Best Western Hotels - Queen Chester

“We’d like to invite you to review The Queen at Chester,” said the email. “Could we bring the kids?” I wondered. A response said that would be ok. “And the dog?” I asked, not wanting to push it, but we come as a package deal. All was agreed so we piled everyone into the car one cold January weekend and headed over to spend a night in the historic city of Chester for a weekend away…but not too far away.

Travel by rail and you’ll easily find The Queen Hotel as it’s directly opposite Chester train station. It opened in 1860 and was the first ever grand railway hotel to be built in the United Kingdom. Before that you’d have to find lodgings somewhere. The architect was Thomas Penson, who applied the principles he’d used during his previous experience…designing prisons.

Reception area The Queen Hotel Chester

The basic layout was pretty much the same with a four-storey open stairway, metal beams and a public atrium – just this time with added soft furnishings and a chandelier or two. Being the first of its kind, its design became the model for most other transport hotels built over the next 50 years.

The hotel’s Victorian façade is still impressive – they don’t make ‘em like that anymore – and a stone archway marks the entrance to the Queen Hotel’s car park (parking is £15 per night, ticket issued upon check in).

Now called The Queen at Chester, BW Premier Collection by Best Western, the hotel has hosted a few Victorian celebs in its time including prolific author Charles Dickens, bigoted magnate, Cecil Rhodes, and socialite actress Lillie Langtry. Nowadays most guests are likely there as part of a function or event. The hotel offers a whopping eight different event spaces for everything from weddings to awards ceremonies and corporate functions. The main corridor snakes around an elegant Italian terrace garden for al fresco functions with marble archways, classical sculptures and (when it’s not the dead of winter) lush foliage.

The Queen really is pet friendly (on request, charged £30.00 per pet per day.) A couple of patient pooches were waiting at check in when we arrived, and the hotel staff adopted a feral cat they found in the basement with its kittens eight years ago. They named it Queenie.

Allusions to Royalty are everywhere here. Each floor is named after a country’s monarchy and each room a King or Queen. We were offered interconnecting rooms on the fourth floor – ‘Italian Kings’ and spent the night under a portrait of Umberto II, the last King of Italy (who, rumour has it, was no stranger to a bedroom that wasn’t his.)

Our rooms weren’t in the original building, but in a linked 1960’s tower block extension. They were a decent size. Although the décor was a little dated, the bathrooms looked much newer. All 221 bedrooms come with superfast fibre optic Wi-Fi, satellite TV and 24-hour room service. Apparently the hotel also offers luxurious rooms with four-poster beds with Tencel mattress toppers, roll-top baths, and Nespresso coffee machines, but not for us. We had a bulb missing in one of our bedside lamps. After a call to reception, it was fixed within the hour. We set up the dog crate in one corner and went to explore the city.

It’s an easy 10-minute walk into Chester which is the kind of city you’d take foreign visitors around, pretending that picturesque black and white fronted buildings, a two-tiered shopping gallery, a medieval cathedral, and the ruins of the largest Roman amphitheatre in Britain was standard.

Must-visit dog friendly places? Check out the new revamped Chester Market Hall which has an eclectic range of food and drink stalls (although I preferred it when it sold second hand books and trays of eggs piled high.) You should also make time to go to the wonderful Vin Santo, a wine shop and bar set within the walls of Chester’s 13th Century crypted cellars.

Back at the hotel we were booked into the King’s Grill for dinner, but were instead seated in the dog friendly Albert Lounge, against a backdrop of historic portraits and a large open fireplace. The menu was basic given that there are some great places to eat in the city, and it hadn’t moved on much from the nineties – tomato soup, pâté, burger, lasagne, steak etc. No sign of the ‘super-healthy salads and gluten-sensitive options’ promised on the website, but perhaps that’s a seasonal thing? There was no drinks list at all, so I couldn’t look at prices or details. Our server just had to recite them, “we’ve got merlot, tempranillo, shiraz…”

Guests can enjoy a drink in the hotel’s Waiting Room Bar and Lounge and there are number of other rooms available for sitting and chatting, but after dinner we decided to head up to our bedrooms, play a card game and get some shut eye. The beds were comfy, and there was no noise, so we had a decent night’s sleep.

Early next morning we were looking for somewhere to empty the dog, so took a short walk to Chester’s lovely Grosvenor Park, which we had all to ourselves. On the way back to the hotel we picked up a latte from Chester’s dog-friendly Black Sheep Coffee, which opens from 7.30am on Sundays.

Breakfast in the hotel was served in The King’s Grill offering standard hot and cold British hotel breakfast stuff, served buffet style plus a help yourself coffee machine, which I made a beeline for. As we had the dog, they let us carry our trays over to eat in one of the brown lounges.

A generous 11am check out time is standard and check out was straightforward. Although all the hotel staff we met were polite and friendly, I wouldn’t describe The Queen as luxurious. But it’s a beautifully historic place to stay, it’s clean, it’s comfortable and there’s definitely life in the old girl yet.

Room rates start from £68

The Queen at Chester, BW Premier Collection by Best Western, City Road, Chester, CH1 3AH


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