For centuries life was good for GLOUCESTER, just ten miles west of Cheltenham. The Romans chose this spot for a garrison to guard the River Severn, while in Saxon and Norman times the Severn developed into one of the busiest trade routes in Europe. The city became a major religious centre too, but from the fifteenth century onwards a combination of fire, plague, civil war and increasing competition from rival towns sent Gloucester into a decline from which it never recovered – even the opening of a new canal in 1827 between Gloucester and Sharpness to the south failed to revive the town’s dwindling fortunes.

Today, the canal is busy once again, though this time with pleasure boats, and the Victorian docks have undergone a facelift, offering a fascinating glimpse into the region’s industrial past. The main reason for a visit, however, remains Gloucester’s magnificent cathedral, one of the finest in the country.