Laytown, Ireland

The unique world-famous Laytown – racing on the sands in Co. Meath. This is an annual one day meeting in early September (tides permitting!)

Getting there

Laytown is served by the mainline train from Dublin and Dundalk, depending on which direction you are coming from, see: https://www.irishrail.ie/ – and there are courtesy shuttle buses to transport you to the track. If travelling by car, as you drive into Laytown – you will clearly see the parking areas. Again you will need to get a shuttle bus to the track, or you can walk around the coast, which will take you 20-25 minutes.

The set-up!

Refraining from calling it a course! However, it is of course run under regulations, so usual IHRB rules apply.

Temporary structures are erected in terms of hospitality tents, a parade ring and other marquees containing bars and eating areas. The ‘stand’ is basically the steps down to the beach.

Punters enjoying themselves in the ‘stand’

It’s such a spectacle and very well supported year on year in. A huge amount of overseas visitors attend and it all makes for a great atmosphere in early Autumn. The biggest overseas support comes in the form of trainer Jamie Osborne and his Melbourne 10 owners group, who send a big string over each year, with varying degrees of success.

Parade ring

Local vicinity

Laytown itself has a few bars. The nearest large town would be Drogheda. If wishing to make a trip of it, you could stay in Drogheda – the main hotel is the D Hotel. Or just off the main Dublin to Belfast M1 route, there is also a large hotel called the City North. Equally, along the train line, are places such as Malahide, Portmarnock, which all have good standard hotels by the sea.

General vibe

Attracts a crowd from every strata of society. In essence it’s like a country fair, from yesteryear. There is no dress code, it’s whatever suits the prevailing weather of the day. No best-dressed, although you will see the odd lady dressed up to the nines. Anything goes essentially.

Down to the start

Summary

A once-in-a-lifetime or maybe a few times in a lifetime experience, once you get hooked. Do be prepared for a degree of a lack of comfort, appreciating that it is a temporary structure. You can find places to sit if you’re smart and you can always sit on the steps overlooking the action. Or sign up to hospitality, but it sells out very quickly, early on in the calendar year for that year’s fixture.

Bellewstown, Ireland

Racing on ‘The hill of Crockafotha’ has taken place since 1726. Bellewstown is a picturesque, compact, track in Co. Meath. It stages summer festivals in July & August.

It’s probably most notorious for the betting coup of Barney Curley and his plunge on Yellow Sam. The phone box from which this were done, takes pride of place on the course.

Getting there

Bellewstown is best reached by road, unless you are part of a group going by bus. Racing usually starts late afternoon, so if you want to while an hour away, there’s a good bar directly across the road from the course.

Racecourse

While it may be light on facilities, it more than compensates by way of drawing in great attendances and therefore a very lively atmosphere.

There are dining facilities there, but mainly of the sausage and chips variety. I cannot comment on hospitality, but there is a tented area given over to this, for those that prefer.

There’s always live music and getting a drink with ease, isn’t a problem at all.

Summary

A broad cross-section of attendees makes for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The racing is not the highest of quality but highly competitive and a winner’s a winner! Most people make it an annual event including me – such is it’s unique charm.

Footnote

If after racing you want to go for something to eat, I would recommend the Lime Kiln at Julianstown: http://www.thelimekiln.ie/ The Lime Kiln is about a 10 minute drive away from Bellewstown.