Travel: Cheshire offers an historic Christmas twist

Chester's Christmas Market
Chester's Christmas Market

A shopping trip with a historic twist and a world premiere of a children's classic are among the compelling reasons to head to Chester and Cheshire at Christmas. Here's our top 10, with more ideas at at

1. See Chester's Rows Revealed

Like so many towns, Chester has a Santa Run

Like so many towns, Chester has a Santa Run

The city's medieval Rows – the world's first shopping arcade – will be the focus of The Rows Revealed, a fascinating 90-minute tour now available to the public. The Guild of Chester Tour Guides will unearth archaeological gems within the double-decker shopping galleries, some only accessible with their help, such as the remains of pillars that were once part of the Roman fortress Deva Victrix, now hidden beneath Pret a Manger. Other sites likely to be on the itinerary include the remains of a Roman hypocaust beneath Spudulike, medieval cellars in Corks Out, and Tudor plasterwork and a priest hole in Sofa Warehouse.

2pm, Thursdays, 16 Nov-21 Dec, and the last Sunday of each month throughout 2018. Departs from the Town Hall Visitor Centre, tickets from guide, £7 adult. Book at

2. Watch the world debut of 'The Secret Seven'

Enid Blyton's 'The Secret Seven' will be live on stage for the very first time this Christmas at Storyhouse, Chester's new integrated arts centre. In this new production of the classic children's tale, the intrepid gang are on the trail of strange clues that will lead them straight to the heart of a mystery they must solve by Christmas.

Various dates, 1 Dec-14 Jan, adult £26, under-26s £19.50. Contact 01244 409113 or

3. Shop for gifts from artisans and favourite brands

Chester's Christmas Market (above centre) will champion the region's artisans, with more than 70 wooden chalets offering crafts, clothing, homewares, decorations and food and drink, set around a huge Christmas tree. Makers and producers from the North West, North Midlands and North Wales will include the likes of Cheshire's Lymm Candle Company, Llangollen Brewery, and Greenbank Extreme skincare from Shropshire. Plus there will be excellent shopping for famous brands in the Rows, the Grosvenor Shopping Centre, and surrounding streets, as well as big savings on offer at Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet.

Christmas Market, daily, 16 Nov-20 Dec.

4. See Chester Zoo turn on the magic

An exciting new version of The Lanterns at Chester Zoo (above left) by local performing arts troupe Wild Rumpus promises to be a magical family-friendly experience this Christmas. As twilight descends, the zoo will transform into Santa's sorting office, an extraordinary world lit by lanterns, with animal-inspired fairy-tale scenes and sacks bulging with gifts. Plus, there's a chance to send Christmas wishes to Santa.

Daily, 24 Nov-30 Dec, free with admission. Contact 01244 380280 or

5. Hear angelic voices in the Cathedral

Chester Cathedral has a packed festive calendar. Highlights include 'Christmas Crackers', a celebration of words and music hosted by Rev Richard Coles, a Christmas Tree Festival with more than 50 garlanded trees on display in the cloisters, and carol concerts such as Joyeux Noel!, starring the cathedral choir.

'Christmas Crackers', 20-21 Dec; Christmas Tree Festival, 25 Nov-6 Jan; 'Joyeux Noel!', 9 Dec; various prices. Contact 01244 324756 or

6. Take a canal cruise with Father Christmas

Santa will set sail on Cheshire's canals this Christmas. He'll be telling stories, singing seasonal songs, listening to Christmas wishes and, of course, giving out treats to a captive audience of eager children at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port and the Anderton Boat Lift near Northwich.

National Waterways Museum, various dates in Dec, adult/child £10. Anderton Boat Lift, various dates in Dec, adult £5.95, child £7.95. Contact 0303 040 4040 or

7. Cheer on the dashing Santas

Father Christmases large and small will limber up at the start line of the Santa Dash in Delamere Forest (above right). Wearing beards and Santa suits, the runners will pound the paths beneath the canopy on a 5km circuit of the forest.

10.30am, 17 Dec, adult £15, child £12, spectators free. Contact 0300 067 4340 or

8. Celebrate like a Tudor at Little Moreton Hall

Tudor-style Yuletide Celebrations will be revealed at Little Moreton Hall, near Congleton. Dazzling creations made of marchpane, forerunner of marzipan, will be among the festive treats from bygone days on display, and there will be workshops on making crafts of the period. Choirs and jesters will provide live entertainment.

Various dates, Nov-Dec, free with entrance. Contact 01260 272018 or

9. Countdown the 12 days of Christmas at Tatton Park

The grand neo-classical mansion at Tatton Park, near Knutsford, will be all dressed up for The Twelve Days of Christmas. The seasonal song will come to life in the servants' quarters and state rooms, from the chaotic scenes in the kitchen where the geese have run wild trying to lay eggs, to the Christmas Wish Tree where visitors can dream about what they'll receive from their own true love.

Various dates, 21 Nov-3 Dec, adult £10, child £6. Contact 01625 374400 or

10. Get crafty at Ness Botanic Gardens

Award-winning garden designer and florist Pip Probert will show visitors how to make Christmas wreaths and garlands from foliage, cones and berries found in the grounds of beautiful Ness Botanic Gardens. Plus, Santa will be hard at work in his workshop at the bottom of the garden throughout the season.

Christmas Wreath-Making, 16 Dec, adult £15, book ahead. Meet Father Christmas, various dates in Dec, child £5 plus admission to gardens. Contact 0151 795 6300 or

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