France has Paris, the Italians have fair Verona, and apparently the Americans claim Virginia is the place for lovers – but surprisingly to some, Chester can claim the crown as England’s original city of love.
Recent research by a team of curators has revealed that the city’s Grosvenor Museum has an incredible collection of love-focused artefacts, from some of the oldest depictions of married couples in Britain, through to medieval wedding rings, Tudor love tokens and stunning Victorian wedding dresses and shoes.
But it’s not just in the museum stores where love can be found in Chester. The city’s unique historic buildings are bursting with stories of love, romance and passion. They also form the backdrop for a perfect (and historically interesting) kiss.
So to celebrate Valentine’s Day, here are some suggestions of where you can blend passion and history in Chester. Whether you want romance on The Rows or kisses under clocks, Chester provides the backdrop for all lovers.
These steps form part of the walls of Chester, which are Roman in origin but were extended further in the medieval period. These specific steps are associated with a romantic legend stretching back hundreds of years. Simply run up and down the steps holding your breath, and your wishes will be granted. The ideal place to wish for true love.
As well as being an historic place for a romantic stroll through medieval arches and tree-lined Victorian avenues, Grosvenor Park is home to the legendary Billy Hobby’s Well. Now capped with a Victorian stone cover, the well has been used since at least medieval times, and local legend states that if a fair maiden placed their right leg in the well and wished for true love, then their wish would be granted.
Northgate Lock and Chester Canal
Flowing through the centre of Chester the canal was used by packet boats from the 18th century to bring more trade into the city. Today you’re more likely to spot a canal boat taking a leisurely sail along the tranquil waters through the heart of the city and stopping to moor within a stone’s throw of Chester Cathedral. Up and down the canalside is an idyllic setting for a romantic stroll so whether you’re a land lover or a seafarer, the canal is the perfect setting for a kiss,
Twenty years before Shakespeare had penned Romeo & Juliet, Chester had its own true story of star-crossed lovers. The story goes that the Mayor of Chester’s daughter had fallen in love with a penniless suitor, whilst her father wanted her to marry an older, wealthier man. The two young lovers met outside the city’s Peppergate, where they rode off together on horseback to the 'wild lands' of Wales, where they could be together. The Mayor was so angry, he ordered the gate to be closed at night, causing all sorts of issues for traffic into the city. The same gate is now open for all couples to kiss passionately underneath before heading off to Wales, or back in the city for a coffee should the mood take you.
Some things definitely get better with time. Wine and love are two of these things, and the walls of Corks Out on Watergate Street have seen their fair share of both. It’s a secret that many Cestrians like to keep to themselves, but you can descend into the cellars of Corks Out for a glass of wine and perhaps a stolen kiss under stunning medieval vaulted ceilings. Champagne is also served by the glass should you wish to pop corks alongside the big questions.
The Rows of Chester are possibly the oldest continuously used indoor shops in the world. Whilst now a historic attraction in their own right, they contain an array of shops despite retaining their unique historical character. Most importantly, the rows have one of the highest concentrations of jewellery stores in the country, some of which have been selling engagement rings since the 1700s. If your loved one suggests a weekend n Chester – perhaps there will be wedding bells on the horizon?
Queen's Park Suspension Bridge
This bridge was officially opened in 1923, and offers stunning views of the River Dee and the city. In recent years, there has been a fashion to attach ‘love locks’ to the bridge which has also bore witness to a number of proposals. Lock locks aren’t great for historic buildings, so give them a miss, and just kiss underneath it on dark, cloudless night whilst the Chester swans float by.
Reputedly the second most photographed clock in the world, the Eastgate Clock was built to celebrate the 60th year of the reign of Queen Victoria. It is now perhaps the most iconic site in Chester, and a visit to the city without a kiss under the clock is just unthinkable.
The bandstand was built in 1913 and offered the perfect space for live music to entertain couples who strolled along The Groves hand in hand, at this most romantic of locations. The bandstand still hosts live music throughout summer, but in the winter, it provides a stunning backdrop for sweethearts to warm each other with a tender.
And finally, as the song says, 'birds do it, bees do it...let’s fall in love' – how can you fail to do anything else amongst the stunning flora and fauna of Britain’s best zoo.
Where is your favourite location for a Valentine's kiss? Let us know in the comments box below: