Many will have been to the Cheltenham Festival before, and have their own individual routines in place, prior to arriving at the racecourse on the Tuesday morning.
I’ve been revisiting the Cotswolds in March for many years, and my opening day habits have evolved over time, thanks to experiences both exceptional and ordinary.
Mrs K and I drive into Cheltenham and park in the town centre. Many will head straight for the course, but I love to sample the atmosphere of Cheltenham; the pubs, the streets, the bookies and that wonderful walk through Pittville Park towards the greatest racecourse on earth.
There are numerous side streets with free parking. I tend to head into town on the A40 and swing a right near the town centre. Look for signs pointing toward the Cheltenham Cricket Club and you can’t go far wrong. Once parked it’s a short walk to the High Street and the first stop at the Old Restoration. Comfy seats and a cracking bacon butty are just what is needed whilst scanning through Geegeez.co.uk for last minute tips.
After a swift pint we head for another wonderful watering hole; Tailors on Cambray Place. Just off the High Street, it’s an elegant pub full of racing folk from all walks of life. Chances are that many of the tables will be reserved, as their breakfasts are particularly desirable. But time there is not wasted. Just grab a half and soak in the atmosphere, as like-minded folk argue over the likely winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Has to be Altior, surely.
For lovers of real ales, ‘Wild Beer’ at Jessops House is directly opposite, and is well worth a visit. The place only opened in late 2015 and caters for Beer Snobs. I love it, and would highly recommend it. You must head up to the top floor for a particularly relaxing pint on comfy sofas. ‘It’s all about the ambience’.
With a few crafty halves in the tank it’s time to put those life changing bets on. Head back toward the High Street, take a left and then a right into Winchcombe Street. Ladbrokes and William Hill are perfectly placed to catch racegoers as they head north towards the racecourse. Leaving the bookies, safe in the knowledge that you will never have to work again, continue up Winchcombe with Pittville Park in the distance.
There’s just time for one last stop; a little more studying will not go amiss, at the wonderfully named The Feathered Fish, before joining the masses on their pilgrimage to jump racing’s Shangri La.
For those heading to the Festival for the first time, I can only say how incredibly jealous I am. You must explore every part of the course. Stand at the top end of the track, beyond the winning post, looking over Prestbury Park to Cleeve Hill. Head to the parade ring, a truly stunning amphitheatre from which to behold equines great and good. And be sure to visit the Guinness Village. If ever there was a place to sample the true meaning of a Festival, this is surely it.
There’s nothing quite like The Festival. Get to Cheltenham early to ensure you ‘wring out’ every last drop of the incredible experience. Taste it, feel it, cheer it, live it and love it. No four days deliver more.