Located on the western edge of the Cotswolds AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), Cheltenham is a town that shouldn’t be missed by visitors to this area of the country. Home to the Cheltenham Festival, a passionate theatre and art community, beautiful parks and gardens, great shopping of all kinds, an amazing history – and home to kate and tom’s – it’s no surprise Cheltenham is considered by many to be the cultural hub of the Cotswolds. Having a close relationship with neighbouring Stroud, Painswick, Gloucester and Tewkesbury, there’s more than enough praise available for each, but no other town leaves quite the same impression as Cheltenham, with its balance of timeless Regency splendour and modern touches of style and design. Perfect for a weekend or for even longer, there’s something for everyone to get stuck into. Maybe a wander through the exhibitions at The Wilson, catching a play at the Everyman, a few pints of quality craft beer at The Brewhouse & Kitchen after stretching your legs with a leisurely walk to Cleeve Hill, and topping it all off with some live jazz and fine dining at The Daffodil. But that’s just a taster. There’s so much more to discover in Cheltenham, and February Half Term is the time for you and the whole family to do it!
The Cotswold Way
The Cotswold Way runs down the escarpment of the west of the Cotswolds with breathtaking views of the surrounding areas comprising mainly Gloucestershire but also parts of Somerset. From its beginning in Bath all the way up through Stroud, its highest point (and the highest point in the Cotswolds) at Cleeve Hill in Cheltenham and on to its conclusion in Chipping Campden, this walk promises more than 100 miles of some of the choicest countryside in the UK. Only the Cotswolds can boast five European Special Areas of Conservation, three National Nature Reserves and more than 80 Sites of Special Scientific Interest. But that’s not all, and this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that I’m lucky enough to call home will prove it in the same ways it has done for countless generations, and will continue to do so for many more.
Other Highlights to Bear in Mind
…because of beautiful terraces, squares and parks, and the best of cultural Cotswolds.
…because of narrow winding streets, picture-perfect cottages and medieval inns.
…because of its bohemian edge, its quality markets for clothing, art, books and organic food, and because of Laurie Lee
…because of being described by William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England” and because of Arlington Row.
…because of the grassed-over ruins of one of the largest amphitheatres in the country, its lively markets and trendy delis.
- The Slaughters
…because of famously fantastic organic ice cream, elegant 17th-century manors and exceptional Michelin-star dining.
THINGS TO SEE & DO
- Gloucester Cathedral
This is one of England’s most beautiful cathedrals, featuring Edward II’s magnificent tomb and another of the cathedral’s treasures: the exquisite Great Cloister (used in the first two Harry Potter films).
- Cotswold Farm Park
This farm park introduces little ones to the world of farm animals by way of a range of demonstrations and a two-mile wildlife walk. There is also a food festival and an adventure playground.
- Stowe Gardens
The 400-hectare property features 32 temples and structures, and the gardens were designed by the greatest British landscape gardeners. They’re likely to be the best you’ll ever see.
- Exhibitions at Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Two Views – Christina Rice is a Stroud-based artist who finds her primary inspiration in the natural world.
Medieval Manuscripts of Cirencester – a rare opportunity to see manuscripts which were in Cirencester Abbey Library at its Dissolution in 1539.
- The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – an irresistible blend of music, puppetry and storytelling. There’s also an enchanting toy shop setting filled with all sorts of magical surprises!
- Cotswolds Ghost Tours
Prestbury Ghost Tour: Historical Haunted Trail – Hear the strange tales of the Charging Cavalier, the Medieval Messenger and Prestbury’s most regularly seen and most famous apparition, the Black Abbott!
Cheltenham Ghost Tour: Creeps, Crimes & Curious Tales – Experience the darker side of the Regency facades by joining this spooky walk around the centre of Cheltenham, where you will hear tales of unexplained supernatural events.
- Nature in Art Gallery & Museum, Gloucester
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition – Over 100 stunning images selected from almost 50,000 entries including intimate animal portraits to atmospheric landscapes, ground-breaking photojournalism to innovative techniques. In 2013 Nature in Art was a runner up in The Telegraph’s Family Friendly Museum Awards.
Cornwall & Devon
The Eden Project is never – or should never be – far from the mind when embarking on a trip to Cornwall. This is something that has to be experienced first-hand to be fully appreciated. Once you’re past the first impressions brought on by its unique, almost sci-fi-like external appearance, this famed cluster of geo-domes are home to an overwhelming collection of the beautiful complexity and diversity of nature inside, particularly its seemingly infinite amount of varying flora. Maybe you’ll never even get inside. What’s so impressive is the place’s sheer magnitude and number of things to do. It would take days to fully experience the whole Project. Dine here, stay here, learn, be inspired, have fun – get married. There’s more than you can imagine. For kids, this is quite the day out! The Eden Project caters for all ages and you’ll receive a warm welcome. There’s a fun-packed calendar of seasonal events designed to educate throughout the year. For the February Half Term period you can catch ice-skating and much more. No matter the time of year and the weather, this place is an experience that will stay with you and the family forever. You’ll be back before long!
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
While we’re on the topic of the awe-inspiring, if you can’t get to the Eden Project – or even if you can and want to carry on the magic – get yourself to The Lost Gardens of Heligan! I can personally attest to the wonder of this place. During an amazing short stay at the amazing Polpier in Mevagissey, I made it my mission along with a colleague and friend to get to the Lost Gardens. This is a place that was created a long time ago and had remained lost amongst the brambles of time until 25 years ago. Over 200 acres are now a paradise for the explorer, wildlife and plant lover and garden romantic. Victorian Productive Gardens and Pleasure Grounds beckon, along winding paths laid out over two centuries ago. The Jungle takes you on a sub-tropical journey through bamboo tunnels and under majestic tree ferns, giant rhubarb and bananas whilst the estate reveals a lost world of traditional and rare breeds, wildlife and ancient woodlands. This is a place for all seasons, so get yourselves there and see what I mean by “the magic”. Before you leave, grab a bite to eat and a souvenir or two on site.
Other Highlights to Bear in Mind
…because of its bobbing fishing boats, antique shops and intimacy. Because of great local food and the South Coast stretching out before you.
…because of its cliff-top setting, its beaches, its shops, its fun spirit and because it’s the home of British surfing.
- St Ives
…because of its arts scene, its quirky galleries and crafts shops, and its quietness at this time of the year.
…because of its close relationship with the sea and all the fresh, quality food that it brings to your table, because of its 17-century shops and its up-market restaurants.
…because this is what many consider to be the English Riviera, because of its palm trees and plentiful beaches, and because of its connection to Agatha Christie.
THINGS TO DO & SEE
- Exeter Cathedral
This is a marvel for all ages and there’s plenty to interest you while visiting. Take the tour and get stuck into helping with the ‘Big LEGO Build’.
- Newquay Zoo
Get close to over 130 species! There’s so much for kids to do and see here – animal houses and exhibits, the Tropical House, the African Savannah, the Madagascan Walkthrough, Wildlife at Night, Village Farm and the Native Species.
This long-standing Cornish theme park left me with many great memories and it will do the same for you and the little ones alike. This place is a great balance of fun and education, with plenty of rides and a well-established and excellent ‘Britain in the Blitz’ inside walkthrough experience.
- Pennywell Farm
Four free rides and hundreds of friendly animals, as well as play areas and games. Plus a different hands-on activity every half hour.
- Torquay Museum
Exhibitions, activities, events, lectures, outdoor activities and more. Trace the eventful life of the bestselling author of all time in the recently redeveloped and improved gallery dedicated solely to Agatha Christie – her life, her novels and her plays.
- Cornish Mines & Engines
This is the ideal place to get acquainted with this once great industry. Films, photos and artefacts trace the area’s rich mining history.
Half Term Special Offers
Click here to see the amazing offers for February Half Term. Some of the loveliest houses in the Cotswolds, Cornwall, Devon and beyond!