CHESTER, forty miles southwest of Manchester across the Cheshire Plain, is home to a glorious two-mile ring of medieval and Roman walls that encircles a kernel of Tudor and Victorian buildings, all overhanging eaves, mini-courtyards, and narrow cobbled lanes, which culminate in the raised arcades called the “Rows”. The centre of the city is full of easy charms that can be explored on foot, and taken altogether, Chester has enough in the way of sights, restaurants and atmosphere to make it an enjoyable base for a day or two.
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The city walls
The city walls
East of the cathedral, steps provide access to the top of the city walls – a two-mile girdle of medieval and Roman handiwork that’s the most complete in Britain, though in places the wall is barely above street level. You can walk past all its towers, turrets and gateways in an hour or so, and most have a tale or two to tell. The fifteenth-century King Charles Tower in the northeast corner is so named because Charles I stood here in 1645 watching his troops being beaten on Rowton Moor, two miles to the southeast, while the earlier Water Tower at the northwest corner, once stood in the river – evidence of the changes brought about by the gradual silting of the River Dee. South from the Water Tower you’ll see the Roodee, England’s oldest racecourse, laid out on a silted tidal pool where Roman ships once unloaded wine, figs and olive oil from the Mediterranean and slate, lead and silver from their mines in North Wales. Races are still held here throughout the year.