Making the Most of Cheltenham Living
From racing to literature, music and science, Cheltenham is famous for its unique festivals. Yet, there is so much more to life in the UK’s most complete Regency town.
And it is easy to see why the Sunday Times declared it the best place to live in the South West in 2020.
Here are just a handful of the many wonderful things available to you in and around Cheltenham.
Parks and walks
Cheltenham has lots of beautiful parks that are ideal for a stroll, walking your dog or children’s play.
With many grade 1 listed buildings surrounding it, Montpellier Gardens is an important part of Cheltenham’s Regency landscape and recreational heritage.
Pittville Park is the largest ornamental park in Cheltenham. As well as its magnificent Pump Room, it has children’s play areas, a skate park, a pitch and putt golf course and boating lakes.
Imperial Gardens is host to numerous festivals during the summer months, including Cheltenham’s Literature, Jazz, Science and Music festivals. It is also famous for its splendid annual floral displays made up of about 25,000 bedding plants.
One of Cheltenham’s lesser-known treasures, Sandford Park at the end of the High Street is popular for picnics and games as well as a quiet place to escape during lunch breaks.
Cheltenham is also ideally placed to explore the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From delightful country walks and country pubs to beautiful villages such as Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold, you will find the picturesque on tap.
And with Cleeve Hill Washpool just to the northeast of the town, you do not need to go far to enjoy some excellent hiking.
Another place that is well worth a visit is the enigma that is the Devil’s Chimney – a limestone rock pinnacle standing above a disused quarry in Leckhampton. A popular landmark for generations, its origins remain a mystery.
Cheltenham is recognised around the country as a key shopping destination and its famous Promenade – dating back to 1818 at the height of the Regency period – is one of the best shopping streets in the UK.
A wealth of high street brands, including John Lewis and House of Fraser, mingle with independent retailers. And with many stores housed in gorgeous Regency buildings, you will find shopping in Cheltenham to be a rewarding experience.
Regent Arcade boasts over 60 retail stores and dining options, including well-known fashion outlets, while Montpellier Courtyard is a haven of independent boutique shops and cosy eateries.
The main auditorium of Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre is an architectural masterpiece. Very much Gloucestershire’s theatre, the Everyman presents a wide range of productions – from ballet, opera and drama to comedy, music and family pantomime.
As for visual art, there is much to admire:
Previously known as Cheltenham Art Gallery, The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum is seen as the leading museum of fine and applied art in the Cotswold region and is home to an internationally significant museum collection;
Park Gallery houses three floors of fabulous collections of original paintings, limited-edition prints, hand-made ceramics, and glass and bronze sculptures from an array of outstanding British artists;
While The Paragon Gallery – Cheltenham and the Cotswolds’ leading original art gallery – certainly lives up to its motto of ‘No ordinary art’.
From watching the racing at Cheltenham’s world-famous racecourse to getting active, there’s plenty for sporty types to savour.
Golfers are well-catered for with fabulous courses in the area including Lilley Brook, Brickhampton Court and Cotswold Hills – widely regarded as one of the best courses in the country.
If you are looking to play tennis, squash, racketball, padel or hockey, East Glos Club has extensive facilities and caters for all ages and abilities.
Meanwhile, CLC Health & Fitness Centre has a state-of-the-art 25m swimming pool, gym, tennis and squash courts, and two sports halls offering a wide range of sports, including short tennis, badminton and basketball.
For a fantastic outdoor swimming experience, however, head down to Sandford Parks Lido with its Olympic-sized pool. Even your four-legged best friend can enjoy a dip on ‘dog swim Saturday’!
With its history as a spa town, modern-day Cheltenham is not short of quality spa options:
The Elan Spa at the Greenway Hotel has been awarded five bubbles by the Good Spa Guide;
Hatherley Manor offers a number of spa day and stay spa packages; and
Just a short drive from the town centre, Ellenborough Park is a magnificent 15th-century country estate with a luxury spa and beautiful grounds.
Food and Drink
Cheltenham has no fewer than nine restaurants in the Michelin Guide. Of particular note are:
Michelin-starred Le Champignon Sauvage – a superb place for a special-occasion meal;
Elegant, eye-catching Prithvi;
Contemporary and airy Lumière; and
Cosy bistro GL50, with its informal fine dining and zero-waste philosophy.
Other superb restaurants include The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie and No.131 on the Promenade.
Pubs and bars
A beacon for quality beer in Cheltenham, Sandford Park Ale House was voted CAMRA National Pub of the Year in 2015.
With over 200 whiskies, 150 gins, a vast array of spirits and more than 80 different wines to sample, John Gordons Whisky & Wine Bar is sure to make an impression. And if there is a particular tipple that takes your fancy, why not pick it up next door at No.13 The Off Licence?
Dog-friendly The Beehive is renowned as a proper community-focused pub with an eclectic mix of clientele. It offers a range of locally sourced real ales and casual dining.
Blending the hip and the wholesome, Harry Cook Free House on Montpelier Walk is a vibrant pub packed full of individuality, character and quirky charm  .
In the mood for some French cuisine? Celebrating all things cheese and wine, Domaine 16 is the place to go – particularly if, on a Tuesday, you feel like tucking into a bottomless raclette.
If you are a cider fan then you will want to visit Dunkertons. This family-run organic cider maker is Gloucestershire’s largest cidery. Take a tour, enjoy a drink in the marquee bar, or pick up a bottle or two of its award-winning cider in the shop.
Finally, Cheltenham is a wonderful place to bring up children. It has a host of excellent schools. These include Cheltenham Ladies College, Cheltenham College, Dean Close, Berkhampstead, St Edwards and The Richard Pate School.