The historic and beautiful county of Gloucestershire has two major cities, Gloucester and Cheltenham Spa. The county lies across the estuary of the River Severn between the West Country and the Midlands. Across the river it is bounded on the west by the Royal Forest of Dean, the River Wye and the Welsh border. The eastern border is marked by the limestone uplands of the Cotswold Hills.
Gloucester City sits on the banks of the River Severn, nestling under the 600 foot Cotswold escarpment which stretches from Chipping Camden to Bath. Gloucester is an ancient and historical city with plenty of reminders of its industrial heritage in contrast to the younger, more elegant Cheltenham Spa.
There is an efficient by-pass road (M5) but it is well worth making the detour to visit Gloucester. It makes an excellent base for exploring the beautiful Forest of Dean, the charming villages of the Cotswolds, Berkeley Castle and the Slimbridge WWT Wetland Centre.
The city itself is centred on The Cross where the four main streets intersect. The roads are traffic free and provide pleasant, hassle-free access to virtually all the city’s historic sites and attractions.
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The superb Gloucester Cathedral is just off Westgate Street and can be approached two ways. By far the most attractive way is through St Michael’s Gate, a narrow lane used by the pilgrims visiting the shrine of King Edward II.
Tailor of Gloucester
On the left, just before going through the archway is the house where Beatrix Potter’s Tailor of Gloucester lived.
16th Century Merchant's House
Running off Westgate Street, narrow Maverdine Lane has a magnificent 16th century Merchant’s House. It is said to be the largest and finest urban timber-framed building in Britain. It was also the headquarters of Colonel Massey during the Siege of Gloucester in 1643.
Further down Westgate Street, alleys run through to the historic Gloucester Docks.
Gloucester Folk Museum
A large black and white half-timbered building, formerly Bishop Hooper’s Lodgings, now houses the fascinating Gloucester Folk Museum.
Ancient Half-timbered Buildings
Scattered throughout the city centre are other ancient half-timbered buildings such as the New Inn in Northgate Street and Parliament Room in the Cathedral Close. The remains of the original medieval city walls and East Gate can be viewed beneath the pavement in Eastgate Street.
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Gloucester Tourist Information Centre
The Gloucester TIC is centrally located near 'The Cross' at 28 Southgate Street.
Southgate Street Treasures
Opposite the TIC is the medieval church of St Mary de Crypt, further along Southgate street, towards The Cross is Baker's Clock, a landmark in Gloucester. Above the 19th century jeweller’s shop, life-sized figures strike the quarters and hours.
The fertile county of Gloucestershire and the mineral riches in the Forest of Dean led to the establishment of many Pre-historic hill forts in the area. With the Roman invasion in 43 AD, Gloucester became a military outpost called Glevum.
Never a major administrative centre like Cirencester, it was more a commercial centre for the many Roman villas built on the Cotswolds and in the Severn Vale. There is a splendid Roman villa (Chedworth Roman Villa) to be seen at Chedworth.
The Gloucester City Museum & Art Gallery has a most interesting collection of finds from these periods, including the famous Birdlip Mirror.
With the Norman Conquest in 1066, Gloucester became a favourite place for King William I to visit. He would hold a 5 day Parliament in the city at Christmas time, combining official duties with hunting in the Royal Forest of Dean.
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Important Ecclesiastical Centre
Gloucester Cathedral owes much of its splendour to his financial support of the Abbey. In the cathedral is a unique 900-year old painted wooden effigy of William’s brother, Robert of Normandy.
Gloucester was an important ecclesiastical centre attracting medieval pilgrims. The city flourished, schools were established, royalty held parliaments in the city and Queen Elizabeth I granted Gloucester port status in 1580.
Trade increased and by 1790 the merchants decided a ship canal should be built to overcome the vagaries of the tidal River Severn.
In 1820 the Gloucester & Sharpness Ship Canal was built. Visitors can spend a pleasant hour boating on the canal.
The city has an interesting industrial history. Over the years there was pin making, flour milling, manufacturing of safety matches, railway wagon building and the manufacture of aeroplanes such as the Gloster Gladiator, Gloster Meteor and Javelin. The Gloucester Airport is now the largest general aviation airport in the south-west of England.
Gloucester was an important railway junction with the Midland line joining the Great Western line and continuing on to South Wales. Not a busy railway station these days but is sometimes host to trips from restored steam engines.
The city bears testament to all these endeavours and although not as gracious a town as Cheltenham, Gloucester is an interesting and different place to visit. Visitors get to see a modern, thriving town living comfortably with its ancient history.
Contact & Further Information
Getting Around Gloucester & District
Web: Think Travel
The above website has information on:
- Public Transport
- Taxis & Mini Cabs
- Park & Ride Facilities
Getting to Gloucester
- By Rail From London
At Paddington Station take the First Great Western Service to Gloucester Central Station. Some trains are express but others require a change at Swindon, Bristol Parkway or Cheltenham Spa stations.
Journey times mostly less than two hours. Go to Web: National Rail Enquiries for full details of routes, timetables, seat availability, and tickets
- By Coach From London
From Victoria Coach Station
National Express Coach There are around 10 services a day to and from Gloucester Bus Station, taking around 3½ hours. For details, fares and booking, go to their website - link above
Stagecoach Bus There are two services each way to London Victoria to Gloucester Bus Station. For details, fares and booking, go to their website - link above
- By Car from London
There are several ways to get to Gloucester from London by car. We will cover a couple.
- Scenic Route (our preference): Leave to M25 London Ring Road at junction 1A near Uxbridge and head west on the M40 towards Beaconsfield and High Wycombe and Oxford. At junction 8A leave the M40 and take the A40 through Wheatley bypassing Oxford on its north side. Continue west towards Witney and Burford and thence towards Cheltenham. On the way you will pass many delightful villages such as Minster Lovell, Great and Little Barrington (The Barringtons) and Northleach to name a few.
- To bypass Cheltenham, take the A436 towards Seven Springs (reputed to be the source of the River Thames) just before Andoversford. Follow the A436 through Seven Springs to join the A417 at Little Witcombe continuing past Birdlip and through Henley towards Gloucester. Allow a minimum of 1½ hours from the M25 for a ‘fast journey’ and possibly a full day to maybe a week if you are interested in the quaint Cotswold villages, the churches and the scenery. Remember, this is ‘Midsomer Murders’ country, should you be interested in that television series.
- Faster Route – 1: Leave the M25 London Ring Road at Junction 15/48 taking the M4 west bypassing Slough, Reading and Swindon. This Motorway is often very busy however this is normally an easy drive. You will continue past Bath and Bristol in the south until meeting the M5 at Junction 20. Take the M5 north towards Gloucester (and Cheltenham) exiting at Junction 11 on the A40 towards Gloucester (not the restricted junction11A which does not exit towards Gloucester).
- Faster Route – 2: Take the M4 as in the Faster Route – 1 above, however instead of leaving the M4 at Junction 20 (to the M5) continue to Junction 21 and then take the M48 which passes over the ‘Old’ Severn River Bridge. This crossing (as well as the ‘New’ Severn River Bridge on the M4) has a Toll charge in the westward direction – there is no Toll charge in the easterly direction. For toll costs please go to Web: Severn Bridge Toll Charges The M48 toll collection booths are on the English side of the River Severn whilst the toll collection booths on the M4 are on the Welsh side of the River Severn. There are both correct change coin bin lanes and manned toll booths for those visitors who do not have the correct coinage for the toll. Change is given at these manned toll booths. There are also electronic tag lanes (not normally of use to the tourist).
- Immediately after reaching the Welsh side of the River Severn on the M48, exit at Junction 2 heading towards the old market town of Chepstow with its Castle – the oldest surviving stone fortification in Britain. Continue north on the A48 with the River Severn on your right hand side, through Lydney, passing the Royal Forest of Dean, Newnham and Westbury-on-Severn and on joining the A40, on to Gloucester.
- Gloucester has Park & Ride facilities & Council car parking. Details at Web: Transport in Gloucester
- NCP Car Parking has 4 car parks providing 622 parking spaces. For details, go to Web: NCP Car Parking
Google Maps - Gloucester City