Cheltenham, also known as Cheltenham Spa, is a spa town and borough on the edge of the Cotswolds in the county of Gloucestershire. Cheltenham became known as a health and holiday spa town resort, following the discovery of mineral springs in 1716, and claims to be the most complete Regency town in Britain.
The town hosts several festivals of culture, often featuring nationally and internationally famous contributors and attendees; they include the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, the Cheltenham Science Festival, the Cheltenham Music Festival, the Cheltenham Cricket Festival and the Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival.
Cheltenham Racecourse, in the nearby village of Prestbury, is the home of National Hunt, or jumps, racing in the UK. Meetings are hosted from October to April. The highlight of the season is the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which is normally held in the middle of March, during the Cheltenham Festival.
The town’s football teams are the professional team Cheltenham Town F.C., who play in the Football League One, and semi-professional sides Bishop’s Cleeve, who play in the Hellenic League Premier, Cheltenham Saracens F.C. in the Hellenic League Division One and more recently, Montpellier Football Club, founded in 2021 by Liam Bond and Sam Collier and currently boasting a senior first team, a development team and a newly founded women’s team.
Amateur rugby union clubs include Cheltenham R.F.C., Cheltenham Saracens RFC, Cheltenham North R.F.C., Old Patesians R.F.C., Smiths Rugby and Cheltenham Civil Service R.F.C.
In rugby league, university side Gloucestershire All Golds were admitted into the semi-professional Championship 1. The Cheltenham Rugby Festival is a rugby league nines event held in May.
The oldest school in Cheltenham is Pate’s Grammar School (founded in 1574). Cheltenham College (founded in 1841) was the first of the public schools of the Victorian period. The school was the setting in 1968 for the classic Lindsay Anderson film ‘if….’. It also hosts the annual Cheltenham Cricket Festival, first staged in 1872, and the oldest cricket festival in the world.
The most famous school in the town, according to The Good Schools Guide, is Cheltenham Ladies’ College (founded in 1853). Dean Close School was founded in 1886 in memory of the Reverend Francis Close (1797–1882), a former rector of Cheltenham. The town also includes several campuses of the University of Gloucestershire, two other independent and six other state secondary schools, plus institutions of further education.
Cheltenham Spa railway station is located on the Bristol-Birmingham main line, with services to Gloucester, Bristol, Swindon, London Paddington, Cardiff Central, Bridgend, Maesteg, Plymouth and the South West, Birmingham, Derby, the North West, the North East and Scotland. The station is located to the west of the Montpellier area of the town and is known locally as ‘Lansdown’.
The Cheltenham Spa Express, once known as the Cheltenham Flyer, is a named passenger train connecting Cheltenham with London. The town has had seven railway stations, but never had a direct route towards Oxford and London which have always been reached via Gloucester and Stroud.
The town is known for its Regency architecture and is said to be “the most complete regency town in England”. Many of the buildings are listed, including the Cheltenham Synagogue, judged by Nikolaus Pevsner to be one of the architecturally best non-Anglican ecclesiastical buildings in Britain.