The City of Gloucester is the furthest inland port in the UK, situated beside the River Severn. It inspired the old English nursery rhyme:
- "Dr Foster went to Gloucester in a shower of rain.
- He stepped in a puddle,
- Right up to his middle,
- And never went back again."
'Dick Whittington', born around 1350, a well-known character through the pantomime story, has connections with Gloucester. The story is based on the real life Richard Whittington, who, unlike his pantomime character, was not poor, being the third son of Sir William Whittington of Gloucester. The traditional tale has a 'poor' Dick going to London to seek his fortune, but he eventually becomes Lord Mayor of London.
A traditional rhyme is associated with this episode, as follows:
"Turn again, Whittington, Once Mayor of London, Turn again, Whittington, Twice Mayor of London, Turn again, Whittington, Thrice Mayor of London!"
The city is also known for 'The Tailor of Gloucester', a children's novel by Beatrix Potter that was first published in 1903. It is traditionally read to children on Christmas Eve, just before bedtime.
It was a main Roman city, Glevum—Roman tunnels and fortifications exist underneath the city centre and can be visited through the museum.
As a provincial British town, you will almost certainly need to be able to speak English to get around in Gloucester. There is a sizable immigrant population in Gloucester from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Poland and the Czech Republic and so you may have more luck with these people should you speak one of their languages. Gloucester also has a large (for the region) black (mainly of Caribbean origin) community.
The Tourist Information Office has literature in most major languages, including Japanese.
Generally, the Gloucester accent is clear to understand and isn't peppered with dialect terms. However, understandably for the area, there is a West Country 'burr'and tourists whose experience of English accents is limited to either Cockney or Queen's English may notice this. The 'burr' becomes more pronounced more westerly, in nearby Forest of Dean,
Gloucester is well serviced by the motorway system and can easily be accessed by junctions 11, 11a and 12 on the M5. It also lies on the A38 and is easily accessible from Wales (Gloucester is the most southerly point on the River Severn with a bridge—apart from the motorway Severn Bridges near Bristol / Newport). Because Gloucester was a major Roman City, it has very good A road connections throughout Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds.
Gloucester has good railway connections (Platform 1/3 at Gloucester is Europe's longest) and has daily direct connections to London, Cardiff, Bristol and Birmingham. Nearby Cheltenham has more stopping trains, so it may be necessary to get a train to Cheltenham and change trains for Gloucester. Trains between Cheltenham and Gloucester operate every half hour and take around 10 minutes.
Nearby Staverton hosts Gloucestershire Airport, which has regular flights to Jersey. There are also many private aircraft there, which can be chartered.
Gloucester is a large hub for buses and coaches and there is a large coach station where there are regular coaches (mainly operated by National Express) to all major airports and cities (there are several coaches to and from London daily) in the UK. A Megabus service to and from London also operates from outside the bus station.
Gloucester originally built up around the River Severn. It has a sailing heritage. It is possible to visit Gloucester via river or the Gloucester Sharpness Canal via boat.
Stagecoach operates most of the local bus services, from both, and between Gloucester and Cheltenham. But there are many bus services to the Forest of Dean, South Wales, Gloucestershire, The South West and The Midlands.
There are several cycle routes around Gloucester and it is possible to have a fairly stress-free cycle ride around the city and its suburbs. There are also cycle routes to both Cheltenham and even to Bristol.
The Centre of Gloucester is quite compact and flat so you can easily walk around it.
The best way to get to the countryside around Gloucester is by car.
- Gloucester Cathedral. A cathedral in which part of the Harry Potter films were filmed.
- The historical 18th century docks – a popular tourist attraction, with numerous museums and shops/pubs.
- Baker's Jewellers on Southgate Street is one of the most unusual 'action' timeclocks you are likely to see in a city centre. It dates back to Edwardian times and has five figures which represent England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Olde Father Time.
- Prinknash Abbey – with its monastery, birdpark and Roman Mosaic. This latter is a full-size copy of the original mosaic on the floor of a Roman villa at nearby Woodchester, now in a churchyard. The original is thought to have been created in c.325 AD. It has been unearthed periodically several times, but the last time it was on view to the public, in 1973, it produced so much interest and traffic congestion in the town that it was decided never to unearth it again. Devastated by the possibility that no-one else would see it ever again, two local builders spent ten years working on the reconstruction.
- Just south of Gloucester lies Painswick, the "Queen of the Cotswolds", a superb example of a Gloucestershire village, which has a number of fine houses and a church which reflect the prosperous era when it was the centre of the thriving wool trade.
- The Cotswolds
- A roman toilet – Outside Boots
- The Severn Bore
- The Folk Museum
- The City Museum & Art Gallery which houses much material plotting Gloucester's Roman past.
- The beautiful countryside—get out walking!
- College Court.
Take a look around the absolutely stunning Cathedral. Various parts of the Cathedral were used as Hogwarts Castle in the Harry Potter films.
The docks is also worth a look; boat journeys down the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal are available every other hour in summer time
Shopping is easy in this compact centre, with four streets, named below, radiating from the focal point The Cross, with its adjacent church tower.
Gloucester has a variety of generic high-street chain stores, as well as more bespoke or individual retail locations. Eastgate Street is the primary shopping area, with most of the banks, the Kings Walk Shopping Arcade and the Eastgate Mall. The Eastgate Mall also has a small indoor market area towards the back, which sells various goods for considerably cheaper than the main stores.
Westgate Street is more 'bohemian' and has many sole traders and cafes. If you're looking for something a little more unique, the Westgate area is your best bet, especially in the small streets leading away to the Cathedral.
Northgate is the 'budget' end of town—if you're looking for groceries, then the Sainsbury's and Wilkinsons stores are good options.
On Fridays, Northgate Street and Southgate Street play host to the local farmers' market.
- The White Horse, Sandhurst Lane, GL2 9NG. If you're looking for something more filling there is a Chinese restaurant by the river just a mile or so outside Gloucester.
- Yummy Yummy. Chinese Takeaway
- The Regal, Kings Square, GL1 1RP. A Wetherspoon's pub with food in a former cinema.
- Wonder Food 8 Market Parade, GL1 1RL. Chinese Takeaway.
- If you want a quick snack there is a gorgeous sandwich place which makes sandwiches to order opposite the church on Northgate Street, opposite Number 45 hairdressers and J Sainsburys.
There is also a usual range of fast-food outlets throughout the city centre, including McDonald's, KFC and Subway. However, Gloucester has a great range of restaurants both in the city centre and on the outskirts. A complete dining out guide is available from the Tourist Information Centre on Southgate Street.
There are several brilliant pubs worth a visit in the town centre, most notably of which the
- Cafe Rene, down an alley off Southgate Street. Next door to St. Mary Crypt Church, it is apparently haunted by monks who once had a monastery on the site. To make it even better, it has a well and fountain in the middle of the main bar area. . .and the food is gorgeous too.
The following city centre pubs have been awarded places in the Good Beer Guide by Camra
- Pig Inn the City, located on Westgate street, beyond Shire Hall.
- The Water Poet, located on Eastgate street.
- The Linden Tree, located on Bristol road.
For a more conventional modern British night out, Lower Eastgate Street is home to the majority of the bars and clubs within the city. These vary in quality of both facilities and clientele—use your own discretion in deciding where you want to drink. The far end of Eastgate Street is home to the two biggest clubs in Gloucester—Liquid/Diva and The Registry. 'Liquid' is typically the biggest, and can have large queues for entry, but it is also the largest club and has a range of special nights. The Registry offers free entry, and occasional live events. Other options include, The Regal and Butlers as bars with music and late-licenses.
There are several hotels in Gloucester.
- Best Western, right in the centre of the city, in Southgate Street.
There are also Travelodges, Holiday Inns and Travel Inns around the suburbs. Many of the pubs offer B&B. There are a few campsites dotted around, and, in the countryside, there are many, many good hotels and pubs, some of which are luxury ones.
- The Cotswolds – a range of rolling hills which are to the east of Gloucester
- The Malvern Hills rise in the west
- The Forest of Dean – the "Queen of forests"—one of England's few remaining ancient forests—lies to the west
- Cheltenham is nearby and worth a visit
- Swindon – The heart of the Great Western Railway, only half an hour on the train (or an hour by car on the A417 / A419 dual carriageway)