A Day in… Gloucester

By | Category: Travel destinations
Painted Tomb, Gloucester Cathedral

Painted Tomb, Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester is one of those places that nearly everyone has heard of but how many have been there? It is linked with county cricket, rugby and is the burial place of Edward II after his unfortunate incident with a red hot poker. It saw the first coronation of his grandfather Henry III in 1216 and today part of the cathedral is used as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.

But what to do on a day trip?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way. Gloucester is city being regenerated which means there are shabby bits ( the walk from the station into the centre for example) and a strange mix of vile modern architecture (Sainsbury’s) sandwiched between a genuine Tudor building and one even earlier, Ye Olde Fish Shoppe, which dates to 1450. There is a lot of building work going on and maybe some of the other sixties eyesores will come down as part of this regeneration. (In 100 years time this architecture I dislike now might even be popular. But perhaps not. Tastes change so who knows what will appeal to generations in the future.)

Quayside Shopping Area

Quayside Shopping Area


On the positive side, Gloucester is a compact city which lends itself to the day trip. You can see a lot just in the space of a day. You don’t need a car or a bus; walking will get you everywhere quite quickly. For example it takes about 20 minutes to walk from the station to the docks and Gloucester Quays, the designer outlet store. Secondly it is well signposted so even if you take a wrong turning, the next road junction will probably have another sign.
The quays area is the place where much of the regeneration has taken place. Now there are trendy flats (prices from about £140,000-£190,000 if you’re interested) guarding the designer outlet, the antiques centre and the Waterways Museum. Coffee shops and restaurants mean that after you’ve finished shopping there should be no shortages of seats where you can pause and rest. Walking along the quayside you will see not only boats of varying sorts but railway wagons which hauled away the goods that were landed here in the old days when Gloucester was a port and boats came up the Severn and then into the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Take a boat ride around the quays. Here alone, it would be easy to spend most of the day. But you can spend longer with a leisurely 3-6 night cruise up the river which, if nothing else, shows you how wide and deep the Severn is at this point.

Blackfriars Priory

Blackfriars Priory

The cathedral is the other major attraction. For newer fans there is the Harry Potter link, for older ones, there is one of the finest cathedrals that you can see and this year, the home of the Three Choirs Festival which is just starting. Next month it is also home to Crucible, a sculpture exhibition with over 75 works of art from 48 sculptors such as Anthony Gormley (he of the Angel of the North) and Damient Hurst. And it will be free to visit.
Inside the cathedral, there is a painted effigy of the eldest of William the Conqueror’s sons, Robert of Normandy which is striking. He could well have become king in 1100 but his brother Henry I seized the throne. And the royal links continue with stained glass windows of the coronation of Henry III and the arms of Henry VIII and his first wife.

Gloucester old and new

Gloucester old and new

Not all such heritage has lasted so well. Near the church of St Mary de Lode (the site of the first Christian church in England) are the ruins of Blackfrairs Friary sandwiched and overlooked by dubious modern architecture.

All this I comfortably saw in a day. Most cities are sprawling places, hard to cover in a day. But Gloucester is not. There are places I didn’t have time to see, The House of the Tailor of Gloucester that attracts so many Beatrix Potter fans for example or the Dragon Boat cacing in May each year. For that reason alone Gloucester makes a ideal location for a day or maybe two.

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