Best events in March in the Cotswolds
March is dominated by the Cheltenham Festival (March 12-15) the highlight of which is Gold Cup Day. This year Gold Cup Day is on Friday the 15th. The Cheltenham Racing Festival is a glorious thing, a place where you have to be if you love jump racing. The event makes for a busy time in the Cotswolds, as thousands as Irish racing fans join the local horsey community (and the odd celeb or Royal). In the past few years, Jimmy Carr, Lily Allen, Clarkson, Zara Phillips, Jeremy Kyle join local worthies such as Dom Joly, Alex James, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen, etc
The real VIP guests are the Irish who make a special contribution to life in the Cotswolds, as Cheltenham becomes a party town for the week. They also bring an incredible knowledge and understanding of the sport. Racing fan or not, book your Cotswolds hotel early for accommodation that week.
The four days of racing at Cheltenham each have their own theme - and following:
- Tuesday, 12th: Champion Day (the roar from the crowd and the Champion Hurdle)
- Wednesday, 13th: Ladies Day (wear those tweeds with attitude)
- Thursday, 14th: St Patrick’s Thursday (a piece of England that is forever Irish)
- Friday, 15th: Gold Cup Day (the big one)
Don’t forget our tip from last month. Racing during The Festival is frequently a sell out (especially for Gold Cup Day, so do buy your tickets as far in advance as possible. That said, Friday is a little bit of a showpiece event - the way to meet true jump racing fans is to go to one of the other days.
Lambing continues throughout March. You’ll see lambs out in the field right across the Cotswolds. For a chance to see them born and feed from the bottle, head out to BBC Countryfile Adam Henson’s Cotswolds Farm Park. It’s near Naunton and Guiting Power, not far from Lords of the Manor. You can also do this at Butts Farm, near Cirencester.
Chipping Norton Music Festival (March 8th - 23rd) ) is a bit of a gem. Expect jazz, classical or folk in a friendly setting. The festival has been going strong since 1904, a real fixture locally. A Handel and Vivaldi evening (16th March) at Gloucester Cathedral offers a grander setting. Look out too for Painswick Music Society’s event at Painswick Church on March 30th at 3pm. The nearby Painswick Hotel is the natural place to stay, a chic hotel in this most beautiful of villages.
Compton Verney House is perhaps a little less known than it should be. It’s near the North Cotswolds, an 18th-century country mansion. It was aquired by the Peter Moores Foundation (he of Littlewoods fame) and was altered and converted to become an art gallery will extensive grounds. We’re looking forward to their Spring exhibition Painting Childhood, From Holbein to Freud. Expect paintings, sketches and sculptures by Stanley Spencer, Louise Bourgeois, Jacob Epstein and Lucian Freud. If you go allow three or four hours to explore the grounds and visit the permanent exhibition of folk art at this beautiful 17th century building. Well worth visiting.
A stay in the North Cotswolds also puts Stratford-upon-Avon within easy reach. It is Shakespeare’s birthday in March (“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come” - Merchant of Venice) and this is celebrated between 18th and 24th of March. There are wreath layings, readings, pop up events - and you may see the lad himself walking around the town. Shakespeare shares his birthday with St George’s Day and there’s a great deal of fun and wit in the way that Stratford celebrates the events.
Blenheim Palace has two art exhibitions in March. Art and the Churchill Family runs until the 16th March, an exploration of portraits and works by Sir Winston Churchill himself. Their Young Turner Exhibition runs though the month and shows his early work and first steps in architecture and emerging mastery of perspective. Over in Oxford, a Jeff Koons exhibition runs until June, in the unlikely setting of The Ashmolean Museum.
Above all, Cotswold gardens come into their own in March, perfect for Mother’s Day and generally being out and about. There are the subtler signs of Spring, catkins, mating mallards, wide ploughed strips in last year’s stubble and the sight of rooks rebuilding last year’s nest. Sheep on the hill are the defining Cotswold image, but hares in March are another. It’s a truly arresting sight - and if you’re really lucky you’ll see a pair ‘boxing’ in the field. To experience this great springtime awakening, take on the the many circular walks described in the AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) website.
For gardens visits, consider Painswick Rococo, Sudeley Castle, Blenheim Palace, Bourton House, Snowshill Manor or Westonbirt Arboretum. And don’t forget your accommodation - Cotswold hotels invariably take pride in their own gardens and outdoor areas. Barnsley House was the former home of Rosemary Verey, a legend in the history of garden design. Lords of the Manor was named ‘best hotel with garden’ by The Good Hotel Guide last year and so on.
Spring makes for a more interesting time at the various Farmer’s Markets around the Cotswolds as seasonal foods arrive. Look out for them in places such as Stow-on-the-Wold, Stroud, Cheltenham, Charlbury, Chipping Norton, Witney and Woodstock.
March is a great month to be in the Cotswolds. Your Cotswolds hotel or inn is the perfect place from which to enjoy warmer weather, more colourful gardens and walks and distinctvely local events. You’ll beat the crowds and experience honeypot destinations such as Bourton on the Water and Bibury when they are a little quieter. Our hotels and inns are at your disposal with advice, local tips and suggested walks ready to help you make the best of your time here.