A charming town nestled in the midst of not one, but three, areas of outstanding natural beauty, just by the Welsh border, the historic town of Gloucester boasts plenty to explore this summer. Whether you decide to discover the city from the ground or from the sky by hot air balloon, you are certain to find something that delights and amazes you.
Founded by the Romans in 97 AD, the city of Gloucester is steeped in history. Gloucester Cathedral, originally built in 678-9, is structured around a Norman nucleus and features an array of Gothic styles of architecture. One of the earliest representations of a game of golf dating from 1350 is featured in one of its stained glass windows. The cathedral marks the final resting place of King Edward II and the tomb of the eldest son of William the Conqueror, Robert Curthose.
To the southeast, the Renaissance-style Museum of Gloucester is home to an eclectic array of natural history exhibits, Queen Ann furniture, and paintings by Turner and Gainsborough. Just opposite lies a remarkable underground chamber which hides the secrets of the ancient defences of the town. Visitors can come to the Eastgate Viewing Chamber to see the Gloucester’s foundations, a Tudor horse pool for preparing horses for market, and the remains of a Roman Fortress.
For fans of Roman architecture, the ruins of Gloucester’s Roman Villa at Chedworth are not to be missed. This 4th-Century villa features original floor mosaics made of marble, an underfloor heating system, and impressive original baths. Tucked away in the Gloucestershire countryside, it is certainly a charming find.
The most iconic sights of the city of Gloucester have been captured on film a number of times. Take the opportunity while you’re here to walk in the footsteps of Harry Potter in the vaulted cloisters of the Cathedral. Alternatively, saunter along the 19th-Century docks that have provided the backdrop to Tim Burton’s 2016 film Alice Through the Looking Glass. TV shows including Sherlock, Dr Who, Wolf Hall, and Vanity Fair have all been filmed at these picturesque and dramatic Gloucester landmarks.
To get a sense of how spectacular the Gloucester area is, grab your camera and hop aboard a private hot air balloon journey above the city. Not only will this give you a fresh perspective on those magnificent cathedral spires or of the impressive 15th-Century St Michael’s Tower, but you will also be able to take in some of the natural wonders around the city.
Gloucester rests right near the River Severn. The Severn Bore, where large waves flow against the current, makes for an impressive sight. As the birthplace of river surfing, you might even see some intrepid surfers taking to the waves.
In keeping with the nautical theme, the haunting Purton Hulks form the largest ships’ graveyard on mainland Britain. These curious structures protrude from the banks of the Severn and make for a curious sight as you pass over them. Ships were deliberately buried in the banks here to prevent the land around them from flooding and the soil from eroding. Some, dating back to 1909, become an uncanny reminder of the world of yesteryear.
Your hot air ballooning adventure will enable you to see the spectacular Cotswolds Area of Natural Beauty to the east and the imposing Malvern Hills to the north. Over to the west lies the Forest of Dean and the picturesque Welsh towns of Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye. On a clear day, the vistas you will be able to see from Gloucester will be outstanding. Finish your hot air balloon trip in style with a glass of champagne and picnic hamper on arrival.
Summer is a great time to visit. Not only will it be perfect picnic weather to make the most of all those green spaces, but Gloucester plays host to a number of fine summer festivals. The Gloucester Rhythm & Blues Festival takes place every summer, running July 27 to August 4 this year. This free family-friendly festival takes place in a number of different open air sites and cosy pubs. Music features an array of artists from all around the world.
In 2019, the town will also play host to the Three Choirs Festival from July 26 to August 3. This features choral voices performing classical pieces in the Cathedral. The Three Choirs Festival is shared with Hereford and Worcester and is only in Gloucester once every three years; even more of a reason to pay the place a visit this summer.
One of the events that Gloucester is renowned for is it quirky cheese-rolling race. The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling competition takes place each spring, and though it is has a reputation for being a dangerous race, it is still considered to be great fun, and attracts spectators and participants from around the world. A double-Gloucester cheese is rolled down Cooper’s Hill. After one second, racers compete to try to catch the cheese. The winner is the runner who manages to get it. The cheese can reach spends of 70mph, so the reality is that catching the cheese is unlikely, but that does not stop hundreds of contestants from trying each year. Those crazy enough to try it this year can do so this coming Bank Holiday Monday (May 27).
Just as unusual perhaps, but with a lower risk of a sprained ankle, is a visit to the Longstone of Minchinhampton. This sponge-shaped standing stone is covered in lichen and peppered with holes. According to legend, passing a child through the holes of the stone can cure it of childhood ailments including measles and rickets. Also according to legend, when the church bells sound at midnight, the stone is said to dance across the field. Will you stick around to find out?
Gloucester is a rich place to explore, and you may find that one trip is not enough. This is why people return again and again to explore this magical place. Put Gloucester on your itinerary this summer, and you will not be disappointed.