61. World-class Eventing in the Cotswolds at Badminton and Gatcombe Park

Tens of thousands of equestrian fans converge on two venues in the southern Cotswolds each summer for two of the UK’s premier eventing competitions.

The Badminton Horse Trials , a prestigious event held in the park of Badminton House, Gloucestershire, the seat of the Duke of Beaufort, is a testament to the rich equestrian heritage of the Cotswolds. First held in 1949 by the 10th Duke of Beaufort, it was designed to prepare British riders for future international events and was proudly advertised as ‘the most important horse event in Britain’. It was the second three-day event held in Britain, following the 1948 London Olympics.

Today’s Badminton is held in a six-square-kilometre (1,500-acre) park, where the car parks, trade stands, arena, and cross-country courses are located. Badminton House is now the family home of the 11th Duke of Beaufort, president of the Horse Trials, who was himself a very successful rider in the sport, placing second in 1959.

Over the years, bad weather and foot and mouth disease have forced Badminton to cancel several times.

The cross country day at Badminton attracts crowds of up to a quarter of a million, the largest for any paid-entry sport event in the UK and the second largest in the world (after the Indianapolis 500).

49-year-old Debbie Thompson from Malmesbury sampled the atmosphere of the Badminton Horse Trials for the first time in 2014, and she described it as “a great day out. “It was enjoyable whether you are passionate about horses or not,” she said. It was great for horse and people watching, and there were great stands and good food and drink.”

The Festival of British Eventing, held at Gatcombe Park over the first weekend of August, is another major equestrian event held in the Cotswolds annually. Gatcombe Park is the private country home of Princess Royal and her family and is situated between the Gloucestershire villages of Minchinhampton and Avening, five miles south of Stroud.

Organised by Mark Phillips with considerable input from Princess Anne, the event attracts the world’s top Olympians, more than 40,000 paying spectators and BBC television coverage.

The event incorporates the British Open, Intermediate, and Novice Championships. In addition to a weekend of top-class eventing, there is a shopping village, arena attractions, and entertainment for all the family.

The estate also hosts two smaller horse trials, in the spring and autumn, whose courses are lovingly designed by Anne, adding a personal touch to the events. Additionally, a biannual craft fair with around 160 exhibitors takes place in May and October, showcasing the local talent and community spirit of the Cotswolds.