Five reasons to love Cheltenham Spa, as The Ivy opens its new bistro

The Ivy is opening its first luxury bistro in Gloucestershire, and where else but in Cheltenham Spa?

As John Lewis completes its new store just minutes from our front-door (7 minutes in my flatties) it reinforces the fact that, as a place to feed body and soul, the town is booming.

As a Mancunian by birth and a Londoner during my 20s I’ve lived here longer than anywhere. In the 1990s, Cheltenham had a faded charm but it was hardly Grand Central Station.  I always pictured Sir John Betjeman writing about this spa-town with his “chintzy, chintzy cheeriness” lines, not Leamington Spa. 

Five reasons why I love this place, and why it’s a great place to live and work. 

1) The Regency architecture is some of the best in the UK. The Ivy will restore the iconic, historic Rotunda in Montpellier. I’m told its dizzying dome (based on the Pantheon in Rome) will be cleaned and repainted to show off the unique character of the building and I can’t wait to see it.

2) The Continental lightness of the town centre.  The sun bounces off the stucco or gleams from the Cotswold stone buildings, and you could be in the best streets of London, or, with its Italianate towers, Italy.   Red-brick is for the suburbs, mostly.

3) The festivals and the culture.  I love the the Literature Festival and going racing during Gold Cup Week.  But we also have festivals for jazz, classical music, food and now, fine art.   We are spoiled for choice, so much so that the town could re-brand itself London-Lite, but why do that?

4) Small scale helps.  Unlike Bath, Cheltenham is compact and walkable.  A walk down the elegant famous Promenade with its avenue of elms and horse chestnut trees first planted in 1818 takes you past The Neptune Fountain based on the Trevi fountain in Rome.  Walk another 7 minutes are you’re at the Ivy.  Wearing trainers, you could walk to the Racecourse in about 20 minutes.

5) The climate is mild.   Cheltenham is always about 2 degrees warmer than most places, except London, it seems.  It’s protected by the Cotswold Hills.  Colonels would retire here after running the colonies, I’m told, and why not.

Kay Williamson