The Spa town of Cheltenham has been welcoming visitors for almost three hundred years, ever since the discovery of the first natural spring led to the development of the elegant spa town.
Cheltenham is renowned for its Regency architecture, stylish shopping, colourful parks and floral displays, horseracing, music and literature festivals. Fine hotels and a wide variety of restaurants make Cheltenham a good touring base for the Cotswolds. Cheltenham horse racing is also hugely popular, especially the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Cheltenham is well connected to other towns by the train station and bus services to most areas of the Cotswolds.
Accommodation: Cheltenham was designed as a pleasure and health resort, so it’s no surprise that it is home to some very fine hotels and guesthouses. Whether you’re looking for a traditional bed & breakfast in the town centre or a magnificent 5-star hotel in the countryside, Cheltenham offers the spectrum, making it one of the finest places to base your Cotswold holiday from.
Attractions: Cheltenham is famed for its Promenade and the Montpellier area, both of which offer a huge range of shops, from independent stores to high street favourites. A short walk from the town centre will almost certainly take you to one of several parks, each with their own charm and things to do – in Pittville Park you can visit Pittville Pump Room – a beautiful Regency building which houses an original well for the spa waters, or Sandford Park has an equally historical outdoor swimming pool. You can also visit Cheltenham’s Art Gallery & Museum or the Holst Birthplace Museum.
Eating Out: Cheltenham is a great place for food lovers, with over 100 restaurants covering all culinary areas. Cheltenham specialises in independent bistros and the Regency architecture of the town serves its restaurants particularly well, often being housed in large town houses, and even an old cinema. Download the Cheltenham Eating Out Guide here.
Festivals and Events: Cheltenham has an abundance of great festivals, all year round. There is a jazz festival in May, which often features big stars from the jazz world such as Jamie Cullum and Melody Gardot; a science festival in June, a music festival in July with performances and talks held across Cheltenham & Gloucester; a film festival featuring screenings and dinner events at The Daffodil restaurant, formerly an old cinema; and a food & drink festival in Montpellier Gardens highlighting some of the best produce from the local area and further afield. Cheltenham is also most famous for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, held at Cheltenham Racecourse, which sees visitors from all over the UK arrive in Cheltenham to lend it a bustling festival atmosphere.
History: For many years, Cheltenham was a simple market town not unlike many others in the Cotswolds. Then, according to legend, in 1716 a group of locals discovered a flock of pigeons pecking at a mineral deposit formed by spring water rising up to the ground. Cheltenham soon became a fashionable destination to visit, to relax and enjoy the spa water. The pigeons even appear symbolically on Cheltenham’s crest, and decorating many of the signs in the town. While the use of spa facilities has declined, Cheltenham’s popularity as a tourist destination has remained, particularly during the festivals and Gold Cup week. Cheltenham is also noted as a popular academic destination, with Cheltenham College being established in 1841 and Cheltenham Ladies’ College established in 1853. It is also home to the University of Gloucestershire, lending the town a vibrant, youthful atmosphere. Cheltenham has also had some prolific residents – Antarctic explorer Edward Wilson, right hand man of Captain Scott, was born in Cheltenham in 1872. Composer Gustav Holst was born in Cheltenham in 1874 and Rolling Stones founding member Brian Jones was born in Cheltenham in 1942.
Find out more about Cheltenham here.