Discovering the secret of Royal Ascot
Date Posted: 03/08/2010
Rob Yandell sampled Royal Ascot to find out more about this award-winning event.
Royal Ascot has been voted Best Event for Groups in both 2008 and 2009 by readers of this very magazine. So, I had the arduous task of experiencing this most royal and traditional of race meetings on a hot summer’s day in Berkshire to find out why.
Sitting nicely alongside other national sporting institutions, such as Wimbledon, Royal Ascot is without doubt one of the most British of summer social occasions. The five days attract racing enthusiasts, but I was told there is an estimated 60 per cent of visitors who simply turn up for the atmosphere and don’t even watch a race - staggering!
I had visited Ascot Racecourse last year but ‘Royal’ was completely different. It is a stunning venue anytime of year and one I can do nothing but praise. The facilities and infrastructure are first class and GTOs will be in the hands of a friendly and knowledgeable group sales team - I even saw groups welcomed personally as they got off their coach.
But the thing that really impresses me about the sales team at Ascot and indeed the Royal Ascot week itself, is the flexibility. You get so used to rules and regulations that it came as a pleasant surprise to find so much freedom. For instance, once you pull into one of the coach parks you are free to picnic in your coach area, and can bring awnings, gazebos, tables and chairs and get into the swing of things. As I strolled around one of the coach parks there was plenty of activity and groups can bring as much food and drink as they like. Coach parking is usually free throughout the year at the racecourse but during ‘Royal’ there are fees from around £70, which shared by everyone is very little.
Inside the course, there are plenty of bars and food choices, depending on where you are. The cheapest and less formal option is the Silver Ring, which is a short walk down from the main Grandstand and close to one of the coach parks. Here, groups are charged from £15 per person if in a party of ten or more people. A more modest area, there is no shortage of facilities, with covered seating, bars and live music throughout the day until 7pm. You can also take in your picnic and a limited amount of alcohol too, which again keeps costs down. If you thought a group trip to Royal Ascot was going to break the bank, think again.
I was lucky enough to enjoy the day in the Grandstand and what a facility it is. The course underwent a £220 million facelift, reopening in 2006 - and it shows. There are plenty of places to enjoy a drink and even though it was busy, it didn’t feel overcrowded (that may be somewhat different on Ladies’ Day of course). The idea would be to enjoy your picnic in the coach park before entering the Grandstand area or opt for one of the food outlets. Here, you are near the finish line and, if a little extra on the cost of your trip isn’t a problem, for me the Grandstand is the place to be. Here, you can view the horses in the Parade Ring before the races and see the presentations made. Following the Royal Procession, the Queen also makes an appearance before retiring to the Royal Box to watch the racing while Prince Philip watches Countdown.
The Queen is present on all five days and adds to the occasion. As does the colour and fashion on show from an array of designer outfits and expensive hats. Ladies are dressed in lovely, smart summer wear and gentleman wear a suit and tie. However, if you’re in the Silver Ring the dress code is more relaxed, although smart attire is encouraged. You will also see gentlemen wearing top hats with a morning suit and they’ll be part of the Royal Enclosure, which is by invitation only.
If you are in the Grandstand area, end your day with a traditional sing-song around the Bandstand. Old classics are belted out with Union Jack flags flying furiously as people get stuck into their 15th Pimms of the day. It was a fantastic atmosphere and a great finale to a
I can understand why some see the horse racing as a secondary consideration but the betting is a great deal of fun. Leading jockeys competing on top class horses is the reason Royal Ascot exists and the Tote betting provides all types of fun and unusual better options that you can also do in groups. I always enjoy having a flutter down by the track, the choice is yours. The best advice is to set aside an amount of money you will bet with, so you don’t find yourself getting over-excited and getting a call from the bank manager!
Royal Ascot 2011
2011 will be Ascot’s 300th year anniversary, so what better time to join in? Royal Ascot takes place from Tuesday 14th to Saturday 18th June and tickets go on sale on 12th October.
Group prices start from £15 per person in the Silver Ring and £42 per person in the Grandstand for ten or more people. And, for the first time ever, there is a group discount for parties of 49 people or more on Ladies’ Day (Thursday) when it is estimated the percentage of female race-goers will be around 75 per cent of the overall attendance.
It’s easy to see why Royal Ascot has hit the spot with group organisers and scooped two Group Leisure Awards in two years. Go and you’ll have a wonderful day trip to remember with choice, flexibility and a whole load of fun.
And there’s more…
Throughout the year, there is plenty going on at Ascot Racecourse that can provide a fantastic day out without breaking the bank. Tickets for groups to come to Ascot start from £6 and coach parking is free outside of ‘Royal’ week. You can take a tour and arrange a meal in advance to add to your trip. Other race day events that Ascot arrange include beer festivals, firework displays, a Christmas shopping village, 80s retro concerts and food festivals.