Gloucester (glos-ter) began life as a settlement for retired Roman soldiers but really came into its own in medieval times, when the pious public brought wealth and prosperity to what was then a prime pilgrimage city. The faithful flocked to see the grave of Edward II and soon financed the building of what remains one of England’s most beautiful cathedrals.
In more recent years, Gloucester bore the brunt of hard times and the city fell into decline. But while the centre remains a rather dowdy, workaday place with a glut of greasy-spoon cafes, the historic Gloucester Docks – once Britain’s largest inland port – have played a major part of the city’s regeneration. Fifteen beautiful Victorian warehouses, many now restored, surround the canal basins and house a series of museums, shops and cafes, and are well worth a wander. Gloucester makes a good day trip from Cheltenham.