50 things to do in Cheltenham

Pittville Pump Rooms
Pittville Pump Rooms. Photo by James Phillips, licensed under CC BY 2.0
Here is a complete guide of 50 things to do in Cheltenham! This list of completely random places and events in Cheltenham (and within a mile or two) is split in to 5 parts and designed to whet your appetite to some of the splendid ways to pass the time while staying at Cooks Green Cottage. Note that not all attractions will be open at all times of the year, but there are very good tourist offices and information in the area that can give you specific details.

Cheltenham was an average sleepy English town until a flock of pigeons was seen regularly in a field in the area. The townsfolk discovered a spring in 1716, after which time it quickly evolved to be Great Britain’s most popular spa town. This respectable town with its magnificent Regency architecture is ideal for exploring on foot if you wish to take in the sights and imagine the wealthy tourists and residents of yesteryear strolling down the avenues.

Our Completely Random Guide of 50 Things to do in Cheltenham Part One

  1. Pitville Pump Room – This spa is somewhere you can still see the waters that made the town so famous. The pump room is a magnificent piece of architecture and well worth a visit.
  2. Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum – A visit to this wonderful gallery and museum will be an education and insight into the social history of this famous spa town.
  3. The Paint it Yourself Pottery CoThe Paint it Yourself Pottery Ceramic Cafe in Cheltenham is a fabulous idea for families especially on wet days and allows you to hand craft a personal souvenir of your visit.
  4. Sandford Parks – This wonderful lido is testament to a restoration committee that have preserved this outdoor heated swimming pool in true 1920’s splendour. With refreshment cafes and full bathing facilities, rain or shine this heated pool is the place to be for a leisurely splash. Paradise for kids, there are water slides and paddling pools.
  5. Leisure at Cheltenham – Leisure at Cheltenham is a marvellous leisure centre where you can indulge in many kinds of past times and sports. Facilities are top class and include three pools, racquet sports, athletics tracks, trampolines, coaching, gymnastics, and coaching. There is plenty of parking and free swimming for kids when accompanied by an adult.
  6. The Playmate Children’s Riding School – This BHS approved all weather riding establishment welcomes children from 2 years to 12 year for fun riding lessons, riding on the farm and show jumping. There is also a play area for outdoor fun.
  7. Woodlands Riding Stables – These stables are fully British Horse Society (BHS) approved and offer lessons in jumping and riding from 4 years plus hacks out through scenic countryside. There is an all weather school and cross country course.
  8. Cotswold Farm Park – This great all weather facility has an indoor play barn, self-propelled roller racers, and ride-on battery operated tractors while outside pedal tractors give little toddler farmers a turn at tractor driving.
  9. The Old New Inn Model Village – This fascinating model village is world renowned as one of the most accurate and intriguing. Not only can you view this wonderful model village in the garden of the inn, but there are children play areas too. You can also enjoy refreshments.
  10. Chedworth Roman Villa – This Roman Villa is without doubt one of the best sites for exploring what a Roman country house would have been like. It is well preserved and has plenty to see of historical value.
  11. Sudeley Castle – No list of things to do is complete without a visit to a castle and Sudeley is one of the best in the UK.
  12. Art in the Park – This annual event runs for four weeks during June and July and features different exhibitions by various artists. The format of the event turns up some very reasonably priced art.
  13. Imperial Gardens, The Promenade – Throughout the summer season, this large and traditional 8 acre English garden includes white, pink and blue gardens, with herbaceous borders, walled kitchen garden, rose terrace and orchard. There is a lovely stone dovecot, which is arrived at through a pathway of topiary birds. Ponds and greenhouses complete the picture.

Gustav Holst statue in Cheltenham. His Birthpalce Museum is located in Cheltenham.
Gustav Holst statue in Cheltenham. His Birthpalce Museum is located in Cheltenham. Photo by kennysarmy, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Continuing our journey through Cheltenham in Part Two of 50 things to do in Cheltenham guide, we have selected another eclectic mix that should provide a great day out for everyone. Whether you love the countryside, history, shopping, dining out, hot coffee and cool conversation you will have plenty of ideas to choose from. Cheltenham is blessed in its location as not only does the town offer numerous attractions and things to do, but also within a mile or so of the town, you can find more entries in our 50 things to do in Cheltenham guide. Whatever the weather, Cheltenham is the perfect spot to find something interesting to do.

Our Completely Random Guide of 50 Things to do in Cheltenham Part Two

  • 14. Rockcliffe House, Cheltenham – This wonderful sloping garden and was laid out by Graham Stuart Thomas in 1976. There is an acre and a half of pleasant walks, walled kitchen garden, two lakes, many ornamental trees and shrubs, and a Holy well. Note that the walled garden will not be open in 2013 sadly due to some reconstruction work
  • 15. Eyford House Country Show – Keep the date for future reference, 30th June. This friendly country show is perfect for all the family and there is nothing more English than a day at the local show watching glossy fat ponies, noble hunters and show jumpers compete for rosettes and prizes. The sideshows are great fun and this show offers crafts, stalls, fun fair rides, children’s entertainment, activities and more than likely candyfloss and toffee apples. There is a qualifying class for Crufts dog show, which will be fiercely contended by the pooches and plenty of fun in the dog show where the waggiest tail often reaps rewards winning a ribbon and bag of dog food!
  • 16. The Home of Gustav Holst – This famed son of Cheltenham was born in Clarence Street in 1874. The composer who wrote the iconic Planet Suite left a legacy of classical music that is revered and loved. His birthplace is now a museum that has Holst memorabilia and an exhibition of life “below stairs”.
  • 17. Cheltenham Race Course – This racecourse is famous for the iconic Cheltenham Gold Cup, the holy grail of jump racing. Cheltenham is swamped by visitors during the March meeting so if not a racegoer, this week may be best avoided to visit the town. However, if you fancy a day at the races, there are many other fixtures throughout the year at the course.
  • 18. Statue of Edward Wilson – The Municipal Offices in Cheltenham were originally private homes that were built in 1825. Opposite these buildings is a statue of Edward Wilson, a local Cheltenham man who was part of the ill-fated expedition to the South Pole led by Captain Scott. Stay and ponder awhile what it must have felt like to be an early though tragic pioneer.
  • 19. The Promenade, Cheltenham – The Promenade has a reputation as England’s most beautiful streets. It is a tree lined wide boulevard with imposing, magnificent architecture flanking each side of the street. A stroll down this street is a fabulous way to pass the time and with a stop for cappuccino and a snack, it is a great way to spend a morning.
  • 20. Hall of Fame Museum – Attached to Cheltenham Race course, this museum charts the history of jump racing and is ideal for racing enthusiasts and horse lovers. It is open on days when the racing is not.
  • 21. Walks With Hawks – This unique attraction allows you to take owls and other types of hawk out flying. If you have ever fancied a bird of prey perching on you hand then this is the place to visit. The birds are first class and their welfare is paramount.
  • 22. The Brewery – This interesting building conversion is a shopping centre with a variety of super restaurants and a great atmosphere. Apart from the many dining options, there is a fitness club and a play area for children. It is family friendly and a great rainy day option.
  • 23. The Screening Rooms – Going to the pictures does not get better! Also located at The Brewery, The Screening Rooms is a luxury film going experience that starts the moment you step through the doors. There is a bar and snack service (no pick and mix here!) and when you are ready a concierge will show you to your luxury armchair seat. There is also an in-seat service where before the film, drinks and snacks are brought to you in your seat. Sounds great!

Cheltenham's Famous Imperial Gardens
Imperial Gardens. Photo by Cheltenham Borough Council, licensed under CC BY 2.0
Visitors to Cooks Green Cottage always remark on the wealth of things to do yet also love the fact that the peaceful countryside can be enjoyed far away from the madding crowd.

When you are bored of Cheltenham then you are bored of life! That is the opinion we are forming anyway. There are so many things to do in Cheltenham that we think there is a good chance our 50 things to do in Cheltenham guide could end up with many more entries catalogued. A week at Cooks Green Cottage is unique for every visitor and many who stay with us enjoy an active break, a relaxing break, or a mixture of both. Whatever your preferences, be sure to enjoy one or two activities in Cheltenham – we can guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Cheltenham the town is an exquisite place characterised by beautiful Regency townhouses with painted stucco facades and wrought iron balconies line the streets. Manicured gardens and places to dine give an air of elegance to the overall ambience. Cheltenham also boasts a range of impressive boutiques, shops, and artisan food outlets making a stroll around town irresistible for shoppers. Cheltenham has been a frequent winner of the Britain in Bloom competition and has won the Prix European d’Excellence. In fact, in the early 18th century it was stated that Cheltenham is the garden town of England.

Our Completely Random Guide of 50 Things to do in Cheltenham Part Three

  • 24. Go Ape! High Wire Forest Adventure – Do you have an inner ape? Bring out the chimp inside with the three hours of fun-at this tree top adventure. There are 30ft rope ladders a huge Tarzan swing into a huge rope net and a zip wire through the forest of trees. Plenty of crawling through tunnels and high wire rope bridges complete the adventure.
  • 25. Imperial Gardens – found behind the Town Hall, these gardens were planted originally for the exclusive use of patrons of the Sherborne Spa. Where the Queens Hotel now stands is where the spa was constructed in 1818. There were winter gardens at one time, but the gardens of today were established after World War II. Around 25,000 bedding plants are utilised each year to create the wonderful floral displays. The park is also the venue for many cultural events.
  • 26. Sandford Gardens – Named for the sandy soil and ford crossing this lovely park is the hidden jewel in Cheltenham’s crown. The diminutive River Chelt flows through Sanford Park, which is full of ornamental ponds, water features, and fountains. Clipped topiary guards the park entrances and there is plenty of seating to stop at to eat a picnic lunch and gaze at the beauty of the flowers and plants.
  • 27. Farmers Market – This market takes place in the Long Gardens, Promenade on the second, and last Friday of every month 9am until 3pm. The market is a bustling, busy, and bright place offering locally grown and produced vegetables, preserves, meat, and other fresh produce from around the Cotswold area.
  • 28. Arts and Crafts market – This market features the best of local crafts and hand made items from local artisans. It is a very popular and attractive market with much to see and buy. Like the Farmer’s Market, it is also locate in Long Gardens, Promenade on one Saturday every month.
  • 29. Promenade Shopping – The Promenade is without doubt one of the finest shopping areas in England. From long established Cavendish House a short stroll takes you to the highly fashionable stores of LK Bennett, Coast, Gap and Russell and Bromley. Style emporiums Jaeger, Hobbs, Karen Millen, and Jigsaw are just some of the delightful shops waiting to be explored. Quality gift shops and accessory shops for jewellery books and makeup are present bringing such outlets as Space NK for hours of cosmetic browsing!
  • 30. Wishing Fish Clock – Created by author Kit Williams whose famous book is “Masquerade”, the clock has been designed to bring joy and delight to all those adults and children that gaze upon its action. Michael Harding a world famous clock maker from the local area built the working parts of the clock and structural parts.
  • 31. Parabola Arts Centre – This is the home of contemporary performance in the county. The programme of engaging and creative includes dance, theatre, dance, music, and family shows. The grade II listed art gallery and award winning theatre design make it a pleasure to visit.

Montpellier Arcade, Cheltenham
Montpellier Arcade, Cheltenham. Photo by Chris Beckett, licensed under CC BY 2.0
As our 50 things to do in Cheltenham guide continues, we decided to bring you an eclectic mix of places to visit with the emphasis on places to dine, shop, and enjoy a drink or two in traditional English pubs. Of course, while we think these places are amongst the best that Cheltenham may offer, you may prefer to compile your own list of best places to dine and enjoy a glass of wine and that is part of the fun of exploring a new area. All kinds of cuisine are catered for and all price ranges are covered. At certain times of the year such as the Cheltenham races, these places are likely to be very busy and full of high-spirited race goers. Never fear though because as the visiting Irish are wont to say, it will be mighty craic, and you may get a tip for the races as well.

Onwards then we go on our voyage of discovery starting with attraction number 32.

Our Completely Random Guide of 50 Things to do in Cheltenham Part Four

  • 32. John Higgs Tombstone – We had to include this oddity, which is hidden in the graveyard next to St Mary’s Church. It is a headstone of a man called John Higgs who died in 1825, occupation pig killer! His epitaph reads, “Here lies John Higgs,” it says. “For killing pigs was his delight / both morning, afternoon and night”. It will be a conversation piece for openers in the pub anyway.
  • 33. Pub Grub – There are many excellent places for authentic pub grub but we like The Royal Well Tavern, which serves a fusion of French and British cuisine with honest to goodness ingredients. Located at Royal Well Place, the restaurant offers a fixed price menu until 7pm, which offers terrific value. Sirloin steak and chips to duck rillettes on toast ensure all appetites are catered for.
  • 34. Touch of the Med in Cheltenham – Brosh is a restaurant with an Eastern Mediterranean menu offering a meze of babaganush (aubergine and garlic dip) hummus, falafel and carrot and coriander salad and authentic east meets west cuisine.
  • 35. Fine Dining – Try the Michelin 2 star Le Champignon Sauvage where the three-course menu is reasonably priced. They offer the freshest of ingredients sourced locally. The two star chef Everitt-Matthias handpicks wild fruit and garlic for the restaurant frequently.
  • 36. Montpellier Shopping – Get your boutique buzz in this area where there are several unique outlets in the quaint Courtyard Mall. From the couture of Caroline Charles to Pretty Special who sell organic baby wear there is a wealth of design on offer at purse friendly prices.
  • 37. Enjoy a Pint in a Classic Pub – The Royal Oak is a favourite with race goers before the starting pistol goes off on race day. The pub boasts an array of fine pub food and real ales and has a fascinating history dating back to the Domesday Book.
  • 38. A Glass of Wine – The trendy Montpellier Wine Bar attracts a stylish crowd who enjoy the wide selection of wine available. It is a great meeting spot for lunch and afternoon tea as well as an evening venue.
  • 39. Indian Curry – Almost England’s national dish these days, Cheltenham boasts many Indian restaurants, said to be a legacy of the officers who retired to Cheltenham from the Raj. For something different, enjoy a Kingfisher Indian beer with your meal at a restaurant like Hassans.
  • 40. Nightlife – Monty’s Brasserie is a popular cocktail bar and on the Promenade, the venue Subtone hosts four bars in a listed Regency townhouse. Located at Imperial Lane, the Boogie Lounge does music from the 70s to the 90s.
  • 41. Playhouse Theatre – Situated in an historic building opened in 1806, the theatre was once the Montpellier Baths, a highly fashionable venue where mineral baths were enjoyed. The venue now plays host to many first class amateur theatre productions and is worth a visit for the architecture and the entertainment.
  • 42. Everyman TheatreThe Everyman Theatre was opened in 1891 with a production starring Lily Langtry. The Everyman is in good company with the London Hippodrome, London Coliseum, and London Palladium having been designed by architect Frank Matcham,. Famous stage personalities, such as Charlie Chaplin, took to the boards at the theatre. Today the venue is in full swing with many events taking place during music and arts festivals as well as the regular theatrical repertoire.

Many of our visitors to Cooks Green Cottage enjoy an active holiday and some guests bring their beloved pets with them. We always welcome well-mannered dogs to our holiday home and in this final part of 50 things to do in Cheltenham; we will be introducing some of the walking trails that can be enjoyed in the town and around the outskirts. As ever, we will also be including some random places and activities of interest that visitors may enjoy.

Our Completely Random Guide of 50 Things to do in Cheltenham Part Five

  • 43. Lineover Wood and Ravensgate Hill – This delightful walk of around two hours begins at Little Herbert’s Cheltenham (OS map reference SO 98185 19635) and is ideal for walkers of all types. Outdoor lovers will be well catered for and lovers of abundant flora will enjoy the many varieties of flowers along the way through Lineover Wood. Topped off by wonderful views from Ravensgate Hill, this walk will leave you refreshed and ready for a delicious Cotswold pub lunch or supper.
  • 44. Cheltenham Circular Footpath – Cheltenham Borough Council is a keen supporter of active lifestyles. They have designed a number of walking routes for the enjoyment of residents and visitors. This clearly marked route is a circular walk around and about Cheltenham, which offers breath-taking views of the escarpment of the Cotswolds. This walking trail begins and terminates close to Pitville Park in the town and passes by the Dowedeswell reservoir and Cheltenham racecourse. The whole route is 25 miles in total so not for the faint hearted, but individual sections can be walked. Keen walkers will enjoy the challenge, rewarded with spectacular views.
  • 45. Well Walk Tea Room, Cheltenham – It does have the word walk in the name, that is our excuse but we just thought we would slot in a favourite place if all this walking is making you feel peckish! This exquisite old style tearoom in the town is a well-loved favourite with visitors and has a very affordable menu. A varied menu offering the traditional tearoom delights of scones, pastries and cakes along with more substantial fare of soups and quiches satisfy the heartiest appetite. The surroundings of antiques, decorative objects, and textiles offer a real ambience set in one of Cheltenham’s first shops.
  • Whittington Court
    Whittington Court. Photo by James Stringer, licensed under CC BY 2.0
    46. Whittington Court – Around five miles from Cheltenham stands Whittington Court a 16th century Cotswold stone manor house that stands on the footplate of a much earlier building. The house is surrounded by a moat and the interior is full of original features. There are Tudor fireplaces and wood panelling, carved staircases and ornamental over mantles featuring a coat of arms that was later used by George Washington to create the stars and stripes of the American flag. The building in this location goes back to the 14th century. You could always walk to the house from Cheltenham town, or alternatively enjoy a turn around the grounds here.
  • 47. Cotswold Farm Park – A day of activity for the children is available at the Cotswold Farm Park in Cheltenham. This countryside experience will delight adults and children with many different activities such as rides on mini tractors, a play barn full of fun rides, restaurant, rare breeds, walking, pony trekking and locally sourced food and produce.
  • 48. Inn at Fossebridge, nr Cheltenham – Here is a walk with a difference, not too far from Cheltenham there is a beautiful inn built of mellow stone where you can partake of an hours walk. This circular route takes you through the very pretty hamlet Fossebridge, the spot where Fosse Way drops down to the River Coln Cotswold valley, which is an area of outstanding natural beauty. After your walk relax and enjoy the atmosphere of this lovely inn. During the summer, there are four acres of garden where you can eat al fresco and even confine your stroll to a dander around the lake. In winter, welcoming log fires will take off the chill. An added bonus is this is a dog friendly place – perfect!
  • 49. Cheltenham Cycle Touring Club – This cycling club is an ideal contact for those visitors wanting to explore the Cheltenham area on two wheels. With plenty of cycle routes on offer for different levels, there are lunch rides, elevenses rides, which take in beautiful countryside with the emphasis on fun and activity with plenty of refreshment stops. A great way to see the countryside, the club can be contacted through their website.
  • 50. Guided Walk of Cheltenham – The Cheltenham Tourist Office is a great resource and has regular walking tours of Cheltenham led by a guide. This is an ideal introduction to the town for new visitors and then you can come back and see things that interest you at your leisure.

And that’s the end of our 50 things to do in Cheltenham guide.

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