In AD80, Chester was one of the Roman Empire's three main bases in the UK and a major trading post; now, it is one of the three most favoured places to hang out among Premier League footballers, and a major retail hotspot.
Not much has changed. But while much of Cheshire has become a Wags' paradise, full of mock-historical mansions and scantily clad orange ladies, Chester retains both its complete Roman walls and a touch of class.
Guests at ABode's newest hotel, right beside England's oldest racecourse, the Roodee, are not footballers' wives but foreign visitors interested in history, people on business in Manchester or Liverpool, and pilots from the nearby airport.
As you'd expect in a Fairtrade City (a title granted by the Fairtrade Foundation), the hotel has clever eco-lighting and sources its furnishings and its fresh, free-range ingredients locally. The Ribblesdale Blue Goat Cheese is worth a trip in itself. Food is provided by hot new thing Michael Caines, and the hotel – quite rightly – prides itself on its service.
If you want to watch the races from the comfort of your own "Vi-Spring bed", book early and hope that your horse comes in, as the hotel tends to be full on race days and room prices almost double. Standard (Comfortable) rooms are just that, with calming colours, black Welsh slate in the bathrooms and, on the south-west corner of the building, views over most of the course. Larger Desirable and Enviable rooms, and the three Fabulous suites on the sixth floor with views over the Welsh hills, have beds that would accommodate a tired racehorse and offer a swish line in freebies, including Luscombe juices and Green & Blacks chocolate bars.
Michael Caines may be in the vanguard of trendy dining, with such fayre as micro vegetables, but there is nothing faddish about his exquisite menus. His Champagne Bar and Restaurant on the fifth floor recently won Cheshire Restaurant of the Year at this year's Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards, one of the biggest dates on the North-west's culinary calendar. With the ground-floor Bar & Grill, and The Paddock Club private dining room, plus grazing menus and thoughtful special offers, you don't have to be a Wag to eat here. It's worth trying Caines' tasting menu, at £65 (£100 including matched wines) – if only to find out what "tomato foam" is.
Thankfully, with all those restaurants, ABode also has a well-equipped gym. Its windows look out on to the Cheshire countryside, and there are also 42-inch LCD TVs, so you can burn off the Goosnargh duck breast while watching whatever best inspires you to run that extra mile. The hotel also has free WiFi throughout, plus private dining and conference facilities for eight to 100 people.
ABode has four rooms that are wheelchair accessible, and accepts guide dogs in all areas of the hotel. Children under five dine free in the café bar, and are provided with colouring books and toys.
From £89 bed & breakfast for a Comfortable room (£175 room-only on race days).
ABode Chester, Grosvenor Road, Chester, CH1 2DJ (01244 347000; abodehotels.co.uk).Reuse content