Must-Sees in Cheltenham
Today’s article is written by James Lockwood, a reader of my blog. I haven’t been to Cheltenham or Cotswolds nearby, though I’ve been meaning to for a while. From the post, I myself got immediately interested in the Cheltenham Literature Festival, which I didn’t know about before, so I’ll keep an eye on that!
Nestled along the edge of the Cotswolds sits Cheltenham, or Cheltenham Spa, a town and borough in Gloucestershire, England.
Even if you haven’t been to the area, you’ve likely heard of it thanks to the famous Cheltenham racecourse in Prestbury Park. The track has hosted some of the world’s most prestigious races since its founding in 1819.
According to The Prestbury Parish Council, creating a hub for horse racing in the area was the brain child of Colonel William Berkeley. He provided the annual subscription necessary to fund the races hosted on Cleeve Hill each year. In 1902, Prestbury Park was bought by The Cheltenham Racecourse Company and a grandstand and clubhouse were erected in 1908, which was followed by a racecourse station in 1912. The final structure, the Racecourse Holdings (now Jockey Club Racecourses), was built in 1964 to secure the future of Cheltenham.
Although the track is home to several large racing events, the biggest by far is the Cheltenham Festival. The upcoming 2015 Cheltenham Festival will take place between Tuesday 10th March and Friday 13th March, but preparations are already well under way. Hotel rooms are booked weeks, if not months in advance, and venders claim prime spots for selling goods along the busy walkways. Even those who like to put a little wager on the races at the course or from home can start getting into the events. Betfair’s experts start putting out daily updates on everything from the heath of the horses to the height of the jockeys starting in early January.
Of course Cheltenham has much more to offer than the track. Just seeing the beauty that is Prestbury Park is well worth your time. You can take a ride on the Cheltenham Racecourse railway station, which is a steam train that offers magnificent views of the park, or visit one of the charming pubs in the village, such as The Plough. It’s a traditional, real ale pub built in 1623.
The spa town is also home to several widely known cultural festivals that are regularly attended by nationally and internationally renown celebrities and dignitaries.
Each year, the area plays host to the Literature Festival, one of the four Cheltenham festivals that also include events specific to jazz, music in general, and science. First held in 1949, the Cheltenham Literature Festival is the oldest of its kind in the entire world. Upwards of 80,000 visitors attend lectures, author discussions, live performances and even workshops that are held throughout the town during the 10-day event. There’s even a special day that’s exclusively for children— Family Fun Day. Cheltenham 4 U notes that it includes “juggling, drawing, poetry, bouncy castles and everyone’s favourite characters from children’s books.”
If you’re ever lucky enough to be in the area, I’d recommend trying to go at a time where everything is a buzz with the excitement of an upcoming event. There’s nothing quite like seeing the typically quiet area come alive with activity. But even if you don’t make it out there then, Cheltenham has plenty of cozy bars and breathtaking views that can keep you plenty occupied.