Cheltenham City Guide
Following the discovery of mineral springs in 1716, Cheltenham gained a reputation as a health and holiday spa town resort. Nowadays it's most famously known as the home of the Cheltenham Festival, and the town has actually been attracting substantial numbers of visitors for National Hunt racing since 1815, many of whom prepare themselves early to best enjoy this tremendous spectacle! Aside from the racing, it also happens to be the home of one of England’s oldest Croquet clubs.
Conveniently less than a hundred miles away from London, Cheltenham is easy to access from all parts of the UK and is an ideal base for touring into the beautiful Cotswolds area, as well as to historic Stratford upon Avon and the stunning city of Bath. Regency townhouses with intricate ironwork balconies and painted stucco facades line the historic leafy Promenade, as well as many of the squares and terraces. The main event however, is obviously the Cheltenham Festival (celebrated in March) which allows the many visitors to the area to enjoy four fine days filled with old school glitz and glamour whilst watching the races.
If you’re intent on exploring the Cotswolds, that wonderful range of hills, valleys, and escarpments in the South West of England, then a stop in the cultural heart of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham, is an absolute must. This truly is one of the jewels in England's mighty crown and genuinely not to be missed.
Once you’ve had your fill of the magnificent fell walking and you’ve blazed that trail, head for the (figurative) hills and descend back down into the charming old town of Cheltenham, where you can have a stroll down the Cheltenham Promenade and find high end boutiques as well as vintage and antique shops. Here’s also where you’ll find local, well established department store Cavendish House, now part of the House of Fraser group.
During your visit you may also fancy stopping by at the Pittville Pump Room which is the grandest survivor of the town’s many spa buildings. It’s the perfect place to step back in time, and while overlooking the sweeping lawns and ornamental lakes of Pittville Park, it’s easy to imagine the swirling dancers in the ballrooms of yesteryear. To add to this, there is also a small café on the grounds that serves light refreshments during the summer months.
If you're looking to stay nearby we can recommend The Coliseum Apartments and Cheltenham Plaza Apartments, both of which are within walking distance of Pittville Park.
Cheltenham'S Top 5 'Must-See'S'
At 330 metres above sea level, Cleeve Common is the highest point in the Cotswolds. Countless footpaths criss cross its 1000 acres and its breathtaking views extend to the Malvern Hills and, on a clear day, to the Black Mountains of Wales. The Cotswold Way also passes this way. Most of this area of limestone grassland is also an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), and the largest un-enclosed “wold” on the Cotswold escarpment. A fell walker's paradise.
Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum
This elegant and stylish building has something for everybody, whether they're local to the area or coming to Cheltenham for the first time. With a gallery dedicated to their extensive fine art collection, a space to discover more about local heroes - including Cheltenham born Edward Wilson (one of Scott's key men on his 1912 expedition to Antarctica), a re-interpreted Arts and Crafts gallery and two superb temporary exhibition galleries for showing national and international touring shows - this is an attraction that's not to be missed.
The Promenade and Long Gardens
Cheltenham's famous Promenade dates back to 1818 when the avenue of elms and horse chestnut trees were first planted. Its colourful Long Gardens are laid out with an ever-changing display of ornamental bedding plants. The Neptune Fountain at the end of the gardens is based on the Trevi fountain in Rome and was added in 1893. The nearby statue of 1906 commemorates Edward Wilson, born in Cheltenham and as we noted, lost on Scott's ill-fated Antarctic expedition. The Long Gardens are home to Cheltenham's war memorial.
Sandford Parks Lido
This is one of the largest outdoor pools in the country, set within the landscaped gardens of Sandford Park. The 50 metre main swimming pool (as well as a childrens pool and paddling pool) are all heated to a lovely temperature. Basketball, volleyball and table tennis are also available, and are all included in the entrance fee.
Pittville Pump Room
Breathtaking, unique and radiating regency refinement, the Pittville Pump Room is one of the most spectacular wedding, civil partnership, and corporate hire venues in the Cotswolds. This supremely elegant Grade I listed venue is a monument to the more than 100 years of fame Cheltenham has enjoyed as a Spa town, and perhaps the most famous example of regency architecture in the area.
The closest airport to Cheltenham is Birmingham International, which is approximately an hour's drive away.
The main train station is Cheltenham Spa station and it's well served by CrossCountry trains, including direct services from many mainline stations including Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, York, Sheffield and Edinburgh. The station is located approximately 1 mile away from the town centre, and local buses depart into the centre every few minutes.
Car parks are situated in various locations around Cheltenham and they're likely to be extremely busy during Festival periods so please make sure you arrive in plenty of time and plan your parking arrangements in advance. If at all possible, use public transport to travel around the town centre. Click here for more info on Cheltenham parking
There is such a lot to discover on the outskirts of Cheltenham so why not be adventurous and rent a bike and pedal through the wonderful Cotswolds! Bikes can be rented at Cheltenham Bikes among others.
Stagecoach run regular services locally and to nearby town and villages.
National Express Coaches operate services between many major cities and Cheltenham Spa’s Royal Well bus station.
What to do in Cheltenham
Listed below are some of the great places to visit in Cheltenham. Click one to find out more.
- Cheltenham Racecourse
Cheltenham, the jewel in Jump Racing's crown, plays host to the best jumping action in the world from 350 spectacular acres in the lee of the beautiful Cotswold hills.
Whether you're here on a crisp bright October day or a balmy evening in May, you'll feel that unmistakable Cheltenham magic. The racing, the setting, the tradition and history, and the shared sense of enjoyment all combine to give everyone, from those sampling the finest hospitality to the race-goers on the course, an experience they'll never forget.
And of course, The four day long Festival in March is just unmissable!
For more information visit: http://www.cheltenham.co.uk/
- The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum
Cheltenham has an outstanding museum and art gallery with a packed programme of exciting temporary exhibitions and permanent galleries displaying:
A world famous Arts and Crafts Movement collection inspired by William Morris. The story of Edward Wilson, a son of Cheltenham, and his explorations with Scott of the Antarctic. A collection of important Dutch 17th and 19th century paintings, rare Oriental porcelain and English ceramics, and an exhibition dedicated to the social history of Cheltenham, Britain's most complete Regency town and finally, the archaeological treasures of the Cotswolds.
There are, in addition, special exhibitions throughout the year. For more information visit: http://www.cheltenhammuseum.org.uk/
- The Brewery shopping centre
The Brewery is a stylish destination for shopping and eating out. It offers a great mix of restaurants and bars, as well as a gym, home-style shopping, a kid's play centre and a cinema, and brings a new dimension to family entertainment and dining in the heart of Cheltenham.
Whatever your culinary wishes might be, you'll be likely to find it here, with dishes to tempt you from around the world. Restaurants include Après, Chiquito's, Frankie & Benny's, Nando's, Prezzo, The Real China, Harvester and Ruby Tuesday so whether you're in the mood for something quick and tasty, need a venue for a family treat, or are looking for a romantic dinner venue for a special occasion - you'll be spoiled for choice.
And great though the food is, The Brewery is not just about eating. Watch a movie at Cineworld or the new luxury Screening Rooms, work out at Fitness First, play at The Play Farm or indulge in some home styling retail therapy at Dwell. Cheltenham's hottest leisure destination is just off St. Margaret's Road.
For more information visit: http://www.thebrewerycheltenham.co.uk/
- Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway is a volunteer-run heritage railway which runs beautifully preserved steam and diesel locomotives along the stunning Gloucestershire Worcestershire border in the West Country of England.
The GWR has now reopened 12 miles (19 kilometres) of line, operating between Cheltenham Racecourse and Laverton Halt, and it's a great, fun thing to do for all of the family, but especially for the bigger kids (like Dad, for instance).
For more information visit: http://www.gwsr.com/about-us/history.aspx
- Sandford Parks Lido
One of the largest and prettiest outdoor pools in the country, all set in beautiful landscaped gardens within Sandford Park.
The 50 metre main swimming pool (as well as a childrens pool and paddling pool) are all heated to a lovely temperature. Basketball, volleyball and table tennis are also available, and are all included in the entrance charge. Light refreshments are available at the quaint poolside cafe.
For more information visit: http://www.sandfordparkslido.org.uk/
- Imperial Gardens
The Imperial Gardens, which can be found at the rear of the Town Hall, were originally planted for the exclusive use of subscribers to the Sherborne Spa.
The Spa was constructed in 1818 on the site now occupied by the Queens Hotel but over the intervening years the gardens have undergone many changes, with the formal style that you're now able to see being laid out just after the 2nd World War.
Each year, approximately 25,000 bedding plants are used to produce the magnificent floral displays enjoyed by the thousands of visitors every year. During the summer months, The Imperial Gardens become host to many outdoor events and festivals including Literature, Jazz, Science and Music Festivals.
For more, visit: http://www.visitcheltenham.com/things-to-do/imperial-gardens-p1596073