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davidx Chester - A travel report by David
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Chester,  United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom
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davidx's travel reports

Chester – just a day out.

  13 votes
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Some rave about Chester but I had mixed feelings. I found that most of its claims could be more than matched by a number of other UK cities. Where it does excel is for the general character of its streets - particularly The Rows.

Cathedral from Town Hall
Cathedral from Town Hall
I was surprised to find that there were no reports on Chester here as it is a very popular city and one with some rave reports on other sites. Hence I am drawn to write something, although I’ve only ever been twice for a few hours each time and therefore I can only do a very moderate report. Chester’s history, at least back to Roman times when it was called Deva, is impressive and throughout the medieval period it stood as an important English bulwark against Welsh raids. As the county town of Cheshire, one of England’s more expensive counties and certainly more so than anywhere further north, the city is to be expected to make the most of itself and it does. However, when I went into the information centre by the Town Hall and asked what I should see with only a few hours to spend, I was surprised how little was recommended. I enjoyed my time in Chester but felt no overpowering desire to return for a longer visit. As this seems an unusual view I shall offer a bit by way of explanation. Chester is probably the most completely walled city in the UK. However not all of the walls are new and in fact they were considerably altered in the 19th century to make them into a walkway. I don’t find them as moving as the less complete walls of York and they just don’t compare with those of Dubrovnik, Ávila, Obidos or many others. There is a Roman amphitheatre but I found it underwhelming by UK standards, let alone some of the superb remains of Italy, France and elsewhere. The Cathedral is a great building but to me it doesn’t compare with York Minster or the cathedrals of Gloucester, Wells, Exeter, Durham - - -. The part of the river Dee near to the walls is very pleasant but it hardly compares to many other urban rivers in Britain or Europe.

Favourite spots:
Some Rows
Some Rows
The Rows are famous throughout England for their black and white buildings and their arcades above street level. At last I can agree totally! These are a fine sight, perhaps not as extensive as one might expect but of excellent architectural quality. Many are said to be Victorian copies. So what? In that case they are fine copies of something worth copying. My only regret was that, to a greater extent than on my first visit, most of the shops themselves were very much those that would be expected to crop up in any large English town. However for shopping in a pleasant and even impressive environment, Chester must rate high.

What's really great:
Clock from wall
Clock from wall
As you approach the river Dee along the walls, you pass the Roman area. In The Eastgate clock claims to be the second most photographed clock in the UK after Big Ben. It is even given world status as the second by one Chester website – have they never seen those crowds in Prague photographed as they themselves photo the astronomical clock. I doubt even the former claim but, that notwithstanding, it’s a fine sight, set on one of the walls’ archways above a busy shopping street. The clock was erected to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.

Roman Garden
Roman Garden
If you have children with you, Chester really is a top recommendation and what makes it special is its very fine zoo. This is a bit outside the city but easily reached by bus and is probably the best between London and Edinburgh. The combination of the zoo and the city sights makes it worth going some way.
The Grosvenor museum is very good and can be visited easily at the same time as the old castle area.

Dee from walls
Dee from walls
I was only on a day trip and I can’t easily imagine wanting to stay there but there is plenty of accommodation in any price range.

Other recommendations:
Town Hall
Town Hall
There’s no difficulty in reaching Chester, which is on the main rail network and accessible from motorways. As may have been apparent, I shouldn’t recommend it as a major diversion, except for families. However if you have been heading north from Bristol or South Wlaes via Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester or if you are making from North Wales to Manchester or Liverpool, it would seem a great pity to miss it.

I can't help feeling a bit churlish about this report - perhaps somebody will feel able to write something more glowing - but it's not the function of a report to say the opposite to what the writer feels.

Published on Friday October 19th, 2007

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Wed, Nov 14 2007 - 11:04 PM rating by downundergal

Good effort considering you were only here for such a short time. I agree no need to feel churlish I am sure we all appreciate your honesty. I must say that I thought I rather enjoeyed Chester but cannot really unearth any great memories from there so you are not the only one.

Thu, Oct 25 2007 - 11:39 PM rating by barcelona

5 points is not enough to premium this top quality report.

Fri, Oct 19 2007 - 11:51 PM rating by bineba

No need to feel churlish, David. I think we all appreciate your honest opinion and we all must have been to places where our expectations weren't met. For what it's worth, a friend of mine lived there for a while and she doesn't rate it too highly either. And I totally agree with you comment about the same shops appearing on most high streets in England, it's such a shame, because elsewhere in Europe that doesn't seem to be the case so much.

Fri, Oct 19 2007 - 08:24 AM rating by marianne

Great description and exactly the way I remember it. (I just wonder if the youth hostel is still there. We had to beeswax the stairs before breakfast. These were the days...)

Fri, Oct 19 2007 - 07:37 AM rating by rangutan

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