Why Chester is a top choice for the Queen’s first joint visit with Duchess of Sussex

Monday 11 June 2018

Chester, 11 June 2018: The spotlight will fall on Chester this Thursday, 14 June, when the Queen and her new granddaughter-in-law, the Duchess of Sussex, visit the city on their first official engagement together.

The Royal party will visit Chester to officially open Storyhouse, a new integrated arts centre that is home to a theatre, cinema, public library and the largest repertory company in the UK after the RSC and National Theatre. After a civic reception at Chester’s magnificent Victorian Gothic town hall, the royal duo will move on to open the Mersey Gateway Bridge at Runcorn. But what else could they see in this historic city if there were more time in their schedule? Here are some of Chester’s highlights for visitors:

  • The UK’s most complete city walls: The mile-long circuit of Roman and medieval walls provides a perfect overview of the city’s historic heart, with landmarks along the way including the tower from which Charles I watched his army’s defeat at nearby Rowton Heath.
  • The home of the ‘gee-gee’: In 1539, Sir Henry Gee approved the first horse races on the silted up former Roman harbour. Racegoers today still cheer on the ‘gee-gees’ at Britain’s oldest working racecourse.
  • Unique medieval shopping galleries: The first-floor walkways of Chester’s medieval galleries, The Rows, overlook the city’s four main shopping streets. There are ancient relics to discover hidden inside some shops, too, such as a Tudor plasterwork trail that hints at a visit to Chester by Catherine of Aragon.
  • Britain’s largest Roman amphitheatre: The part-excavated amphitheatre is thought to be the largest in Britain and indicates that Chester was the Romans’ original choice for the capital of Britannia. Nearby, the Roman Gardens feature remnants of buildings from that time that have been found around the city.
  • Not one but two cathedrals: St John the Baptist, the city’s original cathedral, is a must-see for its fine Norman interiors. Meanwhile, the church that superseded it in 1541, Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a mighty edifice within which is evidence of its medieval origins and former abbey.
  • A powerbase for William the Conqueror: The formidable Norman Earls of Chester consolidated their power at the castle here on the banks of the Dee. Today’s visitor can see a 19th-century version, which encloses a medieval chapel. The Earldom of Chester became one of the most powerful in the land and is held by the heir-apparent to the English throne, the Prince of Wales, to this day.
  • England’s top attraction outside London: Chester Zoo, second only to the Tower of London as the favourite place to visit in England, is also the country’s favourite zoo and one of the most important centres of conservation work in the world.
  • Chester’s vibrant shops and eateries: Independent boutiques and high-street names are the stars of the Rows, while Cheshire Oaks is the place for designer labels. Plus Chester has an enviable collection of innovative restaurants, including The Chef’s Table, Sticky Walnut, Joseph Benjamin, Porta and the Michelin-star Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor.

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