Day 1. A weekend in Chester

After enjoying weekends in the historic centres of York and Lincoln we decided to turn our attention to Chester.  Located in the north west of England the M53 motorway links the city to the main road network with a frequent rail service connecting to major cities.  We opted to travel by train and leaving home bright and early we arrived into Chester by lunchtime.

Eastgate, Chester
Arriving into Chester along Eastgate

From the station it only took about 15 minutes to walk into the city centre but if you prefer to save your energy for exploring or are weighed down with luggage then a shuttle bus operates every quarter of an hour.

Reception at the Leonardo Hotel, Chester
The hotel reception

We’d arranged to stay at The Leonardo Hotel on Pepper Street, located within the historic city walls.  We were too early to check-in so left our bags as we didn’t want to be carrying them around all day.

Newgate, Chester
Newgate, Pepper Street, Chester

This newly opened hotel is just steps from Newgate, a beautiful sandstone bridge carrying the walkway of the city walls over Pepper Street.  It was a sunny afternoon and ideal conditions for a stroll along the fortified city walls.  Not only that, it was also a great way of getting an overview of the city’s layout.

Chester City Walls
Spring blossom along the city walls

Chester was originally the Roman fortress of Deva with its walls created to defend the city.  Nowadays, the walls which extend 2 miles (3 km) are a pleasant place for a stroll and to gain a perspective of the historic city from above.  The walkways are paved and at several access points there is ramp access making them accessible for all.  It was springtime with daffodils out in bloom and we couldn’t have picked a better time to enjoy our walk.

The Groves, River Dee, Chester
The Groves promenade along the River Dee

Soon, we had reached Watergate so called because the River Dee once reached this gate.  From there, we had good views along The Groves, Chester’s riverside promenade and the starting point for pleasure boat trips.  I’d just read an information board detailing the abundance of wildlife on the river and it couldn’t have been more true as I then spotted this heron perched on the ancient Roman weir.

Heron on the weir of the River Dee, Chester
Heron on the weir of the River Dee

Just ahead of us, the old stone arched Dee Bridge then came into view.  This used to be the main route into Wales until 1832 and is still in use today as a secondary route for both motorists and pedestrians.

Dee bridge, Chester
The stone arched Dee bridge

Chester Castle was the next point of interest, a Norman stronghold that was built by William the Conqueror’s nephew, the first Earl of Chester.  Parts of the buildings are used today as Crown Courts and as a military museum.

Chester Castle
Chester Castle

The walls then descend to ground level for a short distance and after crossing Grosvenor Bridge the route took us along the side of Chester Racecourse.  The course is also known as The Roodee, which originally opened in 1539 making it the world’s oldest still in operation, built on the site of the old Roman harbour.

Chester Racecourse
Chester Racecourse

Back at a raised level once more we climbed the steps up to the King Charles Tower, located on one corner of the wall.  It was from this lookout point that Charles I is said to have observed the defeat of his army in 1645.

King Charles Tower, Chester
The King Charles Tower on the City Walls

A few steps further and we had the most wonderful view of Chester Cathedral, a stunning Gothic structure that we planned to visit later in our stay.  The cathedral was a medieval Benedictine abbey before becoming a cathedral in 1541.

Chester Cathedral
Chester Cathedral

Our walk along the walks ended at the magnificent Eastgate Clock positioned on a footbridge overlooking Eastgate, Chester’s main shopping street.  The clock was erected in 1899 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria two years earlier.  It is thought to be the second most photographed clock in England after London’s Big Ben and it’s easy to see why.

Eastgate Clock, Chester
The magnificent Eastgate Clock

It was then time for a look around the shops and what a treat we had in store.  Shopping in Chester is like nowhere else as it takes place along tiered streets.  These medieval first floor walkways line the four main streets of the city centre and are known as The Rows.

The Rows, Chester
The Tudor Rows in the city centre

Steps lead up from ground floor level to long covered balconies lined with shops, galleries and restaurants.  These continuous half-timbered walkways are arranged directly above those at street level and I defy anyone not to marvel at their beauty.  Not all of the magnificent Tudor buildings have withstood the centuries and whilst some are original others date from Victorian times but they are all equally beautiful.

Upper tier of The Rows, Chester
Standing on the covered walkway of one of the upper rows

A new visitor attraction recently opened in the former St Michael’s Church so we decided to take a look there next.  Sick to Death (admission £6) is all about the history of diseases, doctors and dying in medieval times and documents all the gory details of medicine through the ages.  Visitors are each handed a UV pen which shows up fluorescent green plague spots splattered around the museum, its a great way to keep children entertained whilst looking around.

Sick to Death, St. Michael's Church, Chester
Sick to Death in the former St. Michael’s Church

We started off by walking down Diagnosis Alley, a filthy disease ridden passageway of olden times.  Next, we experienced a post-mortem room and learnt why they were so important in furthering our understanding of the human body.  Other areas demonstrated the use of herbs and medicinal potions in the apothecary.  The self-guided tour is both fun and educational as there’s a timeline of the key breakthroughs in medicine, covering the invention of antiseptics and x-rays through to the more recent use of anti-viral drugs.

The gory post-mortem room at Sick to Death, Chester
The gory post-mortem room at Sick to Death

The attraction was conveniently located on the corner of Pepper Street close to our hotel so we popped back there to check-in and to relax awhile.  Our room was located on the 1st floor and of a good size with a comfortable armchair and 50″ television.  We made ourselves cups of tea and couldn’t resist nibbling the complimentary shortbread and stem ginger cookies left for us on the hospitality tray.

Bedroom, Leonardo Hotel, Chester
Our room at the Leonardo Hotel

Refreshed after our short rest, it was then just a short walk to Storyhouse an award winning cultural centre incorporating a library, theatre and cinema.  The building was formerly a 1926 art-deco Odeon cinema that has been restored and renovated to include a restaurant and two bars.

Storyhouse, Chester
Storyhouse cultural centre, Chester

The library in Storyhouse boasts the longest opening hours in the United Kingdom as it remains open until 11.00 p.m.  It had been suggested that we dine in The Kitchen casual dining restaurant before attending a mid-evening performance.  What a great idea this was, as we were shown to a table surrounded by shelves of books, aptly the library’s cook book collection was just behind where I was sitting.

The Kitchen, Storyhouse, Chester
The Kitchen, Storyhouse

We were greeted by friendly staff and we sipped glasses of wine whilst studying the menu.  Decisions made, we settled on mains and a dessert and both my Lebanese chicken kebab and my husband’s shredded chilli and date glazed beef shin were very flavoursome, beautifully presented and good value at under £9 each.

Main courses, The Kitchen, Storyhouse, Chester
Our choice of mains at The Kitchen restaurant, Storyhouse

I adore Middle Eastern cuisine so couldn’t resist the pear and tahini streusel with a wild cherry sorbet.  Across the table, my husband’s choice of apple, fig and cinnamon sponge served with vanilla pod infused cream looked delectable too, so for the needs of blog research I felt duty bound to sample that one as well (my verdict – also delicious).

Desserts at The Kitchen restaurant, Storyhouse, Chester
Our yummy desserts

We didn’t think we’d allowed ourselves enough time for a coffee before the show started but the helpful server suggested bringing us them in paper cups so we could take them into the theatre with us as this was permitted.

The Kitchen, Storyhouse, Chester
The Kitchen bar and restaurant

We’d come to see a performance by BalletBoyz Deluxe – eight extraordinarily talented young dancers, their unique style of dance combined with music and film.  The first scene was entitled ‘Ripple’ and was very graceful contrasting well with the second scene entitled Bradley 4:18, which was faster moving and exhilarating.  A short walk back to our hotel followed and we were sound asleep in seconds after such a fun filled day exploring Chester.

 

If you have enjoyed reading this post you may also like:

A short break in Cheshire

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Exploring Chester

 

64 thoughts on “Day 1. A weekend in Chester

  1. Wow, what a beautiful city, Marion! This only proves that you don’t always have to go abroad to discover beautiful hidden gems. I used to live in Scotland for three years and I did not use to appreciate how many incredible little towns and places were around me. However, since I have been living in Ireland, I appreciate every single place and I always find something charming in every place. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words and for taking an interest in this series of posts on my weekend in Chester. I hadn’t been for ages either and I don’t really know why as it’s such a lovely compact city with beautiful architecture.

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  2. Your tour of Chester through your lovely photos, especially your one of Chester Cathedral, certainly does tempt one to think of making travel plans to visit there. Photographing the Eastgate Clock would definitely be a priority.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How lovely is the spring flowers along the city’s walls. And great picture of the heron (I’m still looking for one to take a photo of). Since our Camino’s, I love to see old bridges and it seems Chester would not disappoint in this aspect 😊. Your photo of Chester Cathedral is stunning with the trees full of blossoms in the foreground! Oh yes, your food surely looks delicious – that dessert – yummy! And thank you for showing that beautiful clock – it is quite stunning!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chester is a beautiful place to spend a weekend and someone I’d only been once before many years ago. With the daffodils in bloom it looked lovely along the city walls and we’d timed our visit well to enjoy a show following a delicious Middle Eastern meal. Hope you had a lovely Easter break too and thanks for taking the time to comment Corna.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m sure that’s the case, but well worth the effort no doubt. Hope it stayed fine as it must be so miserable to set up camp whilst everything is getting wet. I doubt this happens much though in sunny SA! Look forward to reading about your latest adventure. Marion

          Liked by 1 person

  4. The clock is really magnificent isn’t it. Sick to Death sounds a bit gruesome, how awful to have been alive in those times. Sounds like such a fabulous day though complete with dinner and a theatre show 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Eastgate Clock is gorgeous and Hester is a delightful small city to visit. It was a bit gory in Sick tonDeath but I expect children would love it! The pre dinner meal and show rounded off our day beautifully. Hope you get to visit Chester sometime when you are over here Alison.

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  5. Bill and I were in Chester once but only managed an hour or two as rain was bucketing down. So we jumped in the car and followed our noses west which put us in Wales on the northern coast. After a time of driving that we turned south and made more wonderful discoveries, which included me getting a taste for Scrumpy Jack. But we have never forgotten sheltering under the shopping colonnades of Chester and our intention to return there one day. I doubt we knew way back then it had so much on offer as you have introduced us to. x Gwen

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  6. I just love King Charles tower! It looks very much like something out of a children’s fantasy book. And the Eastgate clock is just incredible! Did Queen Victoria have a connection to Chester or was it the city’s way of celebrating her jubilee? Such a wonderful town to explore with you today- beautiful buildings and interesting history! I hope you have a great week Marion 🙂

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    1. Chester is a lovely small city to visit Meg with its Tudor architecture and ancient city walls. The Eastgate Clock was the city’s way of celebrating Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and is magnificent. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment and hopefully you will get an opportunity to visit Chester yourself sometime.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I can see why the Eastgate Clock is so widely photographed: it’s absolutely a colorful delight! I’ve heard good things about Chester, and it looks to be the perfect place out of town to explore. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I have long admired the beautiful buildings of Chester, although I have never visited – yet! As is so often the case, reading your detailed and interesting guides, makes me eager to explore these unknown (to me, anyway!) parts of the UK, even more.
    Best wishes for a Happy Easter wherever you may be, Marion.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. ThingsHelenLoves

    Sick to Death sounds delightfully gruesome, although I think a stroll round the Cathedral with that beautiful blossom tree might be healthier! I’m glad so much of historic Chester has survived, what a beautiful place.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sick to Death although macabre is very interesting but there’s nothing nicer than a springtime walk along the city walls with the cherry blossom and spring flowers in bloom. Chester is a delightful, compact city with its Rows and Tudor architecture. Thanks for your welcome thoughts Helen and hope you are feeling recovered from COVID now.

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  10. What a beautiful place Marion. Love the half timbered buildings and that clock is definitely worth photographing. The museum in St. Michael’s while a bit macabre would have been worth a look and Storyhouse seems to have it all and make the trip to Chester worthwhile. Happy Easter Marion. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Chester really seems to have it all. It’s been on my list for years and there’s plenty in your article that consolidates that. It seems to be an architectural gem, The Tudor Rows reminding me of the also stunning Ancient High House in Stafford. Sick to Death looks like a fun (if you know what I mean) exhibit that shows, my lord, that we didn’t have it so bad during COVID. A great addition to your back catalogue, Marion.

    Liked by 3 people

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