Whether you’re competing or just spectating, there’s no better way for a horse lover to spend a day than at the races.
And fortunately, we’re blessed with stunning sites across the UK: there are 60 flat and National Hunt courses in our country, including 17 that are dual purpose.
Many are world renowned, while others are more hidden gems. And each horse riding enthusiast has his or her own personal favourite.
At Equesure, we arrange insurance for horse riders for thousands of equestrians, whether regular or just occasional riders. We’ve listed our top 10 racecourses in the UK below. Do you agree with our choices?
At 360 acres, this beautiful racecourse nestled into a natural amphitheatre in the Cotswold hills is the biggest in the UK – but is it the best? That’s a matter of personal preference.
It’s famed as the home of jump racing, hosting 16 days’ worth of this thrilling sport across the year.
The highpoint of Cheltenham’s year is its four-day festival every March, featuring 14 different types of Grade 1 stakes races. The festival attracts capacity crowds of around 68,000 racing fans.
The site, Prestbury Park, boasts three separate courses. The Old Course and New Course are both left-handed and undulating with uphill finishes.
The Old Course is slightly shorter and used for all races on the first two days of the Festival, including the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The New Course, which is actually more than 50 years old, is used on days three and four, including for the renowned Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Meanwhile, the figure-of-eight-shaped Cross Country Steeplechase Course is used for several races, including The International held every December.
For racegoers, there are three enclosures: the upmarket Club, the mid-range Tattersalls, and the budget Best Mate.
Each has its own unique atmosphere, and shopping and hospitality options abound wherever you are, so you’re sure to have a fantastic time!
Nowhere embodies British horse racing more than Ascot. This iconic venue just west of London has been hosting the crème de la crème of British society since it was founded by Queen Anne in 1711, and is still the location for the five-day Royal Ascot every June.
However, even if you’re not a member of the aristocracy, you’ll love your trip to Ascot. There are 26 days’ worth of flat and jump racing every year, so you’re bound to find something that suits your own equestrian interests.
The oldest and most prestigious race is the Gold Cup, held on the third day of Ascot. This is also ‘ladies’ day’, when female racegoers dress up in their most glamorous outfits – and outlandish hats!
There are four enclosures at Ascot, but the Royal Enclosure is invitation only. Each has its own dress code, so make sure you look the part!
Is competing at Ascot your dream? We can arrange horse rider insurance for budding competitors, providing personal accident cover of up to £10,000 for juniors and £20,000 for adults.
While Ascot may dazzle with its social scene, Newmarket is all about the horses. This Suffolk course is considered the headquarters of British horse racing, and is surrounded by training yards and equestrian organisations.
Newmarket boasts two courses: the Rowely Mile and the July Course. Both are used for flat races, and have a crowd capacity of 20,000.
So what events might lure you to Newmarket? The Guineas festival in April is a strong draw: it’s for three-year-old colts and fillies, so it’s a great chance to see thoroughbreds in action before they become famous!
Whether you’re in the Premier, Grandstand & Paddock, or the Garden Enclosure, you’re sure to have a brilliant day at the races here.
This racecourse in Liverpool is home to the biggest UK steeplechase of them all: the Grand National. It’s the race that non horsey people have heard of – and gamble upon.
Why is Aintree so special? It’s all down to that unique track, regarded as the most challenging in British steeplechasing and possibly the world. It’s about two miles and two furlongs, with 16 fences – most of which the horses have to jump twice.
Even the fences at Aintree are famous: there’s Becher’s Brook, which has a drop on the other side; and the Chair, which is the largest. All except the water jumps are covered with spruce, giving the course a very distinctive look.
Every year, a huge number of entrants fail to complete the race, with many riders unseated. Of course, even tamer events or just practice runs can result in injury to riders, so make sure you’re covered with horse rider insurance before you take to the saddle.
York may not host such renowned events as the courses above, but it’s many racegoers’ favourite course. In fact, it’s been awarded ‘Racecourse of the Year’ by the Racegoers’ Club several times.
What makes this flat racing course, often called the Knavesmire, so well loved? It could be the long home straight, which makes for a thrilling finish.
Or it could be the fact that the excellent stands offer incredible views of all the racing action: choose from the County Stand, Grandstand and Paddock, or Clocktower Enclosure.
York’s big event is the Ebor Festival in August, with its flagship race the International Stakes. Lester Piggott and Frankie Dettori have both won it five times.
Often called the most picturesque racecourse in the UK, this Sussex site is home to the five-day ‘Glorious Goodwood’ festival every July.
It’s famed for its views – not just of the horses, stunning though they are, but also of the beautiful South Downs and the sea. Its finishing straight is flanked by distinctive white pavilions, which gleam in the summer sunshine.
While the premier Richmond Enclosure offers the best view of the winning post, there’s a fantastic informal atmosphere in the Lennox Enclosure. This is full of families and picnics, plus a large children’s playground in case your little ones get bored of the racing action.
If a day at Glorious Goodwood inspires you or your kids to take up equestrian sports, remember to make sure you’ve got insurance for a horse rider.
They really know about horse racecourses in Yorkshire - we could happily add Ripon, Wetherby and several others to this list!
But Doncaster wins by a nose thanks to its history: it’s home to the world’s oldest classic horse race, the St Leger Stakes, which is held every autumn.
It’s at Doncaster that England’s flat racing season is both opened in April and closed in September. In between, the track doubles up as the site for some great National Hunt races too, making this a fantastic all-rounder.
A racecourse in Wales is pretty much guaranteed to be situated in stunning scenery. Chepstow in Monmouthshire offers not only a gorgeous parkland setting, but also sweeping views across the Severn Estuary and Wye Valley.
It’s also the home of one of the most prestigious fixtures in the Welsh sporting calendar: the Welsh Grand National, held on the 27th December. It’s a handicap race with 23 fences, run over a distance of three miles and 6.5 furlongs.
So for a bracing post-Christmas pick-me-up, wrap up warm and head to the stands at Chepstow! For the less hardy equestrian fans among you, there’s also an Easter Raceday.
Of course, there’s no need to suffer in the winter or spring weather: there are plenty of fine hospitality options at this site, making this a great day out.
Epsom in Surrey is another racecourse with strong royal associations, as the Queen traditionally attends the prestigious Epsom Derby every June. She’s always in for a treat!
This U-shaped track is widely regarded as one of the most challenging, thanks to its steep climbs and descents. Its straight five-furlong course is virtually downhill all the way, making it the fastest in the world.
Epsom is another beautifully sited racecourse: it’s in the chalk hills of the North Downs. In fact, spectators often gather to watch the races for free from the hills overlooking the track!
If you’re a horse lover on a budget, come to Equesure for your horse rider insurance quote. We can search our panel of trusted insurance providers to find competitive policies to suit your requirements.
If you love Goodwood, why not try Hamilton Park? It’s not the biggest of the Scottish racecourses – that’s Ayr, another highly recommended site. But it is another quirky track that’s prized for its great atmosphere as much as its races.
This racecourse, just outside Glasgow, is famed for hosting great evening flat races, including the Lanark Silver Bell. The races are always competitive and the crowd enthusiastic, making for a fun evening out.
Plus, there are good transport links back to Glasgow, so no need to worry about driving if you fancy a few drinks.
The best of the rest
So many fantastic racecourses, so little space to tell you about them all! Here’s a quick round-up of some other greats.
Haydock is another Merseyside gem – brilliant for both flat racing and National Hunt.
Newbury in Berkshire also hosts both flat and National Hunt fixtures, including the Lockinge Stakes, the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Challow Novices’ Hurdle.
Chester is officially recognised as the oldest racecourse in the world that’s still in operation today, having been established in 1539. Fortunately, its facilities have been upgraded since!
Musselburgh, close to Edinburgh, is the oldest racecourse in Scotland, and hosts flat and jump races all year round.
And finally, Sandown Park in Surrey hosts several National Hunt and one Group 1 flat race, and is easily accessible by train from London Waterloo to Esher.
But of course, your own favourite racecourse might be entirely different. It could be the one you first visited as a child, where you caught the horse riding bug. Or perhaps the one you visit most often now, where you’ve made special memories with your friends and family.
Or maybe you haven’t yet found your favourite. If that’s the case, you’ve got a fantastic adventure ahead of you!
Top tips for getting the most out of your visit to the races
A day at the races is a British institution, and one that should be hugely exciting. Here are a few pointers to put you on the right track.
- Choose the right enclosure for you. They’ve all got different atmospheres, rules – and ticket prices!
- Dress the part. You need to abide by any dress code, while also staying warm, dry and protected from the sun.
- Plan your day. You can find maps and guides to your race course and event online, allowing you to draw up a rough schedule and make sure you don’t miss anything.
- Check out the pre-parade and the parade rings. This is where you can see the horses before the races.
- Don’t gamble more than you can afford. Having a flutter on the horses is a race day tradition – but one that could turn your great day out into a nightmare unless you’re careful.
- Have fun! Of course, races are competitions, and you might well take them very seriously. But don’t forget to enjoy the spectacle of some of the world’s best horses and jockeys testing themselves to the limits over some of the UK’s finest courses.
Get a quote from Equesure today
Whether you’re dreaming of winning trophies on a thoroughbred or just enjoy a gentle trot on your pony, horse rider insurance keeps you covered.
At Equesure, we are specialists in arranging policies through a panel of trusted advisors. We arrange insurance for both juniors (aged 5-17) and adults (18-75), with cover included as standard for personal accident, personal dentistry, public liability, saddlery and tack, and vets’ fees for accidental visible injuries. All are subject to underwriting criteria.
Horse rider insurance policies is available to anyone who rides, whether you own a horse or not.
Get in touch for a quote today.
Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.