England is steeped in history. With centuries of events on its timeline, there is a glimmer of ancient happenings, relics from yesteryear or ruins from notable battles in every city, town or village, and a glimpse of historic architecture around almost every turn.
With a heritage that dates back over 2000 years, Chester, the county town of Cheshire, attracts history lovers from all walks of life. It’s a city where you can truly immerse yourself in the atmosphere of days gone by, where yesteryear feels like yesterday and history leads you down every street. Here is our guide to a perfect day in Chester for history buffs.
Chester Day Out for History Buffs
Like most counties in England and Wales, Cheshire has a rich and interesting history. In particular the cathedral city of Chester, with its proximity to the border between these two UK countries, plays an integral part. The depth of history here is such that you need not travel too far into the countryside to see remnants of its past. In fact, Chester city centre has everything you need to satisfy your history craving.
The Roman amphitheatre, a mere five minutes’ walk from the city centre is as good a place as any to start your morning’s escapades. It was the largest of its kind in Britain and was built late in the first century AD for entertainment and military training. Less than half of the initial structure is visible – the rest is yet to be excavated – but the excavated portion includes two entrances and a large portion of the amphitheatre’s original stone wall.
A stone’s throw from the Roman amphitheatre is the Roman Gardens, which stretch all the way from Pepper Street to the River Dee. While the gardens themselves are less than a century old, they provide the perfect setting in which to showcase ruins and artefacts accumulated from various historic sites around the broader Chester area. A stroll through this well-designed green space, with its information boards provides history buffs with valuable insight into Chester’s Roman past.
Chester Castle and Agricola Tower are also on the itinerary this morning, and conveniently located within walking distance from the Roman gardens. The castle was built in the early 11th century and although much of the original structure has been demolished or destroyed over the years, there is still much to see that provides a fascinating insight into the role the castle played in the rule and defence of the area. The most prominent of these is the Agricola Tower, which was the first stone gateway to the castle and dates back to the 12th century. It’s definitely worth climbing the ancient stone steps to the top for stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
Your morning ends with a stop at the Grosvenor Museum, where you can learn about life in Roman times and view various collections showcasing Chester’s history and heritage. This includes the Period House located behind the museum, which was built in 1680 and still has many of the original fittings.
Time for Lunch
Sticking with the historic theme, we’ve chosen the King’s Head for your lunchtime break. This designated Grade II* listed building is over 400 years old, and widely believed to be one of the most haunted in England. The menu features a variety of meals catering to all palates and appetites at reasonable prices. Rest your legs and replenish your energy levels as there is still much history to explore in Chester.
Walk the Walls
No history lover’s trip to Chester is complete without a wander around the city walls. Chester has the most complete city walls in England, with some sections dating back 2000 years. They cover around two miles and give you an excellent snapshot of historic and modern workings of this fascinating place.
You can start your walk from several places around the city, but the main access points to the walls are from the four city gateways: Eastgate, Westgate, Bridgegate and Watergate. Feel free to break your walk at stages and explore other aspects of Chester. Of particular interest to visitors are The Rows, groups of black and white half-timbered buildings housing a variety of shops and dating back to Victorian times. Very little is known about the origin and history of these buildings, but their uniqueness make them a popular attraction.
Another worthwhile detour from your exploration of the city walls is Chester Cathedral. Free entry adds to the allure of this majestic structure with its current design dating back to the mid-13th century. A highlight of a visit to the cathedral is the Tower Tour. Your climb of 216 steps to the top of the 125-foot tower is made infinitely easier as you catch stunning views from the viewing galleries and gain local and historic insight into the cathedral’s unique architecture and surrounds. The reward for your efforts: panoramic views across two countries and five counties.
Time to Relax
After an afternoon of walking in the fresh air, you’re bound to have worked up a decent appetite, so it’s probably time to grab some dinner, have a few drinks and mull over everything that you’ve seen and experienced during the day. There’s no shortage of eateries in Chester, with restaurants, pubs and cafes scattered throughout the city centre and surrounds. The Botanist Bar & Restaurant in St Werburgh Street has a modern, eclectic vibe with a small but varied menu. However, if your culinary taste sways to something more specific, there is plenty to choose from in the city centre.
And on the off-chance that you fancy more walking, Chester Ghost Tours will show you the spookier side to Chester’s history. A ghoulish way to spend your final couple of hours in this delightful city!
Getting Around Chester
Being an old city, Chester does have its limitations during busy seasons. Chester park & ride is a great option for day trippers, whilst parking in Chester should be planned ahead of time if you are visiting during peak season and events. Our taxis in Chester are available around the city and can be booked from your hotel or location.
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