by Kumweni The beautiful Cotswolds plays host to the Cheltenham Festival
Wherever and whenever there is a festival there is an increased demand for accommodation. Whether it is literary, musical or sporting in nature, festivals bring people together in large numbers, and that inevitably puts a premium on getting your accommodation sorted sooner rather than later.
Nowhere is this illustrated more clearly than in the annual celebration of steeple chasing that is the Cheltenham Festival. The annual meeting in the Cotswold countryside has grown over the years to become one of the most well attended events in the British sporting calendar. It now regularly boasts an average daily attendance exceeding 50,000. Bearing in mind that there are four days of racing and that there are plenty of punters who will have only enough stamina for a day or two at a time, a reported aggregate figure of 232,000 is hardly unrealistic.
Unlike so many major attractions, the Cheltenham racecourse is set amidst the rolling green hills of the English countryside. That puts a premium on accommodation close to the action. Racing fans are not quite as free and easy as music festival goers. They like their home comforts and are quite prepared to pay for them – especially if they’ve conjured a win from their day’s outing.
Last year’s winner, Lord Windermere, made bettors happy when romping home in dramatic style at 20/1, and given that plenty of punters are prepared to put down hundreds of pounds on a race that means there is no shortage people looking to upgrade their accommodation at short notice. It only makes all the more sense to establish a firm agreement with your host. Free spending high rollers have a way of being strangely persuasive when the festival is in full swing.
With its annual influx of tens of thousands of Irish fans and its well established tradition for ‘hard living’ as part of the festival experience, Cheltenham is a sporting event like no other. The vast, roaring grandstands, the rolling, rustic backdrop and the sheer dramatic spectacle of the racing itself make it one of the standout events in the annual British sporting calendar. More than the Grand National – which is invariably lauded for its universal popular appeal – Cheltenham brings the real, committed racing fans out of the woodwork. It makes for a far more intense, not to say passionate, sporting atmosphere.
An all-pervasive Anglo-Irish rivalry adds additional spice to an occasion that is invariably ripe with banter and frequently awash with Guinness. It is estimated that as many as 200,000 pints will be downed during the course of the meeting.
The good news is that the region around the racetrack is blessed with an abundance of cosy, affordable and comfortable pubs, inns, hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations. The Cotwolds are a destination with plenty to commend beyond the racing. The lush greenery of the English countryside, the handsome Georgian architecture of Gloucester and Cheltenham, not to mention a host of nearby stately homes and gardens, and a spree of delightfully traditional English villages and market towns make the region a magnet for visitors all year round. There is more to the region than just the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’!
If you are planning a trip to the area in the springtime, it might make a certain sense to decide whether a trip to the festival is for you. If it’s not, then the festival dates between 10th and 13th of March might be worth making a note of. Not only will the quiet of the English countryside not be quite as tranquil as you might expect, you will also find that turning a blind eye to all the excitement may be easier said than done: it is quite a party!