Chester’s classic medieval timber frame buildings.
Chester's classic medieval timber frame buildings.

History, Sunny Walks and Roman Gardens

Chester on a Sunny afternoon is one of the best cities in the North West of England to take a wander around and soak in the atmosphere. Listed highly on things to do in Chester is walking the historical Roman Walls which pass many of Chester's best historical sights and areas of beauty. 

Chester has everything a traveler of leisure might like; quaint cafes, restaurants, and we even discovered an artisan Donut shop.

A view of Chester cathedral from the walls.
A view of Chester cathedral from the walls.
       Around each corner is an ancient door, or medieval church.
               Around each corner is an ancient door, or medieval church.

For a writer like myself who writes fantasy fiction as part of my living, places like this are a godsend. Around each corner is a new sight to inspire and excite, a new source of lore to bend into my fictional creations.

An ominous opening at the junction of Newgate.
An ominous opening at the junction of Newgate.

Chester isn't a cheap destination for a backpacker though, so for the budget traveler, I would suggest a day trip would be enough to take in the sights and soak up the history.

I have written many posts about my home city of Liverpool (which I'll link at the end of this post) and I think for the budget traveler to the North West of England it makes much more sense to stay at one of the many hostels in Liverpool, which is a world-famous travel destination itself, and take a train ride for around £8 day return (without any station changes) to Chester.

A view of the Roman gardens from the walls.
A view of the Roman gardens from the walls.

The Roman Walls

The best way to see most of the historical sites of Chester is to walk along the Roman walls which cross over many gates, but only four of major historical significance, one of which is where the title picture for this blog was taken. 

It is important to mention at this point that we are dealing with layers of history, and although there are significant sections of the ancient walls that originally date back to Roman construction, as time passed, and the city expanded, further defensive constructions were added and parts of the walls rebuilt.

However, Chester has Britain's best-preserved Roman amphitheater and Roman gardens which can both be seen from Newgate.  

The gates of Wolfgate, Peppergate, Eastgate, and Newgate pass over many of Chester's main shopping streets giving unparalleled views of some of the city's medieval architecture.

      Approaching Eastgate’s famous clock tower.
              Approaching Eastgate's famous clock tower.

Eastgate Clock in Chester, Cheshire, England, stand on the site of the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix. It is a prominent landmark in the city of Chester and is said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben. -

Although Newgate is the most recent gate, having been rebuilt to accommodate increasing traffic by architect Sir Walter Tapper and his son in 1938, the gate was exceptionally well built in the neo-Gothic design to fit in with the rest of the city wall's architecture. 

The earliest gateway is the medieval Peppergate which was first known as Wolfeld's Gate and first recorded in the late 12th century, but archaeologists believe might actually date to before 1066.

By OpenStreetMap CC licence

After crossing Newgate and taking in the views, we descended the steps to take a closer look at both the Roman amphitheatre and burial gardens.

View of the Roman amphitheatre from Newgate.
View of the Roman amphitheatre from Newgate.
View of the Roman amphitheatre from ground level.
View of the Roman amphitheatre from ground level.

Chester's amphitheatre is the biggest known excavated site of its type in the whole of Britain. The Romans were known for their love of entertainment, especially of the gruesome type, and throughout their occupation, two amphitheatres were built on this site.

The first a smaller affair was built soon after AD 80, had stone walls and earthen banks for seating. The second amphitheatre was a much grander affair, built by the early third century the Romans had knocked down the original stone walls and built them up to encompass a large central area.

The amphitheatre was said to hold 7000 citizens at full capacity and had four entrances, one of which was dedicated to the goddess Nemesis (goddess of destiny).

A panoramic picture I took from the centre of the amphitheatre.
A panoramic picture I took from the centre of the amphitheatre.

To give some perspective of what this amphitheatre would have looked like in its heyday I took a picture of one of the plaques that litter the city providing historical facts and pictorial representations.

A pictorial representation of the 2nd build of the Roman amphitheatre.
A pictorial representation of the 2nd build of the Roman amphitheatre.

The Roman gardens were equally as interesting if only for their antiquity. But again, they held an extra fascination for me as a fantasy writer, as you can only grasp certain things from the feeling of a place, from the overall atmosphere, from running your hands over the stones or spending quiet time in meditation to place yourself in the mindset of an ancient people.

A picture of the Roman gardens taken in the shadow of the walls.
A picture of the Roman gardens taken in the shadow of the walls.

The gardens, although peaceful and beautiful today, are something of an enigma. Everything that you see here, some scattered columns, stones that seem to sit forlornly around what is left of a rather impressive fresco originate from other archaeological sites around Chester.

Remnants of a Fresco that was found at Roman bath sites.
Remnants of a Fresco that was found at Roman bath sites.

The various columns, cornices and architrave blocks displayed in the gardens came from the tops of walls spanning spaces between columns, and other remnants from Corinthian columns that might have been plundered from a monument or tomb.  

Similarly, the Fresco and a seated area seem to have come from one of the many Roman bathing halls often comprising of three rooms; frigidarium (cold room), tepidarium (warm room) and caldarium (hot room). Each room would be supplied with different temperature plunge baths of differing temperatures, providing the ancient world's version of a luxury spa and sauna.

After checking out the gardens and amphitheatre we walked along the walls towards Bridgegate checking out the amazing views of the River Dee and the weir that was built at the point where the estuary changes fully from saltwater to fresh.

Panoramic picture of the weir on the River Dee.
Panoramic picture of the weir on the River Dee.

Where a lone Heron fished diving for sprats and other small fish. I watched it for a time, waiting patiently on one leg before diving for at least a minute often emerging with nothing. The Wim Hof of the bird world! 

I was very lucky to be visiting relatives from the States who were staying in Chester in an AirBnB that was right in the heart of the old town, which had a spare room.

Our road and the view from my bedroom window.
Our road and the view from my bedroom window.

I am usually a budget traveler though, and as mentioned at the beginning of this blog I think that a day trip to Chester is easily enough to see the majority of the sights. 

Chester does of course have great nightlife and fantastic restaurants, so I would fully recommend longer stays in the city to those travelers who aren't budget orientated.

My bedroom in our townhouse.
My bedroom in our townhouse.

Even though I stayed two days in Chester, we ended up traveling out of the city the second day to visit an amazing hill fort called Beeston Castle which I will write about in another blog.

Which is part of why I recommend Chester as such a great day-trip destination. The station is central... you can literally walk two minutes to the Roman walls, or 3-4 minutes to the main shopping roads from Chester's central station.

Many thanks for joining me on my journey through historic Chester.

Please find my other postcard travel posts on the links below.

A Postcard from Liverpool - Cathedral Art and Wildflower Meadows

A Postcard from Liverpool - The Waterfront, City Sites, Zip Lines and Street Art

A Summer Postcard - Walking the River Dee

A Postcard from Liverpool - Speke Hall and River Views (Enhanced Smartphone Pics)

All pictures in this post are my own property taken by me in Chester


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