Looking for a few nights away we decided to have a UK city break as a change from our usual European adventures. To break up the driving a little and to have the opportunity to visit two places in one trip, we opted for two nights in Bath followed by a night in Cheltenham. I think it is fair to say that we didn’t really know what to expect from Cheltenham as we had never been and it isn’t somewhere that appears much on the lists of top UK tourist destinations. We were definitely pleasantly surprised. Here is how you should spend a day in this bustling town.
Relax in Cheltenham’s beautiful gardens
It is quite unusual to me for a place to have such well-kept and picturesque gardens right in the town centre. Why not grab yourself a hot chocolate from one of the nearby cafés (or an ice cream if it is that time of year) and wander around the Montpellier Gardens and Imperial Gardens. The open green space mixed with the colourful flowerbeds and impressive fountains and monuments are a great place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the town. I personally preferred the Imperial Gardens more but would absolutely recommend taking a look at both.
Take a look round the boutique shops
Sure Cheltenham has all the big chain stores in the town centre but over near the gardens there are some great little boutique shops and cafés housed in really photogenic sandstone buildings. We stopped for a drink and a bite to eat at Montpellier Café which is in a little Courtyard just off the street, so if you get tired from all the shopping it is a great place to pop into.
Take in the architecture
Just walking around Cheltenham and not even doing much provides more entertainment than most UK towns. It has a similar feel to Bath in certain areas but on a smaller scale and generally with less people. The Queens Hotel is a beautiful building as is Cheltenham Town Hall and I would recommend taking a look at both. You also have Neptune Fountain and the crazy Minotaur and Hare sculpture which are both impressive in their own right. All of these sights are within easy walking distance of each other and provide lots of opportunity for the Instagram account!
Visit Pittville Pump Room and Park
To the north of the city is one of the best hidden gems that Cheltenham has to offer. The first thing that struck me (apart from the huge building) is that even though we visited on a Saturday it was really quiet and the parking was free! The Pump Room itself is a really impressive building and you can go in and explore it for no entrance fee. The original pump is still housed in the main room and is in full working order allowing guests to try the water. Why not have a sip and tell me what you think of it? It certainly made me thankful for water treatment centres!
As well as the impressive building there is also another relaxing garden to the front (Cheltenham really does do gardens well) with a lake that you can walk around. The best compliment that I can give this setting is that whilst we were there, there was some kind of bride and groom promotional photoshoot going on in the gardens. I should imagine the two photographers got some great snaps for the magazine or advert they were working on.
Immerse yourself in some art and history
The Wilson is an art gallery and museum in the town centre and we spent a good hour or two there. Art is not really my thing and I don’t pretend to be an expert so I was much more excited about the museum side of things. The museum had a bit of everything from old furniture to bronze age tools. I think what really blew my mind though was the human fossils on display that were thousands of years old! The Wilson does offer free entry but also has two exhibitions at any one time that you must pay to see.
Where to eat
We fancied a curry in the evening and as The Spice Lodge was rated 13th out of 341 places to eat in Cheltenham on TripAdvisor, it was kind of a no brainer. It quickly became apparent why the restaurant is rated so highly. The welcome was very warm from the staff and we were shown to the bar area where our drinks order was taken. Once our table was ready we moved through to the impressive main dining area and the atmosphere was exactly what you would want in a restaurant. With such a large dining area there is always a risk of it feeling a little quiet and empty but this certainly wasn’t the case. The food was great and reasonably priced and service always came promptly and with a smile. They missed one of our drinks off the bill and when we told them they said not to worry about it and even offered us a hot drink on the house at the end of the meal. I declined but my other half opted for a complimentary peppermint tea.
Where to stay
We stayed at Bridge House B&B which is an easy 15-20 minute walk from Cheltenham town centre but is also on a main bus route and offered free parking for guests. We received a warm welcome from Peter and were shown to our room which had everything we needed. We were given a map of Cheltenham and recommended some places to visit and where to eat. The room had a very comfortable double bed, a fully stocked en-suite, an excellent WiFi connection, tea and coffee making facilities and a TV. The breakfast was superb with a made to order cooked breakfast on offer as well as cereals, fruit and yogurts. You really felt like you were getting the personal touch here and even the bread and jam was homemade. We booked it through AirBnB and had absolutely no problems whatsoever.