Tourist Information Centre, Town Hall, Chester. 0244 40144. Visitor Centre (opposite the Amphitheatre) 0244 318916. (posted Nov 2011): Chester (0244 318727).

With its dramatic position overlooking the River Dee, its Roman remains, medieval walls enclosing much of the city, its black-andwhite buildings, rows of two-tiered shops, covered market and antique and book shops, Chester never fails to please visitors from home or overseas. It is a colourful, civilised place, as much of interest crowded into the area enclosed by the irregular red sand stone wall (you can walk along it, including the arches over streets) as you are likely to find anywhere. The cathedral, also built of red sandstone, is stunning, but it is the medieval houses that especially endear themselves to most visitors. There is not such a concentration anywhere else as in the city centre, now happily devoid of through traffic. Chester is above all a city to explore on foot, and those who get the best out of it stay several nights, though perhaps taking short day trips away.

Chester is one of the major gateways to North Wales, yet if you do not include Llandudno and North Wales on your itinerary, you have to make a positive decision to visit it - and our next subject, Shrewsbury. The town places are very different, but in their individual ways, among England's most fascinating, of course heavily under the influence of their strategic position close to the Welsh border.

Chester is especially well served by trains. It is on the main line from Crewe through North Wales to Llandudno Junction and Holyhead for Ireland, and has a host of local and cross-country services, including frequent trains by two interesting routes to Manchester. It is therefore an ideal centre for overseas visitors touring by rail who will grow to enjoy even the historic railway station itself and find plenty of choice of good food in the evenings. The surrounding area is also full of exceptional scenery, historic houses and thematic museums for those exploring by car. But leave plenty of time for Chester itself, walking along the walls in the sunshine and again when the floodlights are on at night, taking a boat trip (there is a choice of destination) on the Dee, and soaking in the detail of the black-and-white buildings.


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