Down Royal, Northern Ireland

Down Royal is a dual purpose track in Co. Down, in the North of Ireland. It’s situated a short distance from the border and is South of Belfast. It’s feature races are the Grade one chase in November, of which Road to Respect won the 2019 renewal. The most valuable flat race ran is the Ulster Derby, which is run in June.

It is one of 2 tracks in the North of Ireland – the other being Downpatrick.

Getting there

Down Royal is about 25 minutes from Belfast by car. A taxi will cost about £25 each way. There is also a bus which goes from Donegal Square West which can be booked via here: https://downroyal.com/ From Dublin, it is about 1 hour and 35 minutes by car. The nearest town to the course is Lisburn.

If flying in, the nearest airport (17 miles) – is George Best Belfast City airport.

Accommodation

Depending on what you’re looking for – you can stay in the seaside resort of Bangor. Co. Down or you can stay in Belfast, as we did. There are all manner of choices. Northern Ireland has really taken off as a tourist destination in recent years, especially since the Game of Thrones (which was largely filmed there) – so I would advise booking reasonably well in advance for the choice of accommodation.

We stayed at the Hotel Europa: https://www.hastingshotels.com/europa-belfast/ whose notoriety is that of being the most-bombed hotel in Europe, during the troubles in Northern Ireland! It’s a great central location, close to all the shops and the highly sophisticated dining scene in Belfast, which includes the Michelin starred Deanes: https://www.michaeldeane.co.uk/ Highly recommended.

Racecourse

Rural setting adjacent to the old Maze prison which was consistently in the news during the Troubles, because it housed the hunger strikers and other freedom and loyalist paramilitaries.

It’s fairly compact, there is an independent bar on the outskirts of the course, which is handy for a pre or post raceday drink.

There is not that much seating room, so on the bigger days, be prepared to have to stand. Plenty of food and drink options on offer.

General vibe

Very friendly, informal venue. Very well-supported by the local population. It’s invariably a fun day out.

Summary

Guaranteed a good day out with generally competitive racing, with families well catered for too. Combine it with a look at what else Northern Ireland has to offer – Belfast, or the Causeway Coast, or the Glens of Antrim, or even Derry (Londonderry). So much to offer. It was further boosted last year by the staging of the British Open Golf major tournament, at Royal Portrush.

HQ – Newmarket, Suffolk, UK

This is a practical guide to horse racing tracks visited, reviewed from a practical and social viewpoint. It is not intended to be a technical guide to the characteristics of a given track. If you wish to learn about the nitty-gritty of individual track trends etc. you will find other sites more relevant to that objective.

It aims to advise on the optimum logistics of travelling to a new racecourse, where to eat, stay and other guidance on what to expect.

This blog will be a moving feast, with updates as new tracks visited and revisted.

If you wish to share any of your experiences and feedback, please leave a comment or email: amanda@short-call.com