Horse Racing: Giddyup to a Racecourse
Bring out the silly hats! Yes, even if (especially if) you're a bloke...just nick your mother in law's one from when you got married. It’s summer and racecourse time, with meets all over the country so you can dress up (heels for men too), have a flutter on the gee-gees and pretend for an afternoon you’re in a documentary called How the Other Half Lives. Many thoughtful racecourse owners even have a year-round programme, with Christmas parties, family weekends and autumn concerts, so you can go away every month if you like with all your winnings. Make a weekend of it by staying in a campsite nearby, preferably one with a bar so you can drown your sorrows after betting next week’s grocery budget on a limping nag.
Try these UK racecourses to kick off some good meets:
Ascot: Well, of course. The home of the silliest of silly hats, Ascot has been holding meets for 300 years, including the famous Royal Ascot over five days in June. There’s plenty of racing and events taking part all year round, including summer cinema, autumn beer festivals, fireworks in November and a family day Christmas meet.
For camping, Hurley Riverside Park eleven miles away has grass pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes from £19; there's fishing on site in season, riverside picnic areas and a nature trail, and guests can buy discounted tickets at reception for local attractions including Legoland and Thorpe Park. Etherley Farm in nearby Dorking has grass pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes, allows campfires and sells tasty poultry produce from the farm for campfire cooking.
Lingfield Park: Lingfield Park in Surrey has over 80 race days throughout the year with plenty of themed days, and with racing including flats and jumps. It’s set in 450 acres of parkland too, so if you get too despondent at losing just nip off into the trees for a mood-lifting picnic and a sneaky drink of champers. There are themed days throughout the year including Ladies' Evenings, family fun days and music nights, and the racecourse also has an 18-hole championship golf course and a spa.
Stay two miles away from Lingfield Racecourse at Long Acres Caravan and Camping Park, a family-run and dog-friendly site with pitches from £14 without electric and £17 with electric hook-up, or bag a bell tent at Southern Bells, also at Lingfield, from £50. Just over the border in Kent, there are tipis for hire at Chafford Park Campsite from £100 a night sleeping up to six, on a family farm with fishing on site, clay pigeon shooting and a farm shop with organic produce.
Perth: Perth Racecourse is in the grounds of Scone Palace, coronation site of Scottish kings and mentioned by Shakespeare in the Scottish play. There are 15 fixtures a year, kicking off with the three-day Perth Festival in April and going on until September: make a week or two of it, we reckon, and pootle around Perthshire to the Famous Grouse Experience, Blair Castle and skiing at Glenshee.
We have a few Perthshire sites within 15 miles of the racing: bed down in style in a luxury two-bedroom holiday home at Corriefoldy Holiday Park in Blairgowrie from £214.50 for three nights, with salmon and trout fishing on site, a bar and an indoor games room. Also at Blairgowrie, Blairgowrie Holiday Park has hardstanding electric pitches for tourers and motorhomes from £18, or there's Grand Eagles twelve miles from the racecourse at Auchterarder with hardstanding pitches from £19.50.
Plumpton: Plumpton Racecourse is at the foot of the South Downs and has 16 days of jumps racing each year on a one-mile course, on themes including Ladies Day, family raceday and Christmas racing. If such is your thing, you can also take a balloon ride from here over the Sussex countryside or get your LGV or PCV license, perhaps for a change of career after a day's meet. If you're going to Plumpton, swing by to take a look at the course at Brighton too, described by those wise folks at Channel 4 as 'undoubtedly one of the most picturesque settings of any course'. The horses and riders finish only feet away from the crowd so you can get really into the swing of things, although we wouldn't recommend then berating your jockey if you lose.
We have several nearby campsites and parks in East Sussex and West Sussex: closest to Plumpton is Housedean Farm Campsite less than four miles away, with a bell tent from £60 a night and non-electric tent pitches from £18; there's a regular bus outside the site that goes to Brighton so you can console yourself on the beach about your losses. Or head to nearby Heathfield and go wild camping at Dernwood Farm, which has one of the top-rated farm shops in the country and pitches where you fancy from £16.
Chepstow: One of three racecourses in Wales, Chepstow is at the southern end of the Wye Valley in Monmouthshire and is the site of the Welsh National in late December every year (2013's is on December 28). Chepstow has themed racing all year round such as evening racing, free entry for seniors and Caribbean Night, and is also the venue for the Green Gathering festival in August.
Take in some golf and fishing alongside the gee-gees with a stay at Monmouthshire's adults-only Wernddu Farm Golf Club, where there's an 18-hole course, private fishing pond, driving range, pitch and putt course and clubhouse. Grass tent pitches start from £13.50 a night, with serviced pitches for tourers and motorhomes from £17.50. There are Somerset stays within driving distance of the racecourse at Cheddar's Bucklegrove Caravan & Camping Park, a family-friendly site with views of the Cheddar valley and Mendip Hills and camping cabins for hire from £45 sleeping up to four.
If you're thinking of going all of a-flutter this summer, remember, it’s not just about having a great day out at the races – your winnings can be saved up to buy a neat little campervan. Or you could jump into the saddle yourself at one of our 400+ campsites with horse-riding nearby.
Page updated June 2013.