Car-free adventures aroundChesterCheshire
On these car-free Chester adventures, world travel has never been so easy. Take a walk and boat trip through Chester Zoo and you can experience Madagascan forests, Indonesian islands, African grasslands and tropical jungles all in one day. There are regular buses from Chester station to the zoo and, if you arrive by public transport, you can buy discounted combi-tickets at the station or on the bus. Chester is just two hours from London Euston by train and advance tickets start from £19. There are more wildlife adventures in Delamere Forest, Cheshire’s biggest woodland area, with its prehistoric bogs and carpets of starry sphagnum moss. Explore the industrial heritage around Northwich, also a short train ride from Chester, or walk round the old city walls and cruise along the River Dee. Who needs a car?
1. Chester Zoo
Be transported round the world in a day. Take a leisurely boat trip through the Islands, a series of South East Asian habitats, or walk through a warm, leafy tropical house, full of free-flying colourful birds. New grasslands house Asiatic lions and chimps swing through the trees. The zoo really is a global adventure with glowing plants and insects to brighten the greyest wintry day – giant blue morpho butterflies among red hibiscus or orange clownfish swimming through pink coral. There’s plenty of environmental info too – from how to avoid unsustainable palm oil to protecting endangered species. This is a zoo aiming to help save the planet and teach you about it at the same time.
- How to get to Chester Zoo: Follow Good Journey’s directions. The bus currently costs £4.40 return, but – if you buy your ticket at any station – you can get a discounted ticket that combines train, bus and zoo entry. Or get 15% off if you arrive by bike.
- Food and drink: There are lots of places to eat, generously sprinkled throughout the zoo’s 125 acres, including the new Manado Street Kitchen near the lazy river boat ride. The decor and even a recorded soundtrack conjure up the sense of being in a Sulawesi market where residents and eco tourists share spicy street food.
- Don’t miss the many talks and interactive demonstrations going on throughout the day – from a minibeast safari in the butterfly house to discovering more about rhinos, sloths, elephants or Komodo dragons. See the tropical birds being fed or take the chance to quiz the zoo rangers about your favourite animals.
2. Walking through history
Chester’s rebuilt city walls, where Roman legionaries once guarded the fortress of Deva, now provide an hour-long, traffic-free stroll, overlooking the racecourse, the Roman amphitheatre (Britain’s largest) and the rows – medieval shops with half-timbered galleries.
- The walls are a short walk from the railway station (or there are regular shuttle buses) and take you past several of the city’s interesting landmarks, like the cheerful Eastgate clock, the red sandstone castle or the tower where Charles I stood to watch the Battle of Rowton Moor.
- Not far from Chester Castle, Grosvenor Museum explores the city’s history, with paintings of Chester through the ages and extraordinary Roman gravestones, unearthed from below the walls. The museum is free (donations welcome) and definitely worth a visit. There’s even a display (with dried leaves and stuffed weasels) about Delamere Forest (see 3 below).
- How to get to Grosvenor Museum: It’s about half way round the walls – in either direction – if you’re coming from the railway station or a twenty minute walk if you take a more direct route through the town centre (see map below). Alternatively, buses 1, X1 or X4 from the railway station all stop on Grosvenor Street, almost outside the museum door.
- Food and drink: Don’t miss Chester Market, ten minutes away on foot, with all kinds of goodies to eat, great coffee and locally baked bread.
3. Boat trip on the Dee
Cruise up the River Dee all year round. Chester Boat leaves every half an hour, from the elegant suspension bridge that links Grosvenor Park with the willow-fringed meadows beyond the river. Even in winter, the covered boats sail hourly past spread-winged cormorants and handsome Victorian villas.
- The boat costs £7.50 for a half hour trip (or £16 for a seasonal two-hour cruise to the iron bridge at Aldford and back).
- You can also buy a combined ticket for the boat and the city bus tour, saving £2.50 on a half hour cruise or £7 on the longer one.
- Near the landing stage, don’t miss the columns, mosaics and poplars of the Roman gardens.