CHELTENHAM: A family break

Henry Saunders lr
Henry Saunders stands outside The Cheltenham Townhouse in quiet anticipation of what lies ahead
By Tim Saunders
The Regency and Victorian splendour of Cheltenham is only a couple of hours away from where we live, making it an extremely attractive place to visit.
Composer Gustav Holst was born in the spa town in 1874 and his father, Adolph von Holst was organist at All Saints' Church, Pittville.
We stay at The Cheltenham Townhouse in Pittville Lawn; home to some of the finest examples of 19th century architecture. It has been owned by Jayne and Adam Lillywhite for the past 16 years. “We bought it when I was expecting my daughter,” recalls Jayne. “It was a nursing home. We have 22 bedrooms and four studios.”
With its freshly painted exterior, large sash windows allowing good amounts of light into its rooms together with high ceilings it’s a wonderfully opulent environment. “I love it,” says Harriett (7) who already has a good appreciation for the finer things in life.
Both the town and the park are minutes away. The hotel car park takes away the worry of finding a space elsewhere. We check in at reception and are then whisked up to our family room with a king size bed for mummy and daddy bear, two singles for the little bears and a futon for baby Henry bear. Ah. All nicely dressed and very welcoming. Thumbs up for the bath from Caroline. Our deprived children (who don’t have a television) instantly spot the flat screen on the wall and need to watch it. So we relent. It’s just nice to be able to have a cup of tea in the room without the little darlings wanting our attention, even if this is for just a few moments.
Time to explore, so we make our way to Pittville Park where the children enjoy playing on the swings and slides.
In the morning the hotel provides a splendid breakfast in its comfortable dining room with jazz playing in the background. We try the full English breakfast and the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, which are delicious. “I want sausages and bacon,” demands little Henry (2). He will learn to be polite but he is proving just that little bit more challenging than his sisters who are now at the bickering stage. Anyway, looking at the positives about our young children’s behaviour they do manage to sit at the table for long enough for us all to eat our breakfasts. But then they need the toilet, I have to leave my tea and that’s that.
We then have two enjoyable lunches so quite a bit of sitting around for the children but they cope.
The Gloucester Old Spot is a delightful country pub on the Tewkesbury Road, which has been run by Simon and Kate Daws since 2000. It features in The Good Pub Guide and The Michelin Guide to Pubs. Full of old rustic charm the large dining room is very cosy and warm thanks to its wood burner, even on a cold day. The stag’s head on the wall is certainly a talking point for the children. “Where’s its body?” Heidi asks. “On the other side of the wall,” I reply. Caroline has a roasted squash, aubergine and tomato lasagne with pesto. “My favourite vegetarian lasagne by far,” she reveals. Her rice pudding for dessert is equally satisfying. Heidi and I have fish and chips while Henry and Harriett go for homemade pizza.
At The Old Courthouse in County Court Road there is a decidedly legal approach to proceedings. No surprise there as it was the county court until fairly recently. We find ourselves actually dining in the old court room, all the original furnishings still in place including plaques denoting: Defendant, Jury and Press. Caroline has linguine with wild mushrooms. I have roast beef and Yorkshire pudding; the largest Yorkshire pudding I have seen. Harriett has pasta with cheese and tomato, Heidi goes for a beefburger and Henry insists on having pigs in blankets with Yorkshire pudding. All very tasty but the children are unable to sit down for too long and so begrudgingly we have to leave without any desserts. Lock ‘em up m’lud!
Cheltenham is a shopper’s delight and exclusive brands can be found along its high street.
When we arrive home Heidi (5) realises that she has left her much loved unicorn slippers under the bed at the hotel. Hotel owner Jayne very kindly finds them and posts them back to her, making for a very happy Heidi, for which we are eternally grateful.
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