Length 5.2 km (3.2 miles), terrain: mostly flat, 42-meter gain
Chester is one of those places that, when you visit it, you're astounded by the amount of historical sites available in a town that you've never heard anything about. Chester is a jewel of classic British architecture. Its full of historic buildings, an almost complete circle of town walls, a nice riverfront, beautiful churches, elegant parks, a castle, old stone bridges, a horse-race track and ruins dating from Roman days and the middle ages. You'll wonder why it isn't on everybody's short-list of great places to visit.
|Chester street scene|
Later, the Saxons rebuilt the walls and extended them around more of the town to defend against Danish vikings. And after the Saxons were beaten by the Normans, the Normans built a stone castle near the River Dee to command the town and nearby Wales.
Many medieval buildings are still to be seen, and they were augmented in the late 1800s when the town's biggest landlord -- the Grosvenor family -- built many new buildings in the old Tudor style, filling the empty lots downtown to create more rentable space. The buildings on the main streets have a unique architectural style, which you won't find anywhere else.
So if you find yourself in the area south of Manchester and Liverpool near the Welsh border, make sure you spend some time in Chester, and take a route like this to visit the main sights. I'm lucky that I just made my third visit to Chester, and got to re-run the historic routes again.
So, if you'd like to visit a lot of the most memorable sights in town, get yourself to the center of the old town, at the old town cross, standing at the main intersection, where Northgate, Eastgate, Watergate and Bridge Street come together. This was also the main crossing in the original Roman fort, with Northgate and Eastgate still marking two of the entrances to Deva Victrix. The medieval stone cross was once decorated with statues, but they were removed and destroyed during the protestant reformation.
|Starting point at the town cross|
|View from the upper level|
The houses often had differing heights, and the upper levels were connected with ramps. Many of the black-and-white buildings were built by the Grosvenors 150 years ago, with detailed oaken woodwork, and they really kept the medieval feel of the town.
You'll pass the Three Old Arches house on the right side, supposedly the oldest shop front in England. There are also a variety of historic pubs lining Bridge Street along both sides.
|Old Dee Bridge|
At the river, turn left to run eastwards along the riverside park, with the old town walls up above you to the left, on a cliff. After a few blocks, when you get to Hickory's restaurant, you'll see that the town walls head back uphill again as the cliff ends. This area once also had lots of rock, but the Romans quarried it, outside of the fort walls. There is now a Roman Gardens park there, where a lot of Roman ruins were relocated when discovered in various parts of town.
|Teenagers at the riverfront|
When you come to the Victorian pedestrian suspension bridge, turn left to enter Grosvenor Park, right past the first house on the right side.
|The suspension bridge|
|In Grosvenor Park|
|Ruins of St. John the Baptist|
|Roman amphitheater, with Newgate in the background|
When you run through the archway, turn left to then take the stairs up to the top of the town walls here. This is the 2-km-mark.
At the top, turn north to keep running along the top of the walls, with rooftops to either side.
|Eastgate with clock, as seen from below|
Keep running north and you'll get to a nice part of the walls, with the gardens of the present cathedral to your left, with lots of trees to either side.
|Along the walls behind the cathedral|
|The north wall, built by legionnaires|
A busy street, St. Martin's Way, passes under the walls at the 3-km mark, then later a train line.
|The Water Tower as seen from the wall trail|
You have to turn south here and the wall trail now forms a sidewalk for City Walls Road. The wall isn't very evident here, it's more of a stone-faced embankment facing the Water Tower Park.
Now just keep running along the wall past the Watergate and the entrance to the Chester Racecourse (horse racing). You'll see the whole racetrack stretching out below you to the right, on old marshland next to the river, as you run next to Nuns Road.
Now you'll come to another highlight on your left, Chester Castle. It is an old Norman "motte and bailey" construction. A motte and bailey castle used an artificial hill in the middle as the base for the biggest tower (the "keep", and surrounded it with another curtain of walls which contained buildings for the garrison (the bailey).
|Chester's Norman castle|
When you see the Riverside Innovation Center on the left, a block before you come back to the Old Dee Bridge, turn left to take the St. Mary's Hill pedestrian street uphill past St. Mary's church and then the main buildings from the castle. A Military Museum is in one building, and a courthouse occupies the main building. These Greek-revival-style buildings were built 200 years ago, replacing the original medieval buildings.
Now, at the big Grosvenor Roundabout, take Grosvenor Street towards the northeast as it heads back to Bridge Street.
At Bridge Street, turn left to head the last few blocks uphill to the town cross, where you started. You can try more upper-level/lower-level changes as you wish. Nice run!