A Guide to Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Festival is one of the major sporting events that occurs in the United Kingdom. Every year in March thousands of people flood to town in the south of England to watch the elite of jumps horse racing compete for the ultimate prizes in the sport.

The event is popular with both men and women as the occasion can mean more than the actual racing on the track. There are only seven races in the day and there’s plenty of time to enjoy being in one of the elite sports venues in England without having to be a fanatic of horse racing, especially if you’re able to win a few quid. If you’re not a racing aficionado, it’s best to look at the free bet offers through Oddschecker for a relatively risk-free option, which can be useful if you’re an inexperienced punter.

In 2018, the Festival set a new attendance record as 262,637 spectators flocked through the gates, beating their previous best by 2,000. Television figures have remained solid, although due to the competition provided by other sources of entertainment at home, they’ve not enjoyed the rise with the number of people attending the event in person.

There’s nothing that can beat attending an event like Cheltenham Festival in person. Similar to that of a concert or a gig, there is an atmosphere that cannot be replicated sitting at home. It’s why people of all ages flood to Cheltenham in March to take up a once in a lifetime experience.

Getting there and Hotels

Like all major venues there are excellent transport links to reach Cheltenham Racecourse. You can opt to drive to the event or at least your hotel if situated in and around the town. There will be options for taxis and bus services available from the town centre to the racecourse and vice versa, although for the latter there is a strict time for the final departure after the last race of the day. Tickets for the bus are quite reasonable, ranging from £3 for a single and a fiver for a return journey.

Cheltenham also boasts a railway station, which sees frequent services available from the Midlands and the capital. Direct trains are possible from the north of England, as well as Scotland. Flights are possible to Gloucestershire Airport, although it does not service commercial airlines. For those flights, the nearest airports are Bristol and Birmingham International, although they are a significant distance away from the town.

There are numerous hotels in the vicinity. Whether it’s a Travelodge or a Premier Inn, there are options for accommodations on a budget. There are five-star hotels in the region if you fancy something more upmarket, including Ellenborough Park, which boasts a beautiful spa within its grounds.

Tickets, Dress and Betting

Tickets are usually available right until the day of the event you plan to attend, although Gold Cup Friday will likely be sold out in advance. The prices are reasonable for a major sporting event, especially one that lasts a large portion of the day. Tickets typically start at £45 for a place in the Best Mate Enclosure, while the Tattersalls Enclosure comes in at £60, the more prestigious Club Enclosure costs £90. For hospitality, it’s best to contact the racecourse itself for bookings in the Guinness Grandstand and the Panoramic Restaurant. There is a 5 course a la carte menu to enjoy in the latter, and it is the perfect place to watch the racing and enjoy your food in the warmth – remember it is still early March in the United Kingdom.

There are also private boxes and access to the Gin and Jazz Lounge on offer, although both those will be a lot more expensive. For the hospitality sections of the racecourse, there are strict dress codes which need to be adhered to. Gents will need to be suited and booted, whereas the ladies will also need to be in formal attire. Given it’s a raceday, you will want to be dressed to the nines anyway. However, in the enclosures, casual wear is allowed, while fancy dress is also permitted at the discretion of the racecourse.

Then comes the betting itself. You can take expert advice or back the horse that takes your fancy based on name, colour and most importantly form. There are kiosks around the racecourse that take cash and even now contactless access for debit and credit cards.

Cheltenham Festival promises to be an extremely fun day out, even for those who are not clued up on all the jargon of horse racing. With a rich history and plenty to do for all interests, it’s one of the best days of the social calendar in England! 

Diana Simpson

Diana is a passionate journalist and a curious soul who is on the quest of finding what she loves the most; coffee, dogs, books or traveling? Born and bred in London, writing is her healing power.