Having been a patron of the previous incarnation of Ascot, I paid my first ever visit to the new Ascot in 2019, for the Royal meeting.
How to get there
By air: London Heathrow. Ascot racecourse is served by train. For the Royal meeting, taxis should ideally be booked in advance. If you take your chances after racing and are fortunate to get one from the rank, you will probably be price gouged, even if going a very short distance.
It goes without saying, that hotels and other lodgings are booked up year on year. Expect to pay a premium. Some people will stay as far away as Slough & Reading, but then you have to grapple with the transport options, or lack of. Royal Ascot charge about £35 for car-parking and it generally should be booked in advance.
The sheer scale of the stand is initially, somewhat overwhelming for the 1st time visitor. Once inside, you are struck by the genius design of it. It feels spacious, even when thronged with punters. It’s almost like a boulevard with a variety of eating and drinking options off the main thoroughfare.
What really impressed me, that unlike some other major racing festival racecourses, the prices for food and drink were more than reasonable for a premium event such as Royal Ascot. I think this is important to note, as it leaves punters like me going away with the sense of satisfaction that they haven’t been ripped off.
As we all probably know there are 3 enclosures – the Royal one, for which access is gained by invitation or application only, the Queen Anne and the Village enclosure. I recall that Queen Anne access was around £73-75 per day in 2019.
There are numerous hospitality packages available.
I am not going to discuss the racing, as that does not warrant discussion here.
If you’re into people spotting, you can actually be only a few feet away from the Royal Family and other high profile individuals, if you turn up at the parade ring before races. Or you can of course wait on the rails for the daily Royal carriage procession, if that is your want.
With regard to the parade ring, the side nearest the stand is highly congested, I would advise wandering around to the opposite side, where you can usually get a much better vantage point for the horses.
There is a really good Royal Ascot shop selling a variety of souvenir type items and more expensive items of clothing and artefacts. Again, I found the range of merchandise extremely good value for the quality on offer.
There are not enough superlatives to adequately describe the general excitement and high-octane racing that takes place. For purist flat racing fans like myself it’s heaven. For others of course, it’s all about the style and the people-watching and that is the beauty of Royal Ascot, it can be everything to everyone.
A lot of people look forward to the end of day bandstand sing-song, where the band plays a variety of patriotic tunes. If you’re not too fussed about this, I would take this as the cue to get away from the course and beat some of the crowds.
Ascot – the town
Ascot itself has a limited amount of restaurants that would need to be booked well in advance. There are a few bars, which again are busy but good-natured and enjoyable. Ascot also enjoys some good coffee shops, where you can while an hour away before gates open, over breakfast, or a cake and coffee.
For those who need last minute outfits or accessories, there are sufficient outlets for this purpose. Most of the boutiques go to town on their windows and they in themselves are worth a look.
Again, it’s one of those must-do events, at least once in a lifetime. A great value product, excellent organisational efficiency in all areas, plenty of sherpas to guide you around and a real delight.
Do however, if not in a hospitality area, be prepared to spend long periods on your feet! I ended up buying a pair of Royal Ascot ballet pumps to walk back to my digs in Sunninghill, having managed to stay on the heels since 9am that morning!