The Romans founded the city Chester as a fortress in 79AD and you can trace its progress to the 21st century through the different styles of architecture for which the city is rightly famous. It is a compact city, easy to get around and there is an excellent park and ride service as well as free parking after 3pm in some of the city’s car parks.
A walk around the city walls (the most complete in Britain) is an excellent way of seeing many of the sights the city has to offer including the Cathedral, the Eastgate clock and the Amphitheatre. You can visit King Charles Tower where the ill-fated monarch is said to have watched the defeat of his army at the Battle of Rowton Moor in 1645. The walls also go down to the river where you can hire a rowing boat or, for the less energetic, take a trip along the Dee on one of the pleasure boats. A single lane medieval bridge crosses the river by the weir and further downstream is the Grosvenor Bridge, which at the time of its construction in 1832, was the largest single-span arch bridge in the world.
Chester is an excellent shopping centre with all the major stores as well as independent retailers. The black and white Rows are a two-tiered medieval shopping area that is unique to Chester. A huge redevelopment programme for the area around the Town Hall is due to start shortly and will include a new theatre and performing arts centre.
For those in search of a bargain the designer outlet centre of Cheshire Oaks is close by at Ellesmere Port Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet and close to this is the second largest Marks and Spencer in the country.
Chester Zoo is world famous and is one of the country’s largest (and best!) Visit them here Chester Zoo »
We are only a matter of yards away from the border with Wales and here you will find the town of Wrexham, a modern town that nowadays bears little resemblance to the ironworks centre it once was.
A little further afield is Llangollen where the river Dee is in a more youthful stage than it is in Chester and canoeists can often be seen between slalom poles in the white water. There is also a full-sized steam railway and the views from the atmospheric ruin of Castell Dinas Bran are excellent – if you can manage the climb!
For those who feel it is a step too far there is a pleasant stroll along the canal towpath. You can check all this out here at llangollen.org.uk
Chester racecourse, known as the Roodee, is the oldest racecourse still in use in England the first race having been held in the early 16th century. The course is walking distance from the city centre and is on the site of the old Roman harbour. There are several meetings during the year, the most prestigious being in May when the Chester Cup and the Cheshire Oaks are held, the latter being a Derby trial race. (www.chester-races.co.uk)
National Hunt Racing can be found at Bangor on Dee (Bangor-is-y-Coed), a pretty little town on the banks of the river Dee. Bangor is a very friendly course that forms a major part of the local community. (www.bangorondeeraces.co.uk)
Golf can be played at Carden Park, a couple of miles along the road. It is situated in beautiful open countryside and boasts two courses; the Cheshire course and the Nicklaus Course designed, naturally, by Jack Nicklaus and his son Steve. They refer to it as a ‘thinking man’s course’’! The 19th hole is well catered for and there are professionals on hand for advice. Carden Park is also a popular venue for weddings and the Old Bakehouse, being only a couple of miles away, is conveniently placed for guests. Reliable taxis can of course be arranged should you require one. (www.cardenpark.co.uk)
There are lots of lovely walks in the area from a quiet evening stroll along the river in Farndon to the Sandstone Trail which runs from Frodsham in the north to Whitchurch in the south for a distance of 34 miles/55 kilometres and offers stunning views across the Cheshire plain from the elevated parts of the route. Collections can be arranged from the places closest to Farndon. (www.sandstonetrail.co.uk)
For motor racing enthusiasts Oulton Park is about 40 minutes away and they have regular car and bike events throughout the year (www.oultonpark.co.uk)
The Cheshire Polo ground is also in the same area.
Top grade equestrian events feature close by with both the Bolesworth International show jumping event held in June, featuring world-class showjumping and entertainment, and the Pony Club Championships held at Cholmondeley Castle. (www.bolesworthinternational.com) and (www.pcuk.org)
Stretton Water Mill is about 5 minutes away and is one of the country’s best preserved demonstration water powered corn mills. The opening times are restricted so it is best to check in advance. Slightly further afield is Beeston Castle, a superb hill top castle started in around 1220 on the site of an Iron Age hill fort. The spectacular views make it well worth the climb and it is said you can see eight counties on a clear day although I never have! There are beautiful woodlands around the castle with wildlife trails for children to follow. (www.english-heritage.org.uk)
Cholmondeley Castle has beautiful gardens open to the public at certain times during the year and it also hosts the increasingly popular Pageant of Power, which showcases the best of historic and contemporary automotive power on land, sea and air. (www.cholmondeleycastle.com)
The National Trust property of Erddig, just outside Wrexham gives a fascinating insight into the upstairs/downstairs life of an early 18th century country house (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/erddig)