Cheltenham is well-known for its horse-racing, spa waters and elegant buildings (the town is the most complete Regency town in the UK – it has more than Bath!), but how many people know about the edgier side of its personality – the street art, how it buzzes when there’s a festival in town and its family-friendly vibes? Despite being only a 50-minute drive away in Bristol, I’ve only been to Cheltenham with kids a handful of times and never ventured much further afield than a friend’s house, so, I jumped at the chance to explore the town with Visit Cheltenham and The Bicycle Hub. Here’s my perfect itinerary for 24 hours in Cheltenham with kids:
10am – get on yer bike!
For an exciting way to see the historic sights of Cheltenham with kids in tow, start the day exploring the town on two wheels. The Bicycle Hub, located behind Cheltenham Spa railway station, rents bikes and helmets for just £20 a day (£10 for a Child’s bike, trailer or Tagalong) which includes a detailed mobile GPS app and step-by-step instructions for following the Regency Cheltenham Cycle Trail. The trail follows a gentle six-mile cycle route that winds and wends it way along the Honeybourne Line, past spectacular street art (the legacy of the Cheltenham Paint Festival) through lake-lovely Pittville Park and along handsome streets of Regency houses. Simply fix your smartphone to the handlebars of your bike using their waterproof mount and away you go!
11am – soak up some park life
There’s a good few hours to be spent in Cheltenham’s largest ornamental park with kids, which happily is also part of the cycle trail. If you’re following the cycle route, pedal alongside the lower lake until you reach The Boathouse Cafe. Here you’ll find some handy rails to lock your bikes to, before embarking on another mode of transport in this terribly picturesque spot – rowboat! There are a range of vessels for hire that can fit up to five people in, however just be warned that their smallest life jackets fit kids aged three and over and little’uns won’t be allowed onboard without one.
As well as rowing boats, The Boathouse Cafe runs events such as Welly Walks, a Halloween ‘Spooktacular’, Christmas craft and drama workshops and nature trails, so it’s worth checking ahead what’s on before your trip. They also have an impressive ice cream selection and host children’s parties.
12pm – Pit stop at Pittville Park
Stop in for a bite to eat at The Boathouse Cafe, find a pretty picnic spot in the park to munch your lunch or pick up a snack from The Kiosk next to the ginormous play area in Pittville Park while the kids play in what appears to be The Ultimate Playground. A popular haven for dads with their lattes, sent to entertain their offspring on Sunday mornings, this park is an adventure wonderland for kids. There’s even an aviary and rabbits and chickens to coo at once they’ve finished clambering, pinging and swinging in the play area.
1- 5pm – afternoon ambling options in Cheltenham with kids
Take a gander at the glorious Pittville Pump Rooms, famous for their ‘therapeutic’ waters which inspired the development of Cheltenham as a Spa Town for fashionable society in the 1800s. If you fancy a go at curing your ailments, you can still taste the briny medicinal spa waters from the pump. If you’re visiting between April and October, the open-air, family-friendly Sandford Parks Lido is a perfect afternoon option for a warm day, or if your visit to the town coincides with the Cheltenham Literature Festival (early-mid October), head to Montpellier Gardens to find lots of fun child-friendly events to choose from (storytelling with characters, tug of war, lots of books etc).
If it’s not festival season this pretty park has a kids play area for little ones, a skate board ramp which might tempt older children and it’s surrounded by cafes, lovely shops and eateries. If little ones (and parents!) are flagging, treat yourself to a cheeky afternoon pick-me-up on some sinfully rich and gooey concoction at Baker & Graze, a short walk from Montpellier Gardens.
Otherwise, you could check out the Gustav Holst Museum – birthplace of one of England’s most-respected composers (best known for The Planets) – and step back in time to 1832 for a taste of how a Regency terraced house would have looked during that era. Or pop into The Wilson Museum,which hosts family-friendly events, exciting trails, craft sessions, and lots more alongside its exhibitions.
5.30pm onwards – drinks, dinner and bed
For child-friendly boutique style on your stay in Cheltenham with kids, the Cotswold Grange Hotel oozes pizzazz without compromising on comfort. There’s plenty of quirk to set it apart from a standard hotel – glorious globular copper lights and bird decor details, local artists’ work, scrummy food, Orla Kiely bathroom smellies, homemade cookies in the bedrooms and enthusiastic staff. Kids are welcome too and camp beds (sturdy and cosy ones – as opposed to cheap and flimsy) are added to transform suites into make family rooms.
Downstairs, there’s a chilled out lounge bar with a good gin selection, which always gets a tick in my book. This sort of set up works really well if you’re staying in a small hotel with young kids because it means that you can do dinner, settle them in bed and then, if the monitor stretches, lock the door and pop down for a nightcap rather than having to creep around in the dark in your bedroom after 8pm!
Those with older offspring could probably get away with heading to the hotel for a freshen up before venturing out to try Cheltenham’s foodie offering – they’ve just got a new Ivy Brasserie and it’s home to Michelin-starred Le Champignon Sauvage as well as lots of family-friendly independent restaurants. From the Cotswold Grange Hotel, you’re about a 20-minute walk into the main part of town, so you can stroll off a big dinner or get a quick cab back. A family suite starts from £149 including breakfast.
10am – day trips near Cheltenham
If you’re heading home after breakfast, you might want to stop in at one of the great family attractions within half an hour’s drive from Cheltenham. Cattle Country Adventure Park, Cotswold Farm Park, WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre and All Things Wild Nature Centre all make great days out with kids and the magical-village-green-style Giffords Circus at nearby Sudeley Castle (as part of their annual tour) is one to watch out for in summer.
*Disclosure: I was invited to do The Regency Cheltenham Cycling Tour with The Bicycle Hub, Visit Cheltenham and Bristol Bloggers Group and received a complimentary lunch at The Cotswold Grange Hotel in return for an honest review. All views are my own.
Pin it for later: