Chester is home to what is reputed to be the oldest and also the smallest race course in the UK. Its 1 mile track with tight bends challenges jockeys. The city walls overlook the course and combine with the race course stands to provide great views for race goers.
As well as race meetings there are other events throughout the year such as antique fairs, wedding fairs and the Chester Food, Drink and Lifestyle Festival in April.
Even if you are not going to the races you will still see their impact on the city - on race days the traffic is heavier and you will find Chester town centre and its restaurants and pubs much busier than usual. In fact, if you are planning a meal out on a race day it is well worth booking your table in advance.
Getting to the races
The racecourse is close to Chester city centre near to one of the main routes into the city (the A48 from Wrexham). Traffic in the area can be horrendous just before racing starts so using public transport or staying within walking distance of the race course is definitely a good idea.
A potted history of the Chester races
The racecourse is probably the oldest in the country, dating back to the early sixteenth century. Legend has it that the races were started to distract people from the then increasingly dangerous game of football!
The racecourse is very close to Chester city centre, on a loop in the River Dee on a piece of land called the Roodee.
The Roodee probably gets its name from the Saxon word for cross (rood) and the norse word for island (eye). So named because this area was once covered by the Dee with just a small island in the middle, which, as you've probably guessed, had a stone cross on it. The remains of the cross can still be seen in the middle of the race course today. At the edge of the course you can also find parts of the original Roman harbour wall from the days before the Dee silted up.
The Mayor of Chester, Henry Gee, started the first races with the offer of a silver bell as a prize. He may well have been the source of our nickname for race horses - the gee gees.
More about Chester races
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