When I thought of Cheltenham 3 things came to mind: Horse Racing; home of the UK government GCHQ donut shaped spy “listening centre, and a posh girl’s private school.
It was a place that I had never visited, although I have lived in the UK since 1987, and is only 100 lies from London. I just never quite got round to it. So what did I think and do I recommend after going there?
What is the history of Cheltenham?
Cheltenham is a town with a long history. Located in the beautiful Cotswold area in the West of England. It is central enough to be able to explore the whole Cotswold area, including the famous towns like Stratford-upon-Avon and Bath. It became popular after the discovery of a natural spring with claimed medicinal benefits over 300 years ago. It became a fashionable place for the famous and rich to visit, boosted by King George III spending 5 weeks there in 1788.
The town expanded with beautiful regency buildings and homes. The buildings are distinctive and impressive. Clearly a town built by those with money to spend. Today many of the houses have been converted into flats, hotels and offices – but many are still large and impressive houses.
The shopping centre of Cheltenham is also impressive. The centre is largely pedestrian friendly with some parts closed to traffic, and there is a beautiful green square surrounded by stone buildings. Those who have been to Bath will recognise the style and approach.
There is quite a lot of business in the city, but the major draws are the Government GCHQ centre and the major Horse Racing events, with the Cheltenham Gold Cup being one of the major social events on the English Calendar.
Cheltenham also has it’s fair share of well known celebrities and sportsmen that have originated from it, including people like Gustav Holst (composer of The Planets), WG Grace (cricketer), Elizabeth Hurely (actress) , Sharon Davies (olympic swimmer), Jilly Cooper (author), Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), JK Rowling (author) and Edward Jenner (discovered vaccinations).
- Cheltenham feels like a place with money. There is a style and flair to the place, as well as the types of stores that suggest that it is a wealthy city. There are trendy and impressive restaurants, like the Jamie Italian in the old Court House.
- It feels youthful and vibrant. The city has a lot of young and trendy people about, and has an energy and excitement that I had not expected.
- Architecture. As mentioned above, the city has amazing architecture and it has largely been retained. The city has regency style through it with its distinctive ironwork.
What is there to do?
While there are some things to do within the city, part of the attraction is that it is a great location to explore things around the area. So having a car is important, though there are many bus tours around Cheltenham and the surrounds.
- 3 key things to do in the city: Visit the Holst Birthplace Museum; see the stunning Pitt Pump Room Building (which was the centre of the spa offering in its day and is a stunning building and example of the area’s architecture) and explore the town centre.
- Things to do close by: There are 2 things I would recommend that are close by:
- Visit the town Stow on the Wold which is a charming market town with quirky shops and great architecture. See photos below.
- Visit Sudeley Castle. This was where Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr, died. She married Lord Sudeley after Henry’s death and moved to this large and impressive estate. A separate blog posting on Sudeley Castle to follow.
A charming and fascinating city that is worth going to for a short break to explore the beautiful Cotswold and features close by and further afield like Bath and Stratford-uopn-Avon.
- VisitCheltenham.com site
- My review of The Hotel on the Park Cheltenham
- See all my photos of Cheltenham, Sudeley Hall and Stow on the Wold