Chester – The Roman Walled City.

When I decided that I wanted to visit every county in the UK, Cheshire was an easy early choice, as it’s so close to where I’m living now. Situated in the North West area of England, it borders many other counties, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire as well as Wales to the West. 

The capitol is the historic Chester and is only around 19 miles & 42 minutes by direct train from Liverpool, 42 miles from Manchester and roughly 1.30hrs by train and 183 miles from London, which takes around 2hrs by direct train. I drove via the Mersey Tunnel on my last visit and made good use of one of 4 Park and Rides dotted around the city, we used the one by Chester Zoo and buses leave every 10 minutes to the centre of Chester, and it’s £2.00 return, easy! 

We landed nice and early in Chester, and so headed over to a lovely independant coffee shop called Cinderbox Coffee on Bridge Street, which served a good range of breakfast pastries, sandwiches as well as dairy free coffee, their cakes looked good too, but as it was only around 9.30am when we stopped by, I managed to resist.  Once warmed up and caffeinated, myself and my fellow county explorer Jane headed over to the Town Hall Visitor Information Centre to meet our tour guide.

There is over 2000 years of history to explore in Chester, and only so many hours in the day, so we prebooked on the popular Chester Walking Tour which departs daily all year round at 10.30am with an extra afternoon walk at 2pm between Easter and the end of October. The walk takes about 90 mins and dont forget your sensible walking shoes as you’ll be walking along cobbled streets and up high along the Chester Walls and Chester Rows as well as down to the Roman Amphitheatre and Roman gardens.

View from the walls

The Walls were originally started by the Romans and form an almost complete circuit of the city, measuring nearly 2 miles in length. There are four medieval gates to pass through aswell as some impressive towers and other National Heritage structures, one of them being one of the most prominent landmarks of the city, the Eastgate Clock.

Eastgate Clock

The Chester Rows also featured on the walking tour are half timber, covered galleries forming a second floor of shops above the 4 main streets below, some dating as far back at the 13th Century.  Whether taking a guided tour or not, it’s definitely worth finding one of the entrances and heading upwards as these are pretty unique, unlike no-where else and there is still a real sense of medieval history as you wander around the old and new shops up high.

After our walking tour was finished, we actually headed back to one of the Rows for an afternoon tea, at the recommended Mad Hatters which is housed in a 17th century rectory. I found it a little draughty, but the friendly staff, extensive range of teas and delicious cakes more than made up for it, I just had to wear my coat the entire time!

Feeling a bit sluggish after our sandwiches and cakes, we still had a good couple of hours left in the day, so we decided to head back outside and visit the Cathedral. It is located by the walls and opposite the Information Center and like most places in Chester easy to walk to. Founded as a Benedictine Abbey in 1092 and rebuilt in around 1250, there is so much to explore here, as well as the main cathedral building, there is a nature garden, falconery centre, cafe, obligatory gift shop, and dont forget to visit the LEGO project, as they are currently in the process of rebuilding an exact model of the cathedral in LEGO and if all goes to plan, it will make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. With so much more to explore in Cheshire, I’ll be back.

Chester Cathedral
 
River Dee
Cold day out
 

Chester Guided Tour – £7 

Cathedral, gardens and birds of prey centre £4 

Mad Hatters afternoon tea £16 pp

Other Chester sites – Chester Zoo, Chester Racecourse, River Dee cruise.

Lancashire Lass – Preston

I was born in Lancashire 42 years ago, so it seems appropriate to start my travels across the UK here. If we are getting technical, I no longer live in Lancashire, I now live in Merseyside, prior to that I was in Greater Manchester and hopefully soon, I will be returning to Greater Manchester (that’s a whole other blog post!).  But prior to 1974 (before I was born I might add) Lancashire covered a much larger area in the North West and actually included, Salford and Liverpool where I have since lived. When I started to draw up the number of counties I needed to visit though, I’m using the current list with the amended boundary changes, so that would mean including visiting cities that don’t seem to be linked to a specific county anymore like Bristol and making a separate visit to the Isle of White which is no longer part of Hampshire. But anyway, back to Lancashire. .

I visit Lancashire pretty much weekly, but I wanted to dedicate a day to exploring it ‘Consciously’. Dad was still in hospital at the time, so after we had checked up on him, mum and I headed to the town where I was born – Preston and what seemed a good place to start, the museum of Lancashire for the history bit. 


I am quite a fan of a local history museum, especially if I’m on a city break somewhere, as it’s a great place to gem up on the history and traditions of the place you’re exploring in a short space of time.  Although I have just checked the website of the Lancashire Museums and it seems this particular museum is now closed except for school trips, which is a shame. 

Mum and myself then headed out of the city centre, down London Road and over towards Hoghton, to a place we had driven past many times over the years, but had never explored before; Hoghton Tower. We chose Hoghton Tower not just because it was somewhere we had never ventured before, but also because of the recommended views across Lancashire and the rather impressive guest list of this Grade I listed building, which has included over the years, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and King James I, who I’ll come back to in a minute.

Mum had booked us on a private tour of the building, which took around around 2 hours & cost £8 each. This fortified hill top Manor House still retains a real sense of history and I especially enjoyed the banquet hall, the dolls houses and exploring the dark and musty cellars.  Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable, friendly and had a real sense of pride at showing us around, but I don’t think you can just turn up for a tour though, you always have to book in advance. There is also a large garden and a tea room that serves a very popular afternoon tea. We didn’t have an afternoon tea during this visit, but have since returned  and it was indeed delicious. There seems to be a busy calendar of events too, from farmers markets to outdoor plays and I believe this can have an impact of your visit regarding parking etc, so I would always recommend ringing or checking online before you visit.

By this time we had worked up an appetite and with a roast dinner in mind, (well it was a Sunday) we only needed to cross the road to The Sirloin Pub, which has its own connection to the tower. Rumour has it, that when King James I stayed at the tower on his way down to London, he enjoyed one of the banquets there so much, he ended up knighting the loin of beef, Sir Loin, and so the term for this cut of beef was named.

The pub across the road, plays homage to this and serves a very well made sirloin roast dinner, among many other local dishes like hot pot, we sat by the roaring open fire and tickled the pub dogs, before heading back home. 

Museum of Lancashire – no longer open to the public

Hoghton Tower – booking essential for tours and afternoon teas

Sirloin Pub – Open daily

Other Preston spots – Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Avenham Park, Brockholes Wetland & the British Commercial Vehicle Museum.

Expect I’ll be posting more about Lancashire in the future, as writing this blog has given me a taste to explore my home county some more.