming pools for horses than for humans as well as a large number of valuable stud farms. Arable land is currently selling for £10,000 an acre and a large house with stables and land will cost over £1.5 million.

The tiny city of Ely, on an island in the Fens, is a regional centre. Liverpool Street and King’s Cross are within an hour of Cambridge: this, combined with the town’s desirability, ensures that prices are similar to Essex and Hertfordshire. A house with a view of Ely’s remarkable 11th century cathedral will sell for a premium and there are a large number of listed country houses within 10 miles of the town. Properties near the villages of Witchford, Sutton , Haddenham and Stretham are most sought after.

Building materials range from timber and red brick to the Cambridge white brick; there is little local building stone.

Major towns

Cambridge, Peterborough, Ely, Huntingdon, St Ives, March, St Neots, Chatteris, Whittlesey.

Transport links

Train: King’s Cross to Cambridge 49min; King’s Cross to Peterborough 40min.Car: Cambridge is 54 miles from London, via the M11; Peterborough is 82 miles, via the A1 and A1(M).

Public schools

Kimbolton School, Huntingdon (01480 860505). Co-educational, age range 4-18, day and boarding. King’s College School, Cambridge (01223 365814). Co-educational, age range 4-13, day and boarding. Oundle School,Peterborough (01832 273569). Co-educational, age range 11-19, boarding. St John’s College School, Cambridge (01223 353532). Co-educational, age range 4-13, day and boarding. The King’s School, Ely (01353 660702). Co-educational, age range 2-18, day and boarding.The Leys School, Cambridge (01223 508900). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. The Perse School for Boys, Cambridge (01223 568300). Boys only (co-educational sixth form), age range 7-18, day. The Perse School for Girls, Cambridge (01223 359589). Girls only, age range 7-18, day.

Leisure

Golfcourses: Ely City (01353 662751); The Gog Magog, Cambridge (01223 247626); March (01354 652364); Thorpe Wood, Peterborough (01733 267701).

Hunts: the Fitzwilliam and the Cambridgeshire.Yachting club: Peterborough Yacht Club.

Fishing: rivers Nene, the Great Ouse and Grafham Water.