A complete guide to the Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham - March

A complete guide to the Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is one of, if not the highlight of the UK racing calendar. Every March, over 260,000 fans arrive at this lovely Cotswold town to watch the finest horses and jockeys take to the track. Four days of racing all peak with the sought-after Gold Cup, creating an exciting, luxurious experience that you’re bound to remember forever - it’s no wonder people come back year after year!

With a fantastic atmosphere, over £4.5 million in prize money and plenty to keep the whole family entertained, even between races, the Cheltenham Festival is an unmissable event in the Cotswolds.

Cheltenham Festival dates

So when is Cheltenham Festival? In 2021, the festival will run between the 16th and 19th March.

Cheltenham Festival tickets will be available to buy in advance online in due course. Keep an eye on their website for more information.

There are a limited number of on-the-day tickets which can be purchased on the gate, depending on availability. However, these are very much in demand so we strongly recommend booking in advance - early bird discounts are also available, so don’t wait too long!

If you’re planning to attend with the family, it may be good to know that on day 2, visitors aged between 5 and 17 can attend for half price (only available on the day).

Cheltenham Festival parking

There is free parking at Cheltenham Racecourse on all race days, including during the festival. However, it does get very busy so an early arrival is recommended! It can also be slow exiting the festival at the end of the day, so make sure to consider this when planning your visit.

Parking is carefully allocated with different zones, in order to ensure that people can get in and out of the grounds as efficiently as possible. There will, of course, be marshalls to help you park smoothly and get inside, so make sure to follow the signs and their directions for a stress-free experience.

Parking at the festival is £15 in advance and £25 on the day (prices may change for 2021). You can pre book your car parking pass online using the Cheltenham website.

Visitors can also take advantage of the Cheltenham park and ride, located at Arle Court (GL51 6SY, near M5 Junction 11) and at the racecourse. The service runs every few minutes, with buses going to and from the Town Centre. Please note that times vary on Sundays, and the service is not run directly by the festival itself.

What is the best enclosure at Cheltenham?

There are three enclosures at Cheltenham Racecourse: Club, Tattersalls and Best Mate.

  • Club is the most premium option, allowing visitors to access all areas of the festival, including the main grandstand, parade ring, members lawn and winning post, and really enjoy the racing. It also allows you entry to both of the other enclosures, and the widest options of food and drink.
  • Tattersalls is a medium option, still offering a grandstand view of the action and entry to the winning post and parade ring. You can enjoy a range of food and drink, as well as access to the Best Mate enclosure.
  • Best Mate is the most affordable ticket, but provides a real atmosphere and some fantastic views down the home straight. Party in the Pavilion acts as the enclosure's own live music venue, with DJs and bands throughout the week.

Can you take food and drink into Cheltenham Racecourse?

The rules on bringing your own refreshments vary between enclosures. The Club and Tattersalls enclosures, unfortunately, do not allow you to bring your own food and drink. However, there are plenty of food vendors open throughout the day, offering everything from fish and chips to doughnuts and hog roasts.

The Best Mate enclosure does allow visitors to bring in food for individual consumption. Please note that no liquids are allowed within the enclosure and there will be bag searches in place.

Does Cheltenham Festival sell out?

As mentioned, there are usually on-the-day tickets available on the gate at Cheltenham Festival, however this is subject to availability and some days do tend to sell out. In particular, Best Mate enclosure tickets for the Friday (Gold Cup Day) tend to be very popular, so it’s recommended to buy yours as early as possible!

Lady dressed up for horse racing

What do you wear to Cheltenham?

There is no official dress code to the festival, but smart is often preferred. Do remember it takes place in March, so layers (and perhaps an umbrella!) are essential! Gentlemen usually wear a suit to the festival - expect tweed and tailoring - while ladies often choose to don a hat. It’s also worth noting that you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so heels are not ideal if you want to be able to enjoy the action from the grass!

Cosy cottages to stay in close to the Cheltenham Festival

Where to stay in Cheltenham

If you’re looking for a perfect base for your visit to the Cheltenham Festival, don’t look any further than our lovely collection of self-catering cottages around Cheltenham. Many of our cottages also have parking, so you can easily use your own car to quickly access the festival, or are well-located for making the most of the local transport links.

A peaceful holiday cottage is the perfect place to retreat to after a long day at the races - somewhere to relax, take stock of the day’s adventures and maybe even count your winnings! So why not beat the rush and book a holiday cottage for the Cheltenham Festival today?

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