Chester, Northern England Walled City

The gracefully rolling hills and dales of the countryside and the gentle pace of the ancient walled town of Chester in England’s north country was a welcome change from the frantic tempo of the big cities. The beautiful community is situated at England’s northwest frontier with Wales. Chester, in the County of Cheshire, is famous for its mouth-watering cheeses and its grinning Alice in Wonderland cat. There was 2000 years’ worth of history to explore, and for me there were special memories of my first trip to that part of the world, more than 20 years ago. It had not changed except for a few unwelcome modern apartment building which had been built on the outskirts of the city.

The famous city was originally built by Roman legionaries to defend against the Welsh is now a charming promenade which extends completely around the two-mile perimeter of this exquisitely preserved city. I began my tour at the venerable Eastgate Clock, the most photographed timepiece in the world after Big Ben, which sits in all its majesty atop the wall overlooking the city’s main street. The walk took me by the river Dee, where pleasure boats drifted lazily and by the largest Roman amphitheater ever uncovered in Britain. Here, imperial legionaries trained for war, and thousands of spectators viewed extravagant festivals and entertainment.

Strolling through the town, a fully costumed Town Crier appeared, delivering his proclamations. I passed the famous “Rows,” a very ahead-of-its-time shopping mall, a two-tiered gallery of shops dating from the Middle Ages, lining both sides of the main thoroughfares. Everywhere I looked, a well-preserved piece of history stood, including the 900-year-old Chester Cathedral. Chester’s architectural glory is so dazzling that it has won the Europa Nostra silver medal twice for conservation of its buildings. The Grosvenor Museum, the Cheshire Military Museum and the Toy Museum proved interesting and unusual; a special treat for history buffs.

Another side of Chester took me on a gentle stroll through Grosvenor Park with floral decor which delighted the senses with the riot of colors so typical of the world famous gardens of England.

I am always interested in exploring the shops, and there was a plethora from which to choose, from the medieval Rows to the modern indoor shopping malls of Grosvenor Precinct and Forum, which struck me as strangely out of place. There were restaurants aplenty, offering a range of cuisines from all over the world. My favorite thing to eat, however, is always the traditional fare of the locale. In this case, fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding, trifle, Welsh Rarebit and steak-and-kidney-pie were high on my list in addition to the delicious fresh fish that is abundant all over England.

Exploring outside the city walls, I enjoyed the beautiful countryside dotted with charming villages, the 12th century Beeston Castle, the Chester Zoo, several stately homes and gardens including Little Moreton Hall, a classic example of the 16th century timber-framed moated manor house.

The city enjoys an international reputation for the quality of its accommodations ranging from prestigious deluxe hotels to traditional farmhouses to friendly guest houses. I was fortunate to stay at one of the most famous hotels in Europe, the Chester Grosvenor, which has been the choice of visiting royalty and head of state since its opening in 1866. My exquisitely furnished suite was freshened each time I left the room. I was addressed by name and found the entire staff eager to make my stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. The Chester Grosvenor combined the elegance of the Victorian era with the convenience of the 21st century, helping making my visit to Chester like a visit to Wonderland.


Chester Department of Tourism

Chester Grosvenor Hotel