Nathaniel Parker's Cheltenham
Compiled by Simon Horsford
Nathaniel Parker, the actor, enjoys Cheltenham's beautiful Regency architecture and the magnificent surrounding countryside.
It's a historic spa town of immense charm, and also boasts some stunning Regency architecture – indeed, it's been hailed as "the most complete Regency town" in the country.
It also has one of the best race tracks and the four days in March that comprise the Cheltenham Festival are four of my favourite days of the year.
ANYTHING SPECIAL I SHOULD PACK?
A good walking stick because the countryside around Cheltenham is magnificent and made for striding out. A pair of binoculars and a tweed jacket might also come in handy if you're going to the races.
WHAT'S THE FIRST THING YOU DO?
Take a stroll around the town and admire the beautiful Regency houses and buildings. Unlike so many places, it has managed to retain some of its bygone charm – it doesn't take much to imagine horses and carriages trotting down the streets as in the past.
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO STAY?
There's a fabulous country-house hotel just outside town called Cowley Manor (01242 870900; www.cowleymanor.com; doubles from £175 a night) where I've stayed a few times. It has a lovely spa and some great walks; it also loves children and dogs, which is a big plus for us.
WHERE WOULD YOU MEET FRIENDS FOR A DRINK?
There is a fabulous coffee shop in nearby Nailsworth called Hobbs (01453 839396; www.hobbshousebakery.co.uk), which I adore. It sells the most delicious breads and pastries.
WHICH IS THE BEST PLACE FOR LUNCH?
You'd be hard pushed to find somewhere better to have a deli-style snack or salad than Cheltenham's Swallow Bakery (01242 228896). A favourite.
AND FOR DINNER?
I'm rather fond of The Bell Inn (01453 836422; www.thebellinnavening.co.uk) in nearby Avening. It serves wonderful Continental-style food and the chef is terrific.
WHERE WOULD YOU SEND A FIRST-TIME VISITOR?
To the part of town called Montpellier, which gives you a real flavour of the place. If you're a fan of horse racing, visit the track just outside Cheltenham. I had a share in a horse that was running last time I visited, which made it especially exciting.
WHAT SHOULD I AVOID?
The town's modern shopping centre like the plague if at all possible. Unfortunately, it's got a lot of the shops you might need…
WHAT SHOULD I BRING HOME?
Winnings – assuming you get lucky at the races. Alternatively, snap up some of the delicious locally produced goat's cheeses which are out of this world.
ANYWHERE THAT ISN'T YOUR KIND OF TOWN?
I'm not a big fan of a place called Sydney in Nova Scotia. I once spent three or four months filming there. Its only saving grace was its delicious lobster burgers.
The television drama series 'Injustice', starring Nathaniel Parker, is out now on DVD.
The newly opened Montpellier Chapter (01242 527788; www.chapterhotels.co.uk; doubles from £140) is beautifully designed and relatively affordable, too. It has a lovely conservatory and the food is unfussy; breakfast is particularly good. The Montpellier Quarter is home to several restaurants and antique shops.
Hanover House (01242 541297; www.hanoverhouse.org; doubles from £100) is an informal family b & b set in a Grade II-listed Victorian town house; the bedrooms are very pretty.
Outside Cheltenham try the Green Dragon (01242 870271; www.green-dragon-inn.co.uk; doubles from £140), a fine 17th-century pub with nine bedrooms and a hearty menu.
Cheltenham races are a big deal because it’s such a terrific racecourse, offering some of the finest jump racing in Britain.
The Festival is obviously the main event (it next takes place between March 13 and 16, 2012), but there are several other good meetings throughout the season which will be noticeably less crowded. The next one is on October 14 and 15 (01242 513014; www.cheltenham.co.uk).
The Holst Museum (4 Clarence Road, 01242 524846; www.holstmuseum.org.uk) is the birthplace and childhood home of the composer Gustav Holst.
It tells the story of the man and his music and is also a fine example of a period Victorian house (open Tuesday-Saturday).
Festival time The Cheltenham Music Festival is currently taking place (it runs until July 10), with several events around the city; for more information contact the box office (01242 505444; www.cheltenhamfestivals.com). Some of the concerts are held in the Pittville Pump Room in Pittville Park (01242 521621), which is modelled on the Greek Temple of Ilossos. There are also festivals related to jazz, science and literature, which run throughout the year.