Chester’s famous city walls have been taking their biggest pounding since Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian forces launched an assault during the Civil War.
As the UK was plunged into coronavirus lockdowns, the two-mile long ancient monument became the go-to place for thousands of locals to get their daily dose of exercise.
The most complete city walls in Europe, dating back to Roman times, they stood up to the battering well, although in January walkers were stopped in their tracks when one section collapsed.
Blamed on excavation works rather than all the extra footsteps, the slabs and stonework slid into the backyard of the apartments where my family and I stayed at the start of the summer holidays.
Somewhat confusingly named, The Hotel Chester features 12 apartments in a converted office block, all very individually styled with names such as The Zoo, Secret Garden and Money Penny.
We stayed in The Treehouse, so called because it’s all recycled wood, not because you have to climb a ladder to get into it.
It was an instant hit with the kids, who were very excited to be given their own key to their own half-size front door, like something out of Alice In Wonderland.
With two ensuite bedrooms, the luxurious apartment featured a large kitchen / dining / living area with the biggest sofa and widest TV we’d ever come across.
The Hotel Chester, which opened in the spring and has plans to expand into the next door Plumber’s Arms pub, also happens to be very well placed for a fun family weekend.
We arrived on a Saturday morning, parking at the next door shopping centre, and the lovely guys on reception were happy to point us in the right direction.
Less than five minutes away, passing the remains of the Roman amphitheatre, is the lovely Grosvenor Park where our kids enjoyed the playground and the miniature railway.
The park is also home to a temporary open air theatre which on Saturdays until the end of August is staging Jungle Book, a version of the book / film with an environmental twist.
The park slopes down to the River Dee where there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the water, on a cruiser, rowing boat, pedalo or, as we did, a motor boat.
There are plenty more family friendly attractions in Chester, recently voted the UK’s best city by i paper.
Kids can paint pottery at Pictura, chill in the children’s library at Storyhouse Theatre or explore the gory history of medicine at the new Sick To Death attraction.
With Norman stonework still littering its backyard, The Hotel Chester is, of course, also very handy for the City Walls.
They can be accessed from Newgate – a relatively new breach built in the Roman style – which is even closer to the apartments than the amphitheatre.
We did a complete circuit of the walls, discovering the castle, the cathedral, the oldest racecourse in the country, and the ornate Victorian clock above the Eastgate.
Arriving back where we started, we strolled through the Roman Gardens, which displays Roman remains unearthed across the city, including parts of the fortress and main baths.
After checking out on Sunday morning we had a quick look around the remarkable streets called The Rows, just around the corner from the hotel.
Like a Middle Ages Merry Hill shopping centre, The Rows are two tiers of retail heaven, with steps up from street level to the galleried shops and open air restaurants above.
The oldest shopping façade in England, some original 13th century buildings have survived, but many of the impressive facades are Victorian copies.
We had planned to then visit Chester Zoo. However, with the temperatures approaching 30 degrees it was decided we needed somewhere the kids could cool off.
So with Chester being close to north Wales and The Wirral we opted to head for the coast, and in particular the long expanse of sandy beach at Prestatyn.
NEED TO KNOW
To plan your weekend in Chester visit www.experiencechester.co.uk. For The Hotel Chester visit thehotelchester.co.uk
Here’s the printed version of this review…