8 reasons Cheltenham is the best place to board in the UK

With a variety of cultural festivals, a plethora of unique cyber opportunities and the best independent school in the south west, all surrounded by glorious Cotswold countryside, there are numerous reasons why Cheltenham is the best place to board in the UK — with SoGlos rounding up eight of them.

By Kaleigh Pritchard  |  Published
Boarding in Cheltenham offers students an exciting array of extracurricular opportunities, cultural experiences and job prospects, as well as being surrounded by beautiful green spaces — making it one of the best places to board in the UK.
In partnership with Cheltenham Ladies' College  |  cheltladiescollege.org
Cheltenham Ladies College

Cheltenham Ladies’ College is a world-renowned independent girls’ school which has been educating 11 to 18-year-olds for more than 160 years. Welcoming pupils on a day and boarding basis, the school achieves consistently excellent GCSE, A Level and International Baccalaureate results and aims to provide an educational environment that’s supportive, challenging, innovative and creative.

With almost endless opportunities to enjoy enriching cultural events and activities throughout the year; exciting job prospects as the cyber capital of the country; breath taking natural beauty all around; and one of the best schools in the south west, it's easy to see why Cheltenham is a popular place for parents considering a boarding school for their children.

For anyone who needs a little more convincing, SoGlos has teamed up with the prestigious independent day and boarding school, Cheltenham Ladies' College, to sum up just some of the reasons why The Festival Town is the best place to board in the UK. 

Academic excellence

Named the best independent school in the south west by The Sunday Times; the top UK IB independent girls' boarding school of 2023; and rated 'excellent' in all categories during its most recent ISI inspection, Cheltenham Ladies' College is world-renowned for providing an excellent education to its community of girls aged 11 to 18.

Its GCSE and A-level results speak for themselves, with 99.6 per cent of students achieving A* to C grades in their GCSEs and 96 per cent achieving A* to C in their A Levels in 2023; while IB students achieved an average point score of 39.1 — equivalent to three A* grades at A Level and significantly higher than the global average — with more than a third of IB students receiving the highest possible grade across all of their subjects.

Outside of its impressive academic curriculum, the school puts a huge emphasis on preparing pupils to enter the world with confidence, social awareness and independence, pledging that 'A CLC education encourages us to think globally, to cherish diversity and to innovate in the face of an ever-changing world.'

Unique cultural experiences

Affectionately known as as The Festival Town, Cheltenham hosts a number of incredible cultural events throughout the year. There's a variety of Cheltenham Festivals to visit, from the Jazz Festival in May, the Science Festival in June, the Music Festival in July and the Literature Festival in October, all of which offer children and young people exclusive opportunities to indulge in what interests them, or discover a brand-new passion — with talks and performances from famous entertainers, authors and academics, too.

There's also the independently-run Cheltenham Poetry Festival, which CLC supports, bringing some of the most exciting written and spoken-word poets from across the world to the town, as well as providing open mic opportunities, workshops and competitions for local poets. 

Youngsters can gain artistic inspiration from The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum, which is free to enter and currently has an original Picasso on display; and for theatre fans, the Everyman Theatre brings original shows and incredible West End tours to the town, with recent productions including Sister Act! The MusicalSix The Musical and the world premiere of Great British Bake Off: The Musical.

Close to the countryside

Unlike bigger cities, Cheltenham's bustling town centre has an abundance of green spaces and is surrounded by spectacular countryside, with the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty close by.

Cheltenham's Montpellier and Imperial Gardens are just two of the gorgeous green spaces right in the heart of town — and just minutes from Cheltenham Ladies' College — providing a retreat from the hustle and bustle in amongst the flowers; while nearby Cleeve Hill offers incredible views, as the highest peak in Gloucestershire, as well as an Iron Age monument to explore.

For girls studying at CLC, the school encourages its pupils to take part in the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh's Award and hosts its own Adventure Club, offering the chance to take part in a wide range of outdoor activities such as kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, mountain biking and walking in the Cotswolds.

Excellent education opportunities

Cheltenham is home to a multitude of educational opportunities for children of all backgrounds and benefits from the unique Cheltenham Education Partnership, which provides a town-wide approach.

As part of Cheltenham Education Partnership, independent schools like Cheltenham Ladies' College work with secondary schools, the award-winning University of Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire College and National Star college, as well as key partners like Cheltenham Festivals, GCHQ, Gloucestershire County Council and the National Cyber Security Centre to provide unique and exciting opportunities to all students. 

For those looking to move into higher education when they leave school, but have fallen in love with Cheltenham, the University of Gloucestershire has multiple campuses locally and offers both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in a wide array of subjects from English literature and photography, to biosciences and law, and impressive results for its alumni — with 96 per cent of students in work or further study within 15 months of graduating. 

Cyber capital of the UK

Home to some of the world's most accomplished intelligence professionals, GCHQ's unique doughnut-shaped headquarters in Cheltenham plays host to code-crackers and cyber specialists from across the world. Alongside the government base, there are a swathe of top cyber companies that also call Cheltenham home, including CyNamSalus CyberRipjar; Hub8; and lots more at Cheltenham's Eagle Tower.

There's the £1 billion Golden Valley Development on the horizon, too, which will create a new National Cyber Innovation Centre with one million sq ft of commercial space being earmarked for cyber companies, providing an abundance of opportunities for youngsters pursuing a career in the sector.

For children wanting to get started early, Code Ninjas in Cheltenham offers programmes and coding camps for little ones up to the age of 14 — so they can take on ethical hacking challenges and learn new skills in one of the fastest growing sectors in tech, helping to set them up for an exciting career. 

Impressive job prospects

As well as its cyber prowess, Cheltenham promises plenty of inspiring job prospects for young people entering the workplace, in a wide variety of sectors from education to engineering.

High-profile businesses in the town include engineering heavyweights Spirax-Sarco; fashion brands Superdry and Holland Cooper; aerospace giants GE Aviation; national dental brand Portman Healthcare; plumbing manufacturer Kohler Mira; and national educational support service, UCAS

There are also exciting volunteering opportunities, ideal for students, provided by Cheltenham Festivals, giving them unrivalled opportunities to make a big impact behind-the-scenes at these world-renowned festivals and gain valuable work experience. 

Sports, health and wellbeing provisions

Sport-loving little ones have plenty to enjoy in Cheltenham, with Cheltenham Town Football Club, Cheltenham Tigers rugby club and the 100-year-old Cheltenham Cricket Club all being based in the town and offering opportunities for under 18s, while the renowned East Glos Club also runs coaching sessions in a range of racket sports from squash to tennis — and even offers the chance to compete!

Cheltenham Ladies' College offers a range of impressive in-house sports programmes in lacrosse, netball, hockey and more, as well as being home to the state-of-the-art CLC Health and Fitness Centre, which has its own 25-metre swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, gym, fitness class programme and even a climbing wall — and is open to both pupils and members. 

If getting creative helps with your mental wellbeing, there are a wide range of activities available in the town, too, from joining amateur dramatics society, CODS Youth Theatre; decorating pottery at Paint It Yourself Pottery; or singing your heart out at Fresh Sounds, the youth community choir run by the Everyman Theatre.

Close links to surrounding cities

While the idea of living away from home might feel intimidating for young people, Cheltenham's excellent transport links to nearby cities make visiting easy. Cheltenham Spa train station offers direct routes to major cities like Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham, with London being just under two hours away by train; while Cheltenham's close proximity to the M5 motorway makes it easily accessible by car, too. 

Plus, when the family is in town for a visit, there's plenty of excellent restaurants to check out, with everything from Vietnamese food to tasty tapas at The Brewery Quarter; award-winning burgers at The Beefy Boys; Sri Lankan feasts at The Coconut Tree; and scrumptious sushi at KIBOU.

The Brewery Quarter is also home to a multiplex cinema, adventure golf, bowling and an escape room; the gorgeous parks in town provide lovely outdoor options; while exciting attractions like Sudeley Castle and Cotswold Farm Park are right on the doorstep. 

In partnership with Cheltenham Ladies' College  |  cheltladiescollege.org

More on Cheltenham Ladies’ College

More from Family