Racing certainty

History, horses, retail therapy and relaxation were all included in a family visit to Chester. Sharon Dale reports

Anyone with teenage daughters will know that they are hard to please, especially when it comes to planning days out and holidays. Activities they'd have enjoyed pre-high school are now deemed too "baby-ish" and anything we "nerdy" parents suggest is greeted with sighs and exaggerated eye rolling. But we've discovered that short weekends away are a winner if you pick a place with plenty going on. Chester is one of our favourite places to visit, especially if there is some racing on, which there was last time we went.

The racecourse is the oldest and one of the most beautiful in Britain and is conveniently placed in the centre of

the city.

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As with all racecourses, children go free, which is another benefit for families like ours whose finances are depleted by regular trips to New Look and Topshop.

I'm not recommending gambling; I've lost enough to be realist. But this time we backed five winners, the sun shone and we basked in the rare glow that comes from having beaten the bookies.

Even better, there was no long drive home and the hotel we booked for the night promised a sauna and swim before dinner.

The Grosvenor Pulford is in a nearby village, but is well worth the 10-minute drive. The hotel is child friendly, has fantastically comfortable beds and a lovely pool with a spa. It also has a brasserie and a bar. The latter is perfect for informal evening meals and drinks.

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The next day we were spoilt for choice for days out ideas. The zoo is a short drive away and we could have spent hours touring some incredible gardens in an area renowned for being heaven for horticulturalists.

Among the gardens, which are fun for all the family to explore and offer a different experience every day, Tatton Park, Ness Botanical Gardens and Lyme Park are high on the list.

We decided to head back into the city for a stroll on the River Dee, which also offers cruises, and to visit Chester Cathedral's beautiful Cloister Garden, recognised as one of Cheshire's exceptional "Gardens of Distinction" by Visit Chester and Cheshire. It is in the heart of the cathedral's medieval cloisters and the extraordinary planting enhances the inherent beauty of the site, turning it into a paradise of peacefulness and calm.

Oak benches are available so visitors can enjoy the tranquil atmosphere with the calming sound of water splashing over Stephen Broadbent's sculpture "The Water of Life". Feeling revived, we walked to the shops. The retail selection is good and offers everything from designer boutiques and charity shops to the usual high street chains.

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A chunk of the race winnings were spent in Topshop, although we did emphasise to our girls that gambling doesn't always pay.

Weekends away, on the other hand, are dead certs in all sorts of ways. They aren't long enough for anyone to get bored and they provide respite from domestic chores, school niggles and areas of parent-teen conflict such as Facebook, messy bedrooms and homework. They also create the perfect environment for chit-chat and enjoying each other's company.

A short break doesn't have to be expensive either. One night in a hotel can support two days away and there are some fantastic offers, especially at this time of year.


The Grosvenor Pulford Hotel:

Chester Races:

Cheshire's Gardens of Distinction:

For more information about

Chester you can visit

YP MAG 20/11/10