When the Cheltenham Festival comes around there will be a host of people who pop in for just a single day, perhaps loving the sound of the ‘Cheltenham Roar’ on day one, or maybe being big fans of the Gold Cup. It’s possible that they’ll decide to make it there and then home in one day, forgoing the chance to explore this beautiful part of Gloucestershire.
Yet many others will want to go to more than just one day of the meeting or will be planning to have a few drinks and are therefore unable to get home, choosing instead to stay over in a hotel or other property. There is no shortage of them in the area and the people that run these establishments are used to the rush around Festival time, so the key to getting as good a deal as you can comes in booking early.
With all the hotels below we know people who have stayed in them and feel they deserve recommendation. The list is varied to suit different budgets, locations and requirements.
Hotels Near Cheltenham Racecourse
Here’s a look at some properties that will suit any budget. One thing to bear in mind is that hotel prices go up when there’s more demand for them, so we’ll put the ‘usual’ price if you were to stay there during a non-Festival week and then the Festival price.
The list is ordered by distance away from the racecourse:
No 38 The Park
Another upscale guesthouse with a limited number of rooms, No 38 The Park has free Wi-Fi for guests and free parking for those of you driving. It's just 15 minutes or so from the course and has a restaurant and bar area. If the sun is shining in March then there's a terrace that you can use to take advantage of it. Decorated with delightful furnishings and given a genuine modern day touch, it's a pricey but convenient place to base yourself.
If you want to go really upmarket then you’re unlikely to get better than this five-star hotel about a mile and a half form the course. There are two restaurants within the grounds, which also boasts an outdoor swimming pool. There’s a garden, a terrace area, a full-service spa and five different meeting rooms. You can park for free, use the complimentary Wi-Fi and also have breakfast included in the price of your stay. If you want to then you can even use the arcade and games room to unwind in.
Holiday Inn Express Cheltenham
Less than a mile from the course is this member of the Holiday Inn chain of hotels. As well having a bar, a garden and meeting rooms, the hotel also has Wi-Fi capability. There’s a hot and cold breakfast buffet included in the price of your stay and if you want to explore some of the other delights that Cheltenham has to offer then you’ll be pleased to know that the hotel isn’t far from some of the more exciting ones
The hotel only has eleven rooms, which might help to explain why the prices go up so much when the Festival rolls around. With free Wi-Fi, self-parking and breakfast available, though, it's something of a home-from-home for those staying there. There's a restaurant and bar area where you can unwind with a couple of drinks and a terrace for if the weather is pleasant. Based just 30 minutes walk from the racecourse, it's got plenty to offer racegoers.
81 The Prom Hotel
Slightly more upmarket than the Holiday Inn’s offering is this four-star hotel that has just seven guest bedrooms. The increased price combined with the small nature of the venue means that you’ll get personal attention to ensure your stay is as good as possible. Part of that includes the installation of memory foam mattresses, whilst the more business-minded amongst you will be pleased by the free Wi-Fi. You’ll get breakfast included in the cost of your stay and you can also park for free here.
Sometimes staying in a chain hotel is the best thing that you can do when you're away from your home comforts for a while. On that from the Malmaison in Cheltenham has got you covered, being a genuinely plush venue in which to spend time. It's located close to Cheltenham Town Hall, so close to the centre and around 40 minutes walk from the racecourse, which is a pleasant stroll when the weather is nice. There are 61 rooms, self-parking and spa services on offer.
Doubletree by Hilton Cheltenham
The Doubletree hotels are an interesting twist on the Hilton brand, marketing themselves as a more modern variation on a classic theme. There are just under 150 rooms in the Cheltenham venue, which also boasts an indoor pool, health club and spa facilities. That gives you plenty of time to unwind when you're away from the racecourse, also offering Wi-Fi and free parking. As with other hotels based close to the Town Hall, it's about a 40 minute walk from the course.
If you've got money to burn then Cowley Manor might just tickle your fancy. With 30 guest rooms and a restaurant and bar, the manor has delightful grounds that you can wander if the weather is on your side. There's also an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool, as well as a health club and business centre. They promise a continental breakfast as part of the cost and they also offer a limo or town car service you can use to get to the course. You'll probably need to, given it's about 6.5 miles away.
The Orchard Hotel
Located around 3 miles from Gloucester Cathedral and 12 miles from the course, The Orchard Hotel allows you to stay within touching distance of the racecourse whilst also getting to see a different part of Gloucestershire. If luxury is more important to you than price then this isn't necessarily the place you'll want to stay. If you're happy with cheap, cheerful and convenient, however, then you'll be delighted with The Orchard. There's free parking and Wi-Fi available, too.
When the racing comes around, people will come up with all sorts of ways of making money. The Shepherds Lodge in Worcester is basically a glamping establishment, being exactly what it says on the tin - a converted shepherd's lodge. It's located in the middle of a field and has a fireplace inside, as well as a small toilet. Aimed more at people that would normal camp but want to take a step up from that whilst they're at the races, it's 14 miles from the course and offers basic but fun accommodation.
The Wheatsheaf Inn
The perfect blend of a pleasant local inn and a luxury hotel, The Wheatsheaf Inn has two bars and a restaurant. Located in the heart of Cheltenham and around 14 miles from the course, there are 14 rooms available here. It has a gorgeous garden area and a pleasant terrace, with spa services available for those that want them. They also offer childcare for those of you that might want to get away from the kids during your stay.
The Mousetrap Inn
If you want a venue that offers a little bit more value then you'll have to start edging further and further away from the racecourse. That's certainly the case with The Mousetrap Inn, which is about 16 miles away but is worth the travel. Offering 10 rooms and promising a cosy, relaxed feel, it's every inch the country getaway. It's a pub as well as an inn, offering home-cooked meals and plenty of different ales for the drinkers amongst you to experiment with.
Serviced Guest ApartSuites The Unicorn
Sometimes you don't want to stay in a hotel, however fun that might be. You want the comfort of being able to relax in an area that reminds you of home, which is what the Serviced Guest ApartSuites at The Unicorn offer. There's free parking and room service available, plus you can take advantage of the terrace and garden area to unwind in after a day of taking on the bookies. Located 18 miles away from the course, you can go and see the nearby Model Village whilst you're here.
Supply And Demand Or Profiteering?
As you can tell from the above list, pretty much every hotel or accommodation provider ups their price when the Cheltenham Festival rolls around. It’s not exactly shocking, given how many people flood into the area for one of the National Hunt’s most thrilling meetings. Yet is it right that they’re able to do it?
Whilst there might well be an increase in the number of people looking for a room, the rooms themselves aren’t any different whether there’s racing go on or not. It’s not as if the maids work harder at cleaning the rooms or the chefs are briefly replaced by Michelin-starred alternatives for the duration of your stay, so why the boost in price?
Supply and demand will always see prices rising when a major event comes around. Try looking at the different cost for flights and accommodation when the finalists of a sporting event such as the Champions League final are decided, for example. Just because it’s become the norm, however, doesn’t necessarily make it right.
Cheltenham’s Chance To Make Money
Cheltenham isn’t exactly without any other opportunities for local businesses to make money. The likes of The Playhouse and Everyman theatres bring countless people into the region when there are popular acts or shows playing in them. Likewise Gloucestershire County Cricket Club welcomes in fans of the game on regular occasions throughout the year.
It’s also noteworthy that the town plays host to festivals other than just the one for horses. Jazz, science and, more famously, literature festivals are held in Cheltenham at various times throughout the year. All of them see people flood into the Gloucestershire town and surrounding regions, but none have the pure and unadulterated influx of people in quite the same way that is boasted by the horse racing.
As an example of that, it’s interesting to note that the Malmaison in Cheltenham, which boosts its price to more than £500 when the Festival at Prestbury Park comes around, is available for around £150 during the Literature Festival. The simple truth is The Festival is on a differnt level entirely and there just isn’t the same level of demand during any other time of the year, meaning that hotel, bar and restaurant owners use the opportunity of the races to raise money that will pretty much keep them in business for the rest of the year.
Weighing Up Value For Money And Convenience
Given that it’s a known factor that hotel proprietors will increase their prices for the Festival, it’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing and able to pay. Hotels further away from the action charge much less than those close to the racecourse, so do you want to save money on your hotel or have an easy trip back to your room after the racing is over for the day? That’s pretty much what you need to decide before looking to book your hotel.
If you or someone in your party is not a drinker then you might well be driving to the venue. If that’s the case then staying outside Cheltenham is just a sensible thing to do, given that you’ll be saving money on your hotel cost and not having to worry about how you make it back to your accommodation when the last race is run. If, on the other hand, you know you’re going to have to take taxis back and forth then it’s worth factoring that into the cost of your stay.
It’s Not Just Hotel Prices You Need To Consider
Taxi prices will be high after the racing for the same reason that hotel prices go up – there are loads of people wanting to get one and not many drivers able to pick people up. Bars are likely to increase their prices for drinks by a couple of quid and non-chain restaurants will almost certainly do the same thing.
Add all of those price increases together and it can make for a very costly trip. Factoring in all of those different things will give you a clearer idea of how much your time at the races is going to cost even before you’ve had a look at your budget for any betting you might want to do.
Obviously staying outside of Cheltenham will present you with a cheaper hotel, but you’re also likely to pay less for your food and drink further away from the racecourse. There will always be some chancers looking to make a quick buck, of course, but generally speaking a town or village away from the action will see you paying ‘normal’ prices for pretty much everything. You can then use that extra money to spend on whatever you want.
Cheltenham Isn’t The Only Event Cashing In
For the record, it’s not as if the Cheltenham Festival is the only sporting event that takes place around the world that sees an increase in prices in hotels and the likes. In 2016 The Telegraph newspaper did an investigative piece looking at the various major sporting events that took place throughout the year and how the hotels based nearby increased their prices accordingly.
When they looked at hotels close to the venue for that year’s Super Bowl, for example, they found that the prices went up from £69 and £103 in two hotels to £269 and £314 when the even came around. It’s also interesting that horse racing doesn’t suffer price increases as much as some other sports. When Lyon hosted the Champions League final prices in two hotels went from £170 and £142 to £757 and £2,272.
Not that the fact that other people are ripped off just as much or even more than you is much of a consolation, of course. It still feels like profiteering in the extreme. Yet it is at least slightly easier to swallow the bitter pill when you know it’s a common practice. Ultimately you should only pay what you’re able to afford and try to avoid the thought process that you’ll win enough money to cover your hotel stay. That is only likely to see you have a much pricier trip to the races than you were planning for.