From cheese & cider tastings to sunflower fields – there's a lot more to enjoy in Cheltenham than just the races

REALLY, I should have been sipping wine in French vineyards, but instead I find myself cider tasting under a canvas lit with pretty festoon lights in a drizzly Gloucestershire.

But if Covid has given us anything this year, it is an appreciation of the beauty on our doorsteps. Take Cheltenham, which I’ve only ever known because of its races.

It’s on the edge of the Cotswolds, so you can explore the rolling hills come day and the town’s restaurants and bars come evening. Plus the high street, with its backdrop of regency townhouses, is faring better than most.

Small chain Vinegar Hill has gifts for yourself and others ( and if you don’t bag a manicure, from £30, at beauty salon Earl’s & Co, there’s still their cute shop to pop into (

Would you like bubbles with that?

You can’t visit Cheltenham without stepping into at least one of multimillionaire Julian Dunkerton’s ventures – like Dunkertons Cider. The founder of Superdry took on his late father’s business and they now offer tours of the brewery, with cheese and cider tastings in their farm shop afterwards.

With nine ciders to try at the bar, both still and carbonated, it’s amazing the difference that adding bubbles can make, and former chef turned bar manager Josh will happily talk food pairings with you.

Tours cost £20 ( They’ve also parked up a street food van serving juicy burgers and chicken wings, too – although its mother pub The Tavern is well worth visiting for a smoky Dreaming Dreams Of The Easy Life cocktail, £9.50, and the perfectly crispy Cod Kiev, £17 (

If you stay in the newly opened Cult Hotel, you’re just around the corner. Stylish rooms in moody blues await, and the diner serves a fab veggie breakfast. You can check in and out contactlessly – a receipt prints directions to your room – and there’s a well-stocked pantry of snacks and tipples, including pre-mixed cocktails, plus extra toiletries downstairs. The larger Culture rooms are the perfect pick for families. B&B costs from £90 (

Down at the farm

Meanwhile, half an hour’s drive away is Cotswold Farm Park, owned by Countryfile’s Adam Henson. With a sunflower field to explore in summer and potatoes to dig in autumn, mini pedal tractors to ride, plus an array of farm animals including rare breeds, there’s plenty to keep little ones entertained.

Petting sessions are on hold, but our 20-month-old, Poppy, still loved spying the just-hatched chicks in their incubators and one-day-old piglets. There’s a fab two-mile wildlife walk and a mud kitchen too, so pack the kids’ wellies. Adult tickets cost £12.50, kids over two, £7.50, over four, £12 (

Even in soggy weather, Sudeley Castle – also a 30-minute drive – is a delight. Learn about the royal scandals and England’s secret queen, Eleanor Talbot, before exploring the stunning gardens, a willow maze, an incredible adventure playground complete with assault course and one of the world’s largest collections of endangered (and incredibly colourful) pheasants.

Entry costs £12 for adults, kids over three, £5 ( Handily, it’s also just minutes from quaint Winchcombe, with its historic pubs, the excellent North’s Bakery ( and cute lifestyle shops.

Enjoying the good life

Back in town, the aviary and playground in Pittville Park should be high on your list if you have small kids, but not before grabbing yourselves a fantastic coffee and salted caramel brownie from The Coffee Dispensary (, and hitting The Cheese Works for an incredible selection of cheese (we’re talking over 100!) including the creamy Cotswold Blue Log and Bagborough brie (

Although the interior design of Muse Brasserie, a European-Asian restaurant, feels a little dated, the dishes are winners. We tucked into the heritage tomato burrata with basil oil, £9.95, and lemon thyme chicken tikka with makhani sauce and butter rice, £16.95, washed down with a blood orange negroni for good measure. Meanwhile, the three-course kids’ menu is great value at £7.95 (

Super dreams

For our last night, we nabbed a new “super suite” at No.131, a hotel set over three townhouses.

These suites have double-shower wet rooms, huge copper roll-top baths and a Scandinavian-cabin-style kids’ room – plus state of the art sound systems. Rooms cost from £130 B&B (

The hotel’s Gin & Juice terrace feels like being in the Med on a summer’s evening, and offers over 400 gins, which is obviously dangerous! The Jaffa Cake G&T was our favourite find and not at all sweet, £7.50, while the lemon meringue pie on the restaurant’s dessert menu looks and tastes amazing, £8.

Come morning, looking out over Imperial Gardens while feasting on eggs royale to a soundtrack of Latin music, I almost feel like I have hopped on a plane to be here. Almost.

This wasn’t the summer break I’d planned, but it proved that it can be good to think outside of the (horse) box.

GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL [email protected]

Source: Read Full Article

You May Also Like