How to celebrate the Cheltenham Open

With less than a fortnight to go until the jump-racing event, we share our perfect Cheltenham weekend itinerary

Image: Getty

What to see and do

Whether you choose to spend an afternoon or the full three days at the Cheltenham Open, you’re in for an action-packed experience at one of Britain’s most beautiful racecourses. Visit on Friday 11 November for Countryside Day, a busy schedule of jump races alongside a lively country fair; watch the BetVictor Gold Cup, one of the season’s racing highlights, on Saturday 12; or bring friends and family along for Open Sunday. If you can, make time during your weekend to visit Cheltenham itself, with its mix of independent boutiques, cafés and museums (the Wilson gallery in particular is worth a detour), and admire the historic buildings in a town renowned as one of the best-preserved examples of Regency architecture.

 

Image courtesy of Ellenborough Park

 

Where to stay

For easy access to the races, there’s no better option than Ellenborough Park, a luxury spa hotel set in a grand, 15th-century manor house in the market town of Southam. Book the Cheltenham Open package to take advantage of complimentary Bentley transfers to and from the races, full English breakfast for two and use of the spa facilities. Plunge into the heated outdoor swimming-pool; unwind in the Jacuzzi, steam and spa rooms; order a healthy pick-me-up from the smoothie menu; and treat yourself to one of the array of specialist treatments, from an express facial to a full-body massage. If the weather is fine, stroll around the lovely grounds and marvel at the panoramic Cotswolds views.

 

Image courtesy of No 38 The Park

 

If you’re planning to extend your stay beyond the races, No 38 The Park is the perfect place to overnight in central Cheltenham. Set in a magnificent Georgian townhouse, it’s part of the Lucky Onion family, a group of design-led hotels, restaurants and country pubs that share a wonderfully cosy, home-from-home ambience. On entrance, rather than being greeted by a uniformed official manning the front desk, you’ll stroll into what feels like someone’s (albeit fabulously decorated) living-room, where a friendly member of the team will offer to show you around the house and invite you to relax with a drink at the honesty bar or flick through the pile of magazines in the lounge. Each room comes with a gloriously spacious super-king-size bed, a freestanding tub (in the middle of the bedroom: sheer decadence) and a luxurious wetroom. It’s a romantic choice for a couple, but if you’re travelling as part of a group, the whole house is available for exclusive hire. There’s no restaurant, but a delicious home-cooked breakfast is served downstairs, and you can always pop down the road to the venue’s sister hotel, No 131, to enjoy thoughtfully prepared gastropub-style dishes, from courgetti salad with pumpkin pesto to whole roast partridge with bread sauce and watercress.

 

Image courtesy of No 131

 

Where to dine

Cheltenham is home to some excellent food and wine, from steak and cocktails at the Ox to contemporary British cooking from a former Fat Duck chef at the White Spoon. For a special occasion, visit Prithvi, a fine-dining Indian restaurant where the service is as impeccable as the dishes. Dinner here is a memorable experience: the team go out of their way to craft a menu that suits you, interspersing your chosen courses with surprise miniature dishes tailored to suit your preferences. Starters include beautifully tender, lightly spiced chicken with spinach and garlic purée, and pan-fried scallops with creamed onion, while mains are a far cry from the heavy, overly sauced dishes that the western world sometimes mistakes for Indian cuisine. Instead, expect subtly flavoured, delicately presented food, from slow-cooked duck in a coconut reduction to duck egg and potato with caramelised onion. Desserts are a clever take on the classics: pecan pie turns out to be an aromatic, cardamom-infused creation, while pistachio cake gets a tangy kick with the addition of ginger snap and a melt-in-the-mouth raspberry jelly. This is ingenious cooking that you won’t forget in a hurry.

 

Image courtesy of Prithvi

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