Weekend in Gloucester – A Rough Diamond

Gloucester, as a travel destination is a rough diamond.  Look underneath the twentieth century architecture and there is a history worth exploring. 

Gloucester – a rough diamond

Gloucester, as a travel destination, is a rough diamond.  A non-descript town centre with a faded charm from a bygone era.  Look underneath the weary twentieth century architecture and there is life in the bars and restaurants, and a history worth exploring.  Gloucester is a curious concoction of medieval and royal history which has been partially lost inside a modern and faceless city centre. 

The city centre, unlike Chichester,  lacks an independent retail economy so offers little in the way of shopping (other than at the entrance to the cathedral).  But there are many more fascinating faces to Gloucester – the cathedral that has a wealth of history, the historic docks with its night time economy, and Sudeley Castle.

St. Mary's Church, Sudeley Castle
St. Mary’s Church, Sudeley Castle
Gloucester Cathedral Effigy
Gloucester Cathedral Effigy
Fan vaulted cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral
Fan vaulted cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral

This stunning medieval cathedral is undoubtedly an iconic landmark in the heart of Gloucester itself.  It dates back to the 11th century and is beautiful to observe for its impressive Gothic architecture.  We walked deep inside and took in the stunning 14th century fan vaulted cloisters and then upstairs to the whispering gallery.  Like many English churches and cathedrals it is an example of Perpendicular Gothic architecture. A walk around the cathedral introduced us to a motley collection of gargoyles – look out for the one with spectacles.  It’s claim to fame is the tomb of King Edward II and appearance in the Harry Potter series.

Gloucester Docks

What I found unusual about Gloucester is how it managed to have a successful docks yet as an inland port.  Walk around the corner from the city centre and enter the docks – a completely different world.  No longer a working docks it had a strangely empty, if slightly haunting feel to it.  The highlight is the Soldiers of Gloucester museum which, whilst rooted in the local military history, actually tells the story of four hundred years of exploration and conquest – informative, alive with stories, it is a museum that punches above its weight.

However, in the evening the Victorian architecture comes to life in the docks, especially for us at the The Lord High Constable Of England (Wetherspoons). 

Gloucester Life Museum

As museums go this one is eccentric. Housed in a 17th century merchant’s house, this museum provides a social and industrial history worthy of being in many towns. A rag tag collection with little explanation. The highlight was the unplanned tour of the disused basement. 

Fan vaulted cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral
Fan vaulted cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral
Gargoyle, Gloucester Cathedral
Gargoyle, Gloucester Cathedral
Sudeley Castle
Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle

This folly is a historic country house about half an hour outside Gloucester.  It is closely tied to Gloucester Cathedral in how it dates back to the 15th century.  What makes it important is how it has been home to several English monarchs over the centuries.  It was once owned by King Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr who is buried in the castle’s St. Mary’s Church.

What I found most attractive is how well maintained the building and grounds are.  The castle features an eclectic mix of architectural styles, including medieval ruins and Tudor apartments.  The gardens, whilst not the most striking, have a meditative feel to them.


We stayed at the Edward hotel which offered value for money. Whilst not visually appealing the rooms are clean and the facilities (Wi-Fi etc.) are good and the (extra cost) breakfast worth taking up. 


India Zones is a slightly upmarket Indian restaurant which styles itself on having all the flavours of India.  This made the menu more inviting than the standard indian restaurant with the same menu wherever you go.  The dishes were well presented and eager for feedback.

Trattoria Settebello is an Italian restaurant on the dock  The docks is the night time economy for the town and there are plenty choices but this particular restaurant is a stand out.  We took advantage of the  outdoor dining as the docks is car free and, in May, it was not crowded.  We started with garlicky Focaccia, and a generous tasty four cheese pizza; both with fluffy doughy bread that I would come back the next day and have again.

Our final night was the Tiger’s Eye restaurant – blink and you miss this on a shopping street first floor.  Have an aperitif in the bar room with the huge fire place, watching the eccentric night life of Gloucester drift by.  The highlight is the steak that you fried yourself on an exceptionally hot stone.  Whilst there was no accompanying sauce and the safety aspect is a little questionable, as a USP it was a hit with us.


Look underneath the high street and there are an array of characterful pubs that all deserve a second pint.  Our pub tour as always focused on the quality of the real ale and buzz of the patrons.

Cafe Rene is a worthy excuse to sit outside in an alley and still feel cultured.  The inside of the pub has a huge wine collection but we were there for the beer.

The New Inn typifies Gloucester.  Look down an alley way and what do you see?  A six hundred year old coaching inn complete with rooms and dining. We sat outside with our ale enjoying the live music.

The Turks Head Inn deserves a special mention as it defiantly refuses to be part of the modern world – it is biased towards cider and chat (not phones) it is not for everyone.  That said, the staff and punters were real people you chat to on a park bench.

Baker's Clock, Gloucester
Baker’s Clock, Gloucester
Turks Head, Gloucester
Turks Head, Gloucester

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