Up in the north-west of England there is a small cathedral city called Chester. It’s a very pretty city and it’s also a nice place to live, that’s why I live here. Today I’d like to take you on a tour of this fair city and show you some of my favourite spots. I hope you enjoy my Chester city tour!
1st stop – Eastgate Clock
It is through the Eastgate, one of the four Roman gates that surround Chester, that many people will enter Chester for the first time. The clock, which is the second most photographed clock in the UK I’ll have you know, was added in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 but wasn’t unveiled until 1899. In the summer the top of the gate is just heaving with tourists but it’s a great place to climb up and look out over the people below. From here you can climb back down to street level or you can continue walking along the top of the wall to stop number two…
The Chester Roman amphitheatre
Excavations that started in 2004 started to reveal this massive Roman built amphitheatre that would have been used for entertainment and military training for the soldiers based at the fortress of Deva, now known as Chester. Roman amphitheatre, that’s like really old! The first amphitheatre to be built here is dated around 70 AD, the second around 86 AD! That just blows my mind! The first time I came to visit Chester before we moved here it was during a Roman Festival with parades and fights in the amphitheatre! They really go all out and it’s really not that uncommon to run into a man dressed as a Roman Legionnaire at any time of the year. Oh, and town criers – not strictly Roman but a bit strange nonetheless! Behind the amphitheatre you can see St. John’s Church which is also worth a stop (and is no longer covered in scaffolding).
Third stop – The Roman Garden
We’re over our second gate now, the Newgate, and we’re off the walls and into a garden strewn with ancient Roman stonework – a bit of a column here, a reconstructed hypocaust there. It isn’t really strewn, the garden was laid out in 1949 in preparation for the Festival of Britain in 1951, but it’s astonishing to a girl like me that there are so many bits of Roman junk around this place that they can decorate gardens with it instead of putting it in a museum!? But I digress…It is a lovely little garden and there’s lots of room for a picnic or a wee relax. It’s just a short stroll down to the River Dee as well, though unfortunately we won’t be stopping there on this tour. Stop number four is….
Chester Cathedral is one of my favourite places in the city. It’s a beautiful red stone building and it always feels very friendly to me. The cathedral really is the centre piece of the city and you can’t really go into town without walking around the beast of a building. I like sitting out in the grounds on a sunny day, or enjoying a scone and coffee in the refectory cafe, which is set up in a part of the building that was built in the 13th century and served as the dining room for the Benedictine monks. It’s an amazingly huge stone hall with a carved wooden ceiling and stained glass windows. I especially like arriving to find someone playing the old piano!
Well, we’re back at the Eastgate and it’s getting dark so I guess that’s the end of the tour for now. There is so much more to see, we’ve really only scratched the surface. I love the unexpected element of Chester, like finding a Roman hypocaust in the basement of the SpudULike, or a room where Queen Catherine of Aragon is believed to have slept when married to Prince Arthur, the older brother of Kind Henry VIIIth. Things like this amaze me, probably because the oldest building where I come from was built in the 1800’s!
I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour (don’t forget to tip your guide!) and maybe I’ll see you up here in cold North England soon!