The George Hotel in Cheltenham, owned by The Lucky Onion group, is a design-led new property in the hotel that formerly housed Monty’s restaurant. Read what a family stay is like.
They say timing is everything. For the George Hotel in Cheltenham, the timing has been both good and bad. It opened over the summer after a refurb into a world pandemic and country-wide lockdown. And yet its ethos seems to have anticipated perfectly the mood of our times.
It is chic yet attractively priced. The historic building (5 Grade II-listed Regency townhouses joined together) has contemporary comforts. Amenities are selectively deployed – nice toiletries, beautiful glassware. It is located moments from great restaurants, bars and pubs. And its self-service check-in and check-out fit with social distancing and convenience. There’s still staff on duty at all times.
This stripped-down version of comfort fits perfectly with the mood of so many people I know: sophisticated travellers who are watching their budgets more conscientiously or are opting for a stylish staycation instead of a far-flung adventure.
Best of all, The George works for couples, families (there are two connecting rooms available to book), business travellers, even family groups (see my section below on multigenerational travel).
It promotes the experience of graceful overnight stays at affordable prices. We don’t need to sacrifice style or comfort even at a more budget-conscious price. That’s an idea that really resonates now.
The background of The George Hotel
The George used to be a 3-star hotel of the same name, and it was the location of Monty’s — a quite good restaurant, Cheltonians report. The original hotel opened in 1840. Now it’s part of Cult Hotels, a new concept launched by Julian Dunkerton, co-founder of the Lucky Onion Group and founder of Superdry. Cult Hotels focuses on bringing new life to historic buildings while providing modern-day comforts.
Dunkerton has described it as “a new hotel concept that is accessible, approachable and cool. Cult Hotels exists for the savvy traveller who values aesthetic and culture at a fair price.”
While the plan to roll out similar properties in other cities might be delayed because of the pandemic, the George is open now.
Things we loved
My teenage daughter and I stayed at The George while visiting family in Cheltenham. We really liked the location – minutes from Imperial Square on a well-lit road. We felt completely comfortable walking back together after dark and it was well-placed for shopping, eating out and strolling around town.
Read on for my thoughts about the stay below, but here’s what my 16-year-old daughter thought about it:
‘I felt our stay at The George was particularly fabulous because of how accommodating it felt for both me and my mother. It had a sophisticated atmosphere while still seeming family-friendly. The two separate mirrors and sinks in the bathroom were a great addition. It felt spacious even though we were sharing a bathroom. The multiple mirrors and vanity area allowed us to move around the room and get ready without feeling like we were on top of each other.’
Our room at The George Hotel, Cheltenham
It was the details that showed off The George’s true elan.
Since when did affordable hotels provide beautiful Champagne coupes in the room for sipping fizz the Jazz Age way? Since now!
At last, a hotel that understands the importance of being able to have a proper drink in your room, not one slurped out of the tea mugs! These made me want to head right back down to reception with its guest pantry to get some spirits and mixers. There aren’t minibars in the room. Instead there is the Pantry in the reception area where you can buy snacks, drinks and other items.
With a drink in hand, I could easily settle down in the just-soft-enough bed with some in-room reading.
Hotel room books!
A curated collection of books has become a standard design element in a certain class of hotel. They do look chic and evoke a particular vibe. Here, you actually want to read the books. These aren’t pristine volumes, made to order in the right colours. They’re used paperbacks with creased spines that invite you to pick them up before you get up to brush your teeth in the morning or before switching off the light at night.
The books in our room included:
- Homer – The Iliad
- Ibsen – Hedda Gabler and Other Plays
- The Essential Hemingway
- Evelyn Waugh – Brideshead Revisited
- William Thackeray – Vanity Fair
But while all these titles were appealing, I couldn’t resist a book called New Biology – a collection of essays from various writers on a range of irresistible topics (at least for me): The War Against Rodents (answering that question why can mice always outfox me?), The Biology of Sewage Disposal, Weeds of Cornfields and On Cutting Your Finger. (Unput-downable!)
I challenge anyone to resist a book that concludes one section with: “So much for the general importance of having a skin.” Any hotel with the confidence to put that kind of book as bedside reading knows who it is and revels in the small unexpected pleasures that a hotel can provide.
Practical details in the room
There were other bits that just made The George a comfortable stay, where the word practical is a true compliment. There’s an ironing board and iron stowed in the full-size closet, a full-length mirror. There are bedside reading lights, a mirror above the desk with outlets that make it easy to dry or style your hair, and USB charging ports.
The delicious Sprekenhus toiletries in the bathroom aren’t just packaged elegantly – this Norwegian brand is ethically sourced with antioxidant-rich ingredients. Argan oil is a signature ingredient. They make a nice take-home souvenir: Buy full-size versions in the Pantry at the check-in desk.
The George Hotel décor
The George demonstrates that you don’t need to choose between elegance and cool. From hallways lined with vintage poster reproductions to gorgeous blue subway tiles in the bathroom, the vibe is grown-up glamour. The team has focussed on the details — right down to the vintage industrial chic details in the bathroom: a lovely enamelled pail for a bin and antique-look loo roll holders. I love the luxury elements like Hypnos beds and a Farrow & Ball palette.
The rooms at The George
The room categories:
- Edgy Twin and Edgy Double – These are snug. I would stay 1 or 2 nights happily (see more below).
- Urban – A little bigger, with more room to stretch out.
- Cool – We stayed in a Cool room. There would have been plenty of space for a cot or child’s bed and the bathroom was sprawling.
- Culture – Just…wow. Two of these are interconnecting. (The picture at top is a Culture interconnecting room.)
Which room to book at The George Hotel
I saw a range of rooms on my visit, including one of the diminutive Edgy Double rooms (pictured below). It was snug but still had a nook with a desk big enough to actually use, a full-size closet and a bathroom with walk-in shower. The window, which overlooked the back and the parking lot, was large, and the ceiling was high, which kept the room from feeling closed in.
I liked our Cool Room — 51 — which was in the front. The blackout curtains blocked out the light and the hotel is set back from the street by a small car park, which kept noise to a minimum. When we looked out the windows in the bedroom and bathroom in the morning, we could see a bit of the Cheltenham buzz, with cars and cyclists riding by.
Rooms in front overlook St George’s Road and the apartment buildings opposite. Rooms in back overlook the car park and the side of smaller buildings.
Good for family and multi-generational travel
If you’re looking for step-free access because of mobility issues – or just like the idea of being able to wheel your stroller right in, ask about a room on the lower ground floor/basement. It’s accessible directly from the free rear parking via a locked door – a member of staff will meet you and show you to your room. On that level is also the Diner, where guests can have breakfast (included in the price) or sit throughout the day to have a coffee or work at one of the tables.
Sometimes groups take over the basement rooms (1 to 7) I’m told – imagine a wedding party or girls’ weekend – and this level’s proximity to the parking area would make it easy to cart your things in and out.
There are two sets of Culture interconnecting rooms would be great for families with smaller kids as well as teens. And they are sprawling enough to be comfortable for several days.
Great with teens
Going on holiday with teens take a special balance. It may make economic sense to share a room but bunking in the same bed together feels a little too close for comfort. We liked our Cool room with two single beds, the two hers-and-hers sinks in the bathroom and the ledges on the sinks that were wide enough to set down your face products.
At the small desk, there’s a socket – perfect for using the hotel’s hairdryer or our straightener. While my daughter was in the bathroom, I could still apply makeup and get ready, and afforded us each some privacy.
The Diner in the basement serves a buffet breakfast (right now served by a staff member because of the pandemic). It’s open throughout the day for grabbing coffee or working at one of the many tables. There’s also a grab-and-go breakfast you can take with you. It’s all included in the price.
My George Hotel itinerary
There’s loads to do in Cheltenham. Here are some of my suggestions for a quick stay.
Check in and drop your bags
It’s quick and easy via the screen check-in. Depending on where your room is, you may find yourself going up staircases and along passages to get to your room. Take a moment to stretch out on the bed and admire the digs before you get out in Cheltenham.
Make a reservation at No. 131
The Lucky Onion Group owns No. 131, a grand, more expensive hotel that borders Imperial Square. We popped in for lunch amid the palms, patterned tiles and neon. The food is delicious and the vibe is buzzy.
Walk up Cleeve Hill
A good circular walk from 2 to 4.5 hours, depending on the route, with views over Cheltenham and the countryside.
While these have taken a hiatus now, there are a ridiculous amount of amazing festivals here, from the book festival, jazz festival, horseracing…
Visit the squares and parks
Pittville Park is the largest ornamental park in the city — it has an historic Grade I listed Pump Room, lakes and great views. Plus there are some great options with children, including a play area, tennis courts, boating lake, aviaries, a pitch and putt golf course — you can even fish! In addition to Imperial Square, close to the hotel is Montpellier Gardens and a little further is Sandford Park, with a play area.
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The George Hotel
St George’s Rd, Cheltenham GL50 3DZ
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