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Photograph: Craig Ballinger Photos/

A perfect day in Cheltenham

Visit the pretty town on the edge of the Cotswolds for elegant architecture, surprising street art and a fistful of festivals

By Katie Gregory

Think Cheltenham, think horse racing? You wouldn’t be the first to equate this elegant spa town on the edge of the Cotswolds with its most famous calendar fixture. But there are plenty more reasons to visit. Stroll tree-lined avenues fringed by grand Regency buildings, play spot the celebrity at The Ivy or visit during one of Cheltenham’s other festivals which tick off everything from science to literature. This plummy place has beauty and brains, dahling.

A perfect day in Cheltenham

First up

Head to Dolce & Salato for a wake-up espresso. Or tuck into a bottomless brunch of shakshuka and bellinis at The Fire Station. Driving in? Stop en route at The Cotswold Diner, a 1950s-style American eatery in a bus parked up on the A436.


Soak up the vibes

The Montpellier area is textbook Cheltenham, from the tree trunk-sized classical columns to the stucco façades. Stroll along film-set streets then temper their Regency splendour with a wander past the town’s bright, ballsy murals. More appear every year at the Cheltenham Paint Festival.


Stop for lunch

For a slap-up affair, opt for fine French dining at L’Artisan or make a reservation at The Daffodil, which serves seasonal British food in an art deco cinema. For some cracking pea pancakes, try Kindness & Co, an all-natural café with glutenfree, dairy-free, veggie and vegan options.

A.Pattenden/The Frog Cheltenham

Drink like a local

The Frog and Fiddle hosts live music, real ale and Cheltenham’s vast student cohort. For something more sophisticated, stop for cocktails at Lily Gins or head to Crazy Eights at No 131, a classy Georgian townhouse-turned-hotel and bar.

Malone's Vintage

Splash the cash

Montpellier isn’t just a pretty face – it’s also a hub of boutique shops which spill out along The Promenade, The Suffolks and Bath Road, aka the Notting Hill of Cheltenham. Try high-end dress agency Just Mint for pre-loved designer clothes and browse Malone’s Vintage for handpicked retro gems. Visit Olive in the town centre for whimsical fashion finds.

Pitville Park
Pitville Park
Photograph: James Brooking/Picfair

If you only do one thing

Pay a visit to Pittville Park, to the north of the town centre. Sweeping lawns give way to glassy ornamental lakes and the elegant Pump Room stands as proud as Punch at one end. This place is so big that even on a busy Saturday you can bagsy a slice of it to yourself.

Photograph: Getty Images

If you stay the night, wake up here

Wrap up your visit with a night tucked away in Castle Gatehouse - your very own tiny, turetted pile. This small but super-grand gatehouse is on the edge of the Sudeley Castle estate, surrounded by Cotswolds countryside and a short walk from the postcardready town of Winchcombe. A stay here includes access to historic Sudeley Castle – the home and final resting place of Tudor queen Katherine Parr – and its lush gardens, as well as the romantic ruins of an ancient banqueting hall. Once all the visitors have left, the place is yours to lounge around in. Ours is the four-poster. Ellie Walker-Arnott. £120 a night. 


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