A Visitors Guide to Chester, U.K
The United Kingdon has 8 Heritage Cities and 14 Roman Walled Cities, the finest example of both being the city of Chester, the county town of Cheshire.
After the United Kingdom's capital, London, Chester is possibly the most visited city for tourists both from home and abroad.
The small city, which gained it's city status in 1541, is surrounded by the most complete Roman Wall in Britain, dating back to the Roman occupation of 2000 years ago.
The city also sports the 700 year old Chester Rows, now home to a myriad of fine shopping, and the oldest shop in the country.
Enclosed within it's ancient walls are also a 1000 year old cathedral, Roman ampitheatre, Britain's most photographed town clock after Big Ben in London and Britain's smallest and oldest, continuously used Racecourse.
The city also caters to it's visitors by way of museums, art galleries a visitor centre and a host of fine dining restaurants, coffee shops and excellent shopping.
Flanked by the rushing waters of the mighty River Dee, the city can be accessed by way of many differing tours on offer, from river cruises, coach tours and it's enormously popular Roman, Chester Rows and Ghost walking tours.
( Image courtesy of Clint Hancock, wikimedia commons)
Chester was built in AD 79 during the Roman occupation of Britain as a fort city to defend it from Welsh raiders, which they called Deva Victrix.
It's original walls are few but with additions over the years, the original plan still remains with an almost complete two mile circuit, that can be walked upon in their entirity, but for a few small breaks.
There is also the remains of a Roman ampitheatre and the ruins of Chester Castle.
( Images courtesy of John S. Turner, wikimedia commons)
Chester Castle was built in 1070 by Hugh Lupus, first Earl of Chester, with further additions made by Thomas Harrison between 1782 - 1822.
The ancient Castle site is accessed by way of a massive doric pillared gateway called the Propylaeun which leads to a vast courtyard with a statue of Queen Victoria, that was constructed in 1903 by British sculptor Fredrick William Pomeroy.
( Image courtesy of Kaishu Tai, wikimedia commons)
Within these ancient walls are a 1000 year old cathedral, formerly built as an abbey between 1272 and 1530, in honour of the English nun and saint who became patron saint of the city, St Werburh.
This grand building houses some of Europe's finest wooden, medeival carvings and the most complete monastic complex in Britain.
( image courtesy of John Allen, wikimedia commons)
It's 700 year old, medeival, galleried shopping arcades known as the Chester Rows, house an array of independent and distinctly different shops that you wont find in any other British high street, including a whiskey emporium, designer clothes, designer jewlery and local artists interior decor shops as well as independent chocolatiers, delicatesans, bottled goods, perfumeries and exclusive craft and souvenir shops.
The city is also home to a large and established indoor market that pays particular attention to the sale of local produce and a regular outdoor European market.
Chester Racecourse is the United Kingdom's smallest horse racing course with a one mile, one furlong, flat race circuit.
The racecourse is also the country’s oldest, having been in operation since 1539 when the Lord Mayor of Chester, Henry Gee, gave consent for the meeting and set the trend of race horses being known as gee gees.
The course sits on a site which was once a Roman harbour on the banks of the River Dee and which remained a major maritime port until the thirteenth century.
The course goes by the name of the Roodee, a word which is a corruption of the two old English words rood and eye, which together mean pole on a hill. The area was given this title due to a grassy mound situated within the course which is the site of a buried, wooden cross, which came from the ruins of a former, local church.
Today, the sixty five acre racing venue can see upwards of over 23,000 people pass through it’s gates on any one of it’s major race days.
The course sports a large carpark, restaurant, souvenir shop and onsite hotel complex. The course hosts a myriad of annual race fixtures and events ranging from festival days to polo tournaments, as well as it’s regular fifteen race days held throughout the summer months, which include the horse racing classics the Chester Cup, the Chester Vase, the Dee Stakes and the Ormonde Stakes.
The Roodee Racecourse is situated in the heart of the city and is well signposted for visitor access on race and events days. The course’s post code is CH1 2LY and is accessible by road by way of the M53, M56 and A483. Parking passes can be bought in advance from the course’s website. The city is also served by regular bus, coach and rail links and the heliport at Howarden Airport, Deeside.
Chester is served by several well appointed guest houses and hotels including the racecourse’s newly opened onsite hotel, the ninety seven roomed Holiday Inn Express, which you can view by way of the racecourse’s website - www.chester-races.co.uk
( Image courtesy of wikityke, wikimedia commons)
The River Dee starts it's life in the Black Mountains of Wales and makes it's stately way up to Chester on it's way out to sea between the Wirral Peninsular and North Wales.
The river can be crossed by any of Chester's many bridges, both old and new, or simply by taking a leisurely stroll along it's banks that are flanked by pavement cafes, sitting areas and piers that house it's river cruisers.
The river has many boat trips for the visitor, both local and beyond into the Welsh and English countryside.
Chester Weir is also a top spot for spotting local bird life and feeding the ducks and swans, you may even get a glimpse of the elusive Black Cormorant.
Culturally the city is served by way of several museums and art galleries, including a military museum, a Roman Experience, the Grosvenor Museum, a Fine Art gallery and a Cartoon Gallery.
The city is also served by many fine antique shops and Roman memorabilia emporiums.
The city's Visitor Centre and Tourist Information Centre is a must for the first time visitor, where one can buy tickets for tours, book local accommodation and find literature, maps and guides for any of Chester's many attractions.
Whilst walking the streets of this ancient city, be prepared to witness the city's town cryer situated at the city Cross, people in Roman dress, escorting children on the Roman Experience and street entertainers of every type.
Wonder at it's many crooked, ancient buildings, which will defy all logic as to how they still stand after so many years.
The city is accessed by way of it's four Gates, built within the city walls, the most impressive of which is Eastgate, flanked by the most photographed clock in the U.K after Big Ben.
The clock was erected in the city to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1897.
( Image courtesy of Dennis Turner, wikimedia commons)
Situated three miles north of the city is Chester Zoo, a 110 acre site that houses 7,000 animals from all over the world.
The zoo also has a monorail, cycling paths, restaurants, childrens play areas, a golf course and the stately Oakfield Manor a grade II listed building that was the former home of the zoo's founder, George Motteshead.
CHESTER VISITOR CENTRE: Vicars Lane, Chester. CH1 1QX.
CHESTER VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE: Town Hall Square, Chester. CH1 2HJ.
CHESTER ZOO; Upton By Chester. CH2 1EU.