Having been to Chester several times in the past this trip was all about the city walls – we have walked parts before but never the full circuit – hence our mission for the day. We actually started out in Wales – a little village called Sealand. Not just about walking, we decided to throw cycling into the mix for good measure. An old railway track now a cycle track passes Sealand and takes you right to the centre of Chester. Mainly flat (my type of cycling) with a smooth surface the ride was easy and very pleasant. Gorgeous views over the fields and countryside meant five miles went by in a flash and Son hardly moaned once. A good start indeed.
We found a bike rack in the centre, tied up our trusty steeds and set about finding the city walls.You can’t miss them – the walls encompass the city centre entirely. Roman in origin they are mainly medieval and there is plenty of wall for everyone – they are 2 miles long and the most complete set of city walls in England.
Chester owes its origins to the Romans. They set up a military settlement – Dewa – at the mouth of the River Dee 2,000 years ago as a defence against the pesky Welsh tribes to the west. Most of the original fortress now lies beneath the modern city, but you can still see some bits and pieces above ground – a reminder of how important this place was in Roman days. We started our walk at the Eastgate Clock – apparently the most photographed timepiece in the country after Big Ben. It dates back to Victorian times and was built to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee. Son was moderately impressed with the clock and seriously impressed with the ice-cream parlour we found nearby at street level.
Just a short distance away is the 700 year old cathedral – resplendent during our visit with blossom. The tearooms have a great idea…..
A little further along is Chester Racecourse or the Roodee, supposedly the oldest racecourse still in use in England. Once a harbour until the river silted up, it was used for a game called “foute boule” then in 1893 the first race meeting was held. No horses during our visit but we did get some good views.
We carried on past the castle to the riverside – a lovely atmosphere and the perfect spot for rest and refreshments. We watched pleasure boats travel up and down the river, buskers performed and the whole place felt lively and buzzing. Son was keen to try out a rowing boat, we managed to put him off this idea with the reminder that a mile still to walk and 5 miles of cycling to come after that, maybe energy should be conserved where possible. He was not entirely convinced, but did thank us in the end.
Refreshed with riverside exploring complete, back to the walls we went and got some great views of the recreated Roman garden as well as the amphitheatre (the largest in Britain).
I loved the architecture and buildings along the next part of the wall. Back to back terrace houses, colourful front doors and an old fashioned air this is a quaint part of town. We were tempted to stop for a beverage at the Albion Inn but as it proudly declares itself “family hostile” we thought we’d better not. I read somewhere they keep Christmas decorations up year round, but again with Son in tow couldn’t check this out for myself. It did make me smile though – definitely a place with character.
All too soon we were almost back at our starting point and the main shopping area of the city. Chester has all the stores and brands you would find in any high street in the UK but shopping is a bit special here thanks to the Rows – a series of two tiered buildings with half-timbered frontages. The shopping area reminded me a bit of a fairytale land.
A great day out – we all thoroughly enjoyed our wall walk – plenty of steps to climb, nooks and crannies to explore and oodles of other things to check out meant Son was happy. The adults loved seeing the city from a different perspective and we ended up exploring areas previously unknown to us. But then alas, it was time for the 5 mile cycle back – the return leg not so enjoyable it must be said, aching limbs and moaning were a feature this time of the ride (not just from Son), but at least it was flat and we did make it (eventually).