Below is a brief guide to some on the better known pubs. A good plan is to start in The Fiery Angel or The Swan after the last before working your way into the Town Centre and up to Montpellier, before finishing in The Suffolks (if you are still going!).
Racecourse side of town
Fiery Angel – in the same ownership as The Tivoli reviewed below and a similar place ie great pub with character and atmosphere with a good selection of beers. On the racecourse side so always full of racegoers. Like the Tivoli they do a good breakfast.
The Swan – great pub that would be my number 4. Good beer, not too busy and friendly. Great service and food here. They make an effort and look after customers well. Heaters and lots of tables outside for smoke or fresh air.
Montpellier Wine Bar – not to everyone’s taste but I like it. Good atmosphere and great to drink outside on the pavement and watch the nightlife walk/stagger by. Definitely posh and a bit faux posh. The usual wise guys and local businessmen are replaced by journos, monied racegoers and the occasional actor/actress/celeb. The usual 35 year plus ladies with squawking voices looking for husband number 2 or 3 are not – you have been warned!
O’Neills – probably my number 3 . Great atmosphere, good range of drinks, racing themed, live music and it’s loud. Good lively racing crowd. You can eat here if you are quick.
Circus Bar – small, dull and no atmosphere. Next…
The Queens Hotel – Overrated and extremely crowded. Unless you are staying here or have booked a chair in the bar to sleep in (I kid you not!) I wouldn’t bother. However, if cocktails are you thing then Blanc Brasserie which adjoins the hotel is a must.
Montys – Upmarket basement bar (part of The George Hotel) that does great cocktails around a tenner each. Good place to celebrate a win but you probably won’t want to stay all night as it’s pricey, and doesn’t exactly hum with atmosphere.
Revolution – aka Vodka Revs. Large, great cocktails, reasonable prices, good atmosphere, good music and you might even get a seat. My number 2. A younger smartly dressed crowd here including the fewCheltenham babes that brave Festival week. The downside is that because it can be so full and many people order cocktails (and why not?) the bar staff can’t keep up the pace so you might have to queue.
Yates – if you are into loud pumping music and a younger crowd this is the place. Don’t bother asking locals where they are from as the answer will be Gloucester.
Après – This Scandinavian style large bar opened this year so wasn’t around in Festival 08…plenty of wood and another one for those that like red. They are pulling out the stops during Festival Week as part of the Irish Village at the Brewey where there will be a live Irish Band (from Cheltenham!) in a marquee early evening and then Après later. Lots of TV screens here for watching the racing in the afternoon and replays in the evening. If you like Peroni it’s £4.60 a pint!
Tivoli Inn – does great breakfasts and a free bus up to the course and back which also stops at the Fiery Angel. Good for watching the racing and other sports. Great range of beers and ciders. Mixed crowd. I’ll be there on Wednesday morning for a full English.
The Jolly Brewmaster – real local type of pub with excellent selection of real ales and several draft ciders. Quite difficult to find (and therefore not busy) as in middle of a residential street but worth the effort.
Lansdown Inn – very much a sports pub. Younger punters go here. Quite busy despite not being in the town centre. Good prices. Not a bad place to get a quick dinner after the races.
The Retreat – normally popular with Cheltenham Ladies College leavers and local middle aged traders but in Festival week it’s nearly all the posher end of the racing spectrum. Small garden outside for smokers. Smart, trendy, not too busy and great if you like the colour red.
The Beehive – there’s a great buzz about this place…couldn’t resist. A good modern ‘local’ albeit a bit small. Young and old mixed crowd. Garden outside for smokers. Great choice of real ale, lagers and cider. Good place for chatting to other racegoers and Cheltenham residents. Recommended and my number 1.