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A Quick Guide to the Cheltenham Festival in the UK

By February 23, 2016October 8th, 2017No Comments

As a kid, I used to cut out newspaper clippings of the winning horses from the Kentucky Derby. As a horse freak more than 20 years ago, I’d religiously follow top jockeys and the races on TV to see who would qualify for the big ones. On Derby day, I’d sit glued to the TV hoping my horse would win. Honestly, I usually picked the one with the girliest name.

When I arrived to the UK as an adult, I was so excited to hear all about the thrilling races that take place in this country too. It’s still a dream of mine to see a famous horse race in person and spend a few days soaking up all the palpable passion at the track.


On Your Marks!

One of the most famous in the UK is the Cheltenham Festival. Taking place every March, it’s a way to welcome in the English spring and cheer on your favorite jockeys in more than 25 different races spanning over the four-day event. It also has a second biggest winner’s pot for a race in England behind the Grand National.


horse and handler at the cheltenham estival in England photo by dannyboy via flickr


Don’t forget, for the Cheltenham Races 2016 – pick your finalist! Half the fun is choosing which horse you think will win so you can celebrate with a little bonus in your purse, or at least drown your sorrows in solidarity after a loss with a big bottle of bubbly. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.


Extra Pomp and Circumstance

Although the races seem like a blast – I’d love to see the festivities taking place at Ladies Day. All the women (and some of the inclined men!) wear their absolutely best dressed, staggeringly high heels and completely silly hats to the track just for fun and for entry into some cash prizes. It looks like something a group of gal pals could indulge with a weekend in the Cotswolds.

Cheltenham Festival-ladies-day photo-via-daily-mail

I hope this year I can attend in person, as it coincides with another one of my favorite things – St. Patrick’s Day. If not, I can’t wait to cheer on the talented finalists in London at one of the hosted parties and plan for my own in-person experience next year.

Let’s round it up. What you will need to go to the Cheltenham Festival this March:

  • Flights, train tickets or rental car to Gloucestershire
  • Tickets to races you want to see, Ladies Day and special drinking tents/live music
  • Accommodations in Gloucestershire with plans for transportation to and from the venue
  • Plans/reservations for meals at busy restaurants nearby
  • Outfits for Ladies Day judging (accessorized to the teeth, these Brits know how to get gussied up)
  • Some backup comfy shoes (there’s lot of standing around and imbibing!)

Tickets to the Cheltenham Festival and many of the events sell out quickly, so do plan in advance.

Have you ever gone to a horse race while traveling? How about a sporting event in general? Was it worth it? Let us know!

Eileen Cotter Wright

Author Eileen Cotter Wright

Eileen Cotter is a freelance travel journalist and owner of Pure Wander. She's our resident expat extraordinaire and falls down a lot in yoga class. Follow her on Instagram @Pure_Wander.

More posts by Eileen Cotter Wright

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