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In 2020 there will be over 1,500 horse sporting events being hosted in the UK and the crème de la crème takes place right here in the Cotswolds. From the charged atmosphere guaranteed at Cheltenham Festival 2020 as jockeys vie for the coveted Gold Cup to the fun and the variety of 2020s event fixtures. And, of course, there’s nothing quite like polo season here in the Cotswolds. Whether you are horsy mad or looking for a good day out, we’ve got it all here and 2020 is set to be a sell-out season.
For horse enthusiasts, the Cotswolds hosts some of the country’s top equine events, including the iconic Badminton Trials and has been attracting the best jockeys and thoroughbreds from around the world for decades, from Olympians to British Royalty. We must also mention the entertainment and shopping villages that accompany these equine events, making them popular family-friendly day trips that have something for everyone.
Cheltenham Race Festival, Cheltenham
WHEN: Tuesday 10th – Friday 13th March 2020
WHAT: This is one of the top horse racing events in the UK and prize money is only second to Aintree Grand National in Liverpool. The racecourse at Prestbury Park welcomes over 250 thousand visitors each year and has become famous for the Cheltenham Roar, owing to the large noise from the spectators as the first race is started. The race festival coincides with St.Patrick’s Day and this four-day event is known for its vibrant atmosphere with hundreds of millions of pounds being bet over the event. Read our Ultimate Guide to Cheltenham Race Festival for more on getting the very best out of the festival, including information on where to stay, the best festival restaurants and what else to do when visiting Cheltenham.
WHERE TO STAY: We have a lovely range of accommodation to choose from that are just a short drive from Cheltenham Race Festival. The village of Toddington is a favourite because it has a wonderful heritage steam railway, which goes to Cheltenham Spa, with a shuttle bus running over the festival week to continue the 3-miles to the racecourse. We have beautiful cottages in the villages of Winchcombe, Bourton on the Water, Painswick and Chedworth, all of which are within a 20-35 minute drive from Cheltenham.
Badminton Horse Trials, The Badminton Estate, South Gloucestershire
WHEN: Wednesday 6th – Sunday 10th May 2020
WHAT: Said to be one of the toughest international equestrian events of the year, the iconic Badminton Horse Trials is spread over three days featuring various eventing competitions, including dressage displays, stallion parade, Shetland Pony Grand National, showjumping and the grand finale of Cross Country. Set on the stunning 1,500-acre estate of the Duke of Beaumont, this event attracts up to 200,000 visitors a year. Badminton Horse Trials is one of the oldest in Britain, first held in 1949 and inspired by non-other than the 1948 Olympics. The Cross Country Day is the event to attend, with it attracting some of the largest crowds of any sporting event in the UK.
WHERE TO STAY: Badminton Horse Trials are set in the heart of the Cotswold countryside, yet are only 85 miles from London and 15 miles from Bath or Bristol. We have accommodation in the nearby villages of Tetbury, Chippenham and Westonbirt. If you fancy enjoying this event car-free, a coach transfer or taxi can be arranged from the nearest train station at Chippenham. On Saturday 9th May there will be a one-way system in operation in the village with a drop-off point for taxis.
Gloucestershire Festival of Polo, Westonbirt, Tetbury
WHEN: Takes place over the 1st weekend June 2020 (the 2020 fixture date is to be confirmed).
WHAT: This two-day spectacle is held at one of the leading polo clubs in the UK – Beaufort Polo Club, the centre of Polo in the Cotswolds. Set in the beautiful Cotswold countryside, just alongside Westonbirt Arboretum, the clubhouse and lawns are idyllic too, designed by the late Peter Falconer who remodelled Highgrove. The clubhouse restaurant is called Spiced Hawk and serves a mouth-watering menu. Especially when the sun is out, there’s no better place to be.
The Festival of Polo event brings together world-class polo with the best in summer entertainment and shopping. There’s a traditional funfair and the tented shopping village is open on both days, offering quality retail therapy of over 30 stalls. The celebrity match is a highlight alongside an International test match plus charity and young player games.
WHERE TO STAY: Beaufort Polo Club is set in the beautiful south Cotswold countryside, away from the famous waterways of the north. It is located just outside the market town of Tetbury, and London to nearby Kemble train station is just under 1hour 30 minutes train journey. We have accommodation in nearby villages and towns of Minchinhampton, Amberley, Cherington and Stroud, which all place you within easy access of this world-class polo festival. London to Stroud via railway is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.
Festival of British Eventing, Gatcombe, Minchinhampton, Stroud
WHEN: Friday 7th – Sunday 9th August 2020
WHAT: This prestigious 37-year-old event is held in on the Gatcombe Estate, the private country home to The Princess Royal and her family and is organised by Princess Anne’s first husband Mark Phillips, a British Olympic gold medal-winning horseman. The event attracts over 40,000 visitors a year to watch the British Open, Intermediate and Novice Championships. You will often see three generations of Royals attend the Gatcombe horse trials, as Princess Anne dotes on her grandchildren whilst Mum, Zara Tindall competes. Away from the arena, there’s a shopping village with over 100 stalls. Along with a timetable of dressage, jumping and cross country there’s other entertainment such as falconry displays and ‘have a go dog agility’. 2020 promises to be a fun-filled weekend of world-class competition.
WHERE TO STAY: For visiting the Festival of British Eventing, book a romantic cottage for two or a large property for a group of friends. We have short stay availability so you can enjoy this weekend event at the same time taking advantage of the privacy and flexibility that self-catering accommodation affords you. We have accommodation in both Stroud and Minchinhampton, as well as nearby villages like Nailsworth and Kemble. There are regular trains from London Paddington to Minchinhampton and Stroud.
The Blenheim Horse Trials, Woodstock
WHEN: Thursday 17th – Sunday 20th September 2020
WHAT: Along with the Badminton and Gatcombe trials, the Blenheim Palace horse trials are an important date in the equine fixtures. These autumn trials take place in one of the most beautiful backdrops of any horsing event. Blenheim Palace and the estate is actually a World Heritage Site and has over 300-years of history. The first 2-days are filled with dressage with cross-country and jumping takes over the arena for the weekend. The shopping experience at Blenheim Horse Trials is not to be missed, taking the style of a ye olde high street, filled with carefully selected trade stalls. Its a great place to start Christmas shopping where youre guaranteed to pick up some unique gifts. There are lots on for non-horsey visitors too, like children’s activities, bouncy castles, dog agility fun and food stalls.
WHERE TO STAY: Blenheim Palace is located near the pretty village of Woodstock and is just a 20-minute car journey from the city of Oxford, on the northern tip of the Cotswolds boundary. By car, the cities of Birmingham and Oxford are approximately one and a half hours away. Nearby train stations include Oxford, Oxford Parkway and Long Hanborough. We have accommodation for visiting The Blenheim Horse Trials in the nearby villages of Minster Lovell, Chipping Norton and Kingham.
For many of these horse sporting fixtures registration has opened for early-bird tickets for 2020. Go to their websites to register so you don’t miss out and let us help you with accommodation close to your chosen fixture. Book instantly online or call our dedicated booking enquiry team on 01451 600844.
Looking to enjoy some of the Cotswolds horse facilities during your break here? There are river riding trips, beautiful trails and fun rides aplenty. Find out where to ride in the Cotswolds in our guide here: Top 5 Horse Riding Breaks in the Cotswolds.