The attractive regency spa town of Cheltenham is a great base from which to explore this lovely part of England. Cheltenham is much more than an agreeable place to lay your head of an evening though. It's got regency splendour, a packed line-up of annual events, chic shops, fantastic restaurants and a bevy of beautiful gardens. There's also the world-famous Cheltenham Festival, the top draw of the jump-racing season, and a mecca for those who love to place a flutter on the horses.
Sitting prettily on the edge of the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, and with tourist favourites Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon and, of course, London, within easy reach, Cheltenham hotels are often packed with global tourists who make this pleasant town the centre of their tour.
Hotels in Cheltenham are in huge demand during this annual event. Book early if you plan to cheer on your favourite, or be sure to avoid the Gold Cup to get the most out of your stay in Cheltenham without the crowds.
Also known as Cheltenham Spa, the great and the good once flocked here to heal, rejuvenate and find eternal youth in the waters. Medical thinking has moved on since then, but visitors still find plenty to smile about in Cheltenham. Chill out in a cool pavement café surrounded by modern shops, or take afternoon tea amid the charms of a regency building - past and present weave beautifully in this town.
A hangover from its health-town heyday is a great choice of accommodation, with plenty of budget hotels, B&BS and many luxury hotels. You will find properties from well-known names such as Thistle, Hotel du Vin, Mercure, Best Western and Holiday Inn Express as well as the budget chains such as Travelodge and Premier Travel Inn.
The heart of Cheltenham is small and most of the town's attractions are within walking distance of each other. It's advisable to stay as centrally as possible and use your feet to get around. Town-centre hotels are spread across the price range, while those in lovely Montpellier, which is just south of the town's inner ring road, are perfect for lovers of exclusive luxury.
Cheltenham Racecourse is located in Prestbury, on the northern outskirts of Cheltenham. Hotels in the town, and those in the surrounding areas, are likely to be booked well in advance of the March festival.
Top five attractions
This is a wonderful spot at any time of the year, though summer holds the most promise, with walks around the lake and plenty of family activities on offer.
Pittville Pump Room
The glorious Pump Room, located within Pittville Park, is the place to step back in time. Looking around the splendid building will take visitors back to the spa town's glory days.
Lively Montpellier, with is shops, cafés and bars dressed in regency architecture, is regarded as the most sophisticated and handsome district in town. If you don't book a hotel here, at least sup a latte or dive in and out of the boutiques for a few hours.
A modern dose of retail and leisure at the heart of the spa town, this is the place to be for family eateries and play places, plus a couple of cinemas for rainy days.
Holst Birthplace Museum
From the outside this is a typical regency terraced home; inside it is a museum dedicated to one of England's favourite composers, Gustav Holst.
Cheltenham Festival; March: Four days of racing culminate in the Gold Cup. The entire festival is massively popular, especially with visitors from Ireland. Early booking of hotels is essential if you want to see Cheltenham at its most buzzing.
Greenbelt; August: Held at Cheltenham Racecourse, the roots of this event are as a Christian music festival, though it has grown and widened its appeal and now attracts more than 20,000 visitors. Past performers include U2 and Moby. Early booking of hotels is recommended over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Cheltenham Music Festival; October: A long-established and well-regarded festival for literature junkies, the written word is celebrated with the help of writers, actors and poets - and thousands of visitors.