York, UK

As well as being a fabulous City to visit, York racecourse really delivers.

Logistics

Coming from Ireland, we flew into Leeds Bradford with Ryanair. It’s a compact airport and the Tiger bus from the airport, connects you to Leeds, from which point you take a train to York itself. The walk to York centre takes about 15 minutes at a steady strolling pace and is quite scenic over the river.

Accommodation

We stayed at a fairly priced old hostelry – Guy Fawkes, which is opposite the York Minster (Cathedral). Well-appointed rooms, with a good breakfast.

More upmarket choices are The Grand (nearer to the railway station) and Grays Court nearer to the centre and York Minster.

Dining

Everything – from chains like Cote Brasserie, to creative English fayre in Gastro Pubs, as well as a great selection of independent restaurants. We ate at Bennetts, opposite the Minster, which comes highly recommended. There are a lot of good independent restaurants around this area – Petergate, which is slightly away from the true centre of York, with the Shambles and cobbled streets. If you’re fan of ethnic cuisine, there is a great Nepalese restaurant in Gillygate – Taas. Gillygate also has a good selection of bars and restaurants.

Racing – how to get there

There are buses running direct to the racecourse almost opposite the train station. Frequent and plentiful, from about 10.00.

Enclosures

3 main levels: County Stand (the premium option), Grandstand and the budget Clocktower (opposite the stands). See: https://www.yorkracecourse.co.uk for further information.

We experienced the County Stand and it was very spacious, with an intelligent queuing system for drinks, rather than having to fight for attention in a scrum at the bar. It is a bit of a walk to the parade ring and on the big days the parade ring can be 6 deep, so if paddock watching is for you, you would need to position yourself there nearly for the whole day, if you want the pre & post race action.

Excellent selection of food, from local specialities to all the usual fayre.

General vibe

Everyone generally does dress up, regardless of which enclosure they’re in. It has a very feelgood party atmosphere. I didn’t sense any particular rough, or threatening element – the usual drunks, but generally good natured. They do have the drug amnesty bins at the entrance.

Overall punter experience

9/10, can hardly find any flaws with the racecourse operation.

Other observations

If you are expecting a post racing nightlife akin to Cheltenham, it isn’t really like that. A huge amount of the racegoers go home on the train after racing. I’m sure there are a few lively bars that weren’t on our radar, but having got feedback from others, they would concur with this viewpoint.

Newmarket, UK

Getting there

London Stansted airport is convenient for those coming in from overseas. You can hire a car and be in the area in around an hour.

The general area

I was terribly excited about visiting the town of Newmarket, anticipating that it would be crammed with stylish boutiques and hat shops…it isn’t!  Having travelled from Dublin, and not wanting to crush one of my hats en-route, I ended up getting one in TK Maxx in Newmarket High Street!

Newmarket town is full of betting shops and bars, which is no bad thing and to be expected.  Look out for the dedication to the late Walter Swinburn on the pavement, in front of Barclays Bank.

The National Horse Racing museum is definitely worth a visit and the café there is very good.  The menu is interesting and there is a lovely area to sit outside in the courtyard, under the watchful gaze of Frankel.

Limited accommodation in Newmarket and you would have to book well in advance and pay top dollar for the privilege.

We stayed in Cambridge – the Holiday Inn, which is off the main A14. Perfectly acceptable, with inclusive hot buffet breakfast, gym, ample parking but sterile.  Eating out in the evening, it’s best to drive (or get a taxi) to The Boot at Histon: https://boothiston.com/.  Or you could eat in Cambridge itself which is about a 15-20 minute drive.  Cambridge is one of those difficult cities to navigate and park in, until you know where you’re heading to.  Lovely shopping centre there – the Grand Arcade, that does have a multi-storey.

The racecourse itself – wow.  The drive from Cambridge, through the tree lined A roads, past all the stud farms, is a pleasure in itself and then you get to the course.

Newmarket races on 2 different courses – the Rowley Mile and the July course, depending on the programme.

It’s run with military precision and there are ample Sherpa guides on hand to direct the newcomers.

There is a true sense of theatre here that you would expect from flat HQ, and it really needs to be experienced first-hand. 

The dress code in the club enclosure seems to be somewhat relaxed, you can expect some punters in Bermuda shorts, as opposed to collar and tie, which I personally found disappointing.  It was also odd that they didn’t sell sparkling water!

Plenty of outside food & drink stations, as well as hat and accessory type stalls, as well as the usual paintings, jewellery etc.

In summary, a must visit for any racing fan.