Chillin’ in Chester
Chester is a walled city in the North West of England, close to the border of Wales on the River Dee. It is known mostly as a Roman city and is seen as one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain with the walls almost complete around the city centre. It is perfect for a long weekend as there are many areas of history to explore and whatever your interests or tastes, you are guaranteed to find lots to do.
Before we continue, here is the disclaimer: I am lucky and happy to call Chester my home city and although I have lived outside of the UK and around Britain for years, I have always enjoyed returning to the area when I’ve had the chance to. This time round I was able to view it as a tourist as I returned from a 3 month journey around the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Luxembourg and Belgium. I was very pleased to see that Chester can certainly hold its own against other European cities.
Eastgate Clock: The clock marks the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix and now provides many locals and visitors with a meeting place. It is apparently the 2nd most photographed clock in England after Big Ben and I’m sure you can see why. Climbing the steps either side of the clock can also be a starting point for your walk around the walls.
Chester City Walls: The walls were built to protect the city and were started by the Romans and then over the years were added to and repaired by the Normans and also later on as they were damaged in the war. Now they are a tourist attraction rather than being needed for a defensive purpose. As there are many entry and exit points along the circuit you can either walk them in full (around 2.95 km/ 1.8 miles) or start at the clock and head left or right and then stop for lunch in one of the cafés or restaurants along the way or pause at the River Dee.
Roman Amphitheatre and Gardens: In addition to the walls, you can also explore the Roman amphitheatre and gardens. The amphitheatre dates back to the 1st century and is the largest so far uncovered in Britain. You can walk through the gardens or look down on them from the walls and you can often see school children listening to Roman soldiers taking them on a stroll through history.
River Dee: The river provides an opportunity to take a stroll in the area called the ‘Groves’ or you can sit at a café along the riverside enjoying the view. There are also boats to take you on a trip along the Dee. There are 3 bridges to cross if you wish to explore further, the old Dee bridge which is the oldest bridge in the city and leads towards Handbridge. This was also the area where the Welsh tried to invade the city and there used to be a gatehouse on the bridge to provide protection. Further along the river there is Grosvenor Bridge which provides access to North Wales and copes better with more traffic. The Queen’s Park Suspension bridge is solely for pedestrians and joins the ‘Groves’ with the Queen’s Park area of Chester.
Shopping: As well as being a beautiful city to walk around and through, Chester also provides chances to shop in a mixture of high end and chained stores. Whether you choose to shop along the Rows, the streets or the Grosvenor Shopping centre, you will not be disappointed with the shops you find.
Storehouse: This building opened in May 2017 and replaced the cinema which used to stand in the same place. It provides local residents and visitors with a cinema, theatre, restaurant, café and the city library. The poet Lemn Sissay joined Storehouse as the artist in residence in 2018 and his poems can be read around the building and certainly make you contemplate his words more as you go about your day.
Handbridge: It is so easy to cross over the bridge and head over to Handbridge, an area of Chester that I really need to do it more often. There is a park to explore, which was a gift from the Duke of Westminster, Hugh Lupus Grosvenor in 1892 and it is named ‘Edgar’s Field Park’ after King Edgar. As you walk around you can see the Minerva Shrine as well as having a different view of Chester from across the river and walk along the River Dee.
There are many other reasons to visit Chester, such as the Castle, Cathedral and racecourse and if you want to go further afield then it is a great entry point to North Wales and Chester Zoo Zoo, Chester Zoo.
Have you been a tourist in your own area? I can highly recommend it as it allowed me to (re)discover details I had either never known or simply forgotten over the years. Looking at your home through a different perspective can allow you to see what you have locally rather than looking to elsewhere to provide something.