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The largest town within the Cotswolds and famous for its horse racing

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Cheltenham Races
Town Hall
Pittville Pump Room
Holst Birthplace Museum
Regent Shopping Arcade
Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire, has a past that stretches back many hundreds of years. However, very little remains of its early history.
What we do know is that the town really started to take off in the 18th century, after a significant event in the year 1716 AD. A supply of high-quality mineral water was discovered in underground springs, which kick-started Cheltenham's development into a busy spa town. The town's early fans included King George III, who visited in 1788. His presence only increased the spa's popularity, and today, there are many reminders of its status as one of the best in Britain. Even its railway station is still called "Cheltenham Spa".
Of course, nowadays, the town's is more famous for something else entirely. Every March, thousands and thousands of people make their way here for one of the biggest events on the horse racing calendar. It's called the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and its so popular that every hotel in the entire town is usually booked up, 12 months in advance. It's part of the Cheltenham Festival, which features 26 races over a period of 4 days. The Gold Cup is the biggest event, on the last day. In 2009, the prize money on offer for this single race added up to nearly half a million pounds. But this isn't the only money changing hands. Every year, over the four days of the festival, hundreds of millions of pounds are gambled by the keen, hopeful onlookers.

Racing at Cheltenham.
Photo charlesdyer
During the rest of the year, Cheltenham has a range of other festivals, with completely different themes. These include music, science, and literature. It's unlikely that any of these will ever be as big as the horse races, but it does ensure that the town remains an interesting place, all year round.
Visitors are often taken in by the striking architecture. Much of it is built in the Regency style, which dates from the early 19th century. In fact, Cheltenham is sometimes referred to as the "most complete regency town in England". A typical building in this style has a white exterior, adorned with elegant arches, columns, and balconies.

Cheltenham Town Hall.
Photo Arpingstone
There are many good examples, but the best of the bunch is surely the Pittville Pump Room. This was the latest and greatest of Cheltenham's spa buildings. It spent many years at the centre of a pleasure garden complex, but it is now run by the town council, who use it for many public events, including music concerts, comedy, and more. It is also the most popular wedding venue in town. The building still serves its original purpose, by pumping up spa water from an 80-foot-deep well. It is used in the fountain within the building's main hall.

Pittville Pump Room in Pittville Park.
Photo chillihead
Another notable regency building is a relatively small terrace house, not far from the Pump Room. In 1874, this was the birthplace of Gustav Holst, a child with Swedish roots. He grew up to become one of the best known composers of his time. His most famous work, "The Planets", is an enduringly popular classic. This house is now the Holst Birthplace Museum, which tells the story of his life, and shows off many of his possessions, including the very piano on which "The Planets" was composed. The house also serves as a representation of life in the 19th century; all of its rooms are furnished and decorated with items and artefacts from that period.
Cheltenham is also known for being the largest town within the Cotswolds and is an excellent base from which to explore it.

Shopping in the Regent Arcade Centre.
Photo Brian Robert Marshall
Visitor Information
Cheltenham Tourist Information Municipal Offices, 77 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1PJ. Tel: 01242 522 878
Holst Birthplace Museum is open Tuesday to Saturdays, 10am to 4pm (closed mid- December to early February). Entry costs around £5. 4 Clarence Road, Cheltenham, GL52 2AY. Tel: 01242 524846

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