When I first met Mr B the only interest I had in horse racing was a £1 bet on the Grand National and what people wore to Ascot. Fast forward 9 years and I’m now a racing regular who looks forward to Cheltenham Festival Week as much as he does!
Mr B has been attending Gold Cup day since he was in university and two years ago to commemorate his 15th anniversary he decided he would attend all four days; a new tradition that has continued. This year is my 5th anniversary and so you’d think by now that we’d have a routine figured out, you’d be wrong. But here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
- Make sure you have a decent breakfast before heading to the course as once you’re in the food options are a little sketchy (think overpriced, over subscribed, tasteless)
- Wear comfortable shoes, there are buses to and from town but walking is quicker
- Take advantage of the little pop up café bar on Pittville Park to get a drink or coffee for the walk to the course7
- Do make sure you go to the Guinness Village at some point to watch the band & soak up the atmosphere.
- Book restaurants / pubs in advance for dinner and breakfast
- Don’t listen to your husband’s horse tips!
Hotels, as you can imagine, are in short supply so this year we rented a small cottage in the centre of town which was ideal. After years of struggling on a busy morning train with out luggage we decided this year to travel on Monday instead, it proved a great decision as we arrived early evening in plenty of time to for a relaxed dinner at The Wild Beer Company. It was fairly quiet, but as we walked there and back you could sense the atmosphere starting to build around town, several pubs had live music on but we resisted the temptation opting for an early night ready for the next day’s action.
On Tuesday morning there was a real sense of spring in the air, we got ready early and headed to The Fire Station for breakfast. After a couple of Red Snapper’s and Eggs Benedict we started the walk to the course, stopping for a quick glass of champagne in NO 38 – it was day one and hopes were high! We enjoyed a few races on course before heading to the Big Bucks champagne bar, prices are eye wateringly high but you get a great view of the course and it was nice to rest our feet for 20 mins. The atmosphere was around the course was fantastic and we enjoyed some live music in the Guinness Village in between races. I’d had a good day betting but Mr B wasn’t sharing the celebrations and we strolled back into town after the last race I was thankful that I’d booked somewhere for dinner as everywhere was filling up very quickly. We made our way to The Tavern and very sensibly we enjoyed our dinner with a couple of drinks before calling it a night at 9pm! We had planned to be sensible, but never did I think we’d make a wise decision like that when there was so much fun to be had in town.
Wednesday morning, feeling far perkier than we’d predicted we decided to ditch the idea of breakfast in the cottage and headed off to the Fire Station again, thankfully it was still pretty quiet so we got a table no problem and enjoyed breakfast whilst pouring over the Racing Post choosing our horses for the day. Overnight the wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped and on the exposed course it was very cold so we made use of the hot toddy stand on a couple of occasions before admitting defeat and taking shelter in the champagne bar for one of the races. The pace picked up a little in the afternoon as our luck improved and after the races we made our way to the Montpelier area of town. There we walked around a few of the pubs enjoying the live music and soaking up the post race atmosphere before admitting defeat about midnight, which was a very sensible decision.
As Mr B swapped me out for the boys on Thursday morning I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that my festival was over again for another year but as I walked through torrential rain to find a café to work from before getting the train home I knew I’d made the right decision. I might be a Cheltenham veteran, but I think I’m lacking the stamina for 4 days of racing action.
Places I’d recommend:
Brunch – The Fire Station / Boston Tea Party / Brewhouse
Pre Race Drinks – No 38 / Pop up bar on Pittville Park / Brewhouse
Post Race Drinks – John Gordons / Wild Beer Co / The Retreat
Live Music – The Suffolk Arms / Harry Cooks Freehouse
Dinner – The Tavern / Wild Beer Co / The Fire Station