Last week I took the day off from work to escape the rat race in favour of the real racing world and my favourite guaranteed royal spotting of the year – Royal Ascot!
Normally Graham and I go on opening day but we decided to mix it up this year and see what the racing was like on Day 2 (Wednesday). I can’t say I didn’t panic though when suddenly The Queen’s speech was scheduled for that morning. Would she make it to the races on time? Would they even do the carriage procession? Thankfully The Queen was determined not to miss a moment and made it on time!
There’s definitely a different, calmer vibe on the second day of Royal Ascot with smaller crowds and less high-profile racing which I actually really liked. The train out to Ascot (which takes about 55 minutes from London Waterloo) was quiet – a big departure when we’re used to being crammed in like sardines – and there was actually space to move around in the Queen Anne Enclosure. (Ascot is divided into different, ticketed areas and the Queen Anne is the closest you can get to being in the Royal Enclosure. I’ll get there one day!)
Another factor which definitely thinned the crowds was the heat. There’s nothing like being dressed to the nines on the hottest day of the year – I felt so bad for Graham in his long-sleeved shirt and tie! There was an area inside with shade and a hint of AC to take shelter in between races but for the most part we just had to laugh and embrace the very un-fancy sweat.
After arriving at the course we made our way to the Parade Ring to get a good view of the royal carriage procession. We were a bit light on royals (Murphy’s Law – the one year we don’t go on opening day is the one year they all go on opening day!) but it’s always fabulous to see The Queen.
Instead of staying in our normal perch after the carriages stopped we inched closer to get better views and ended up next to the press pool which was full of photographers. While I intently tried to get a great shot Graham had a great time laughing at both me and the photogs who would let loose a flurry of clicks every time Her Majesty glanced our way.
Other royals in attendance included Princess Anne, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
Once the first race kicked off we entered a cycle of watch the race, watch the presentation of trophies, place bets on the next race (real or figurative), refuel (there was not enough water in the world in that heat!), repeat.
Almost before I knew it the day started to wrap up and it was time for us to catch a train home.
Though I’m not an avid horse racing fan (Royal Ascot is the only UK meet I actively engage with) it’s a really fun day out and an experience I highly recommend. Get dressed up, take friends, take a picnic, place your bet and enjoy getting caught up in the excitement!
Tickets start at £30 for the Silver Ring (which runs alongside the length of the track) and £65 for the Queen Anne Enclosure. Entry to the Royal Enclosure is by invitation only and boxes are extremely pricey. If you want to be able to get close to the finish line, the parade ring and the royals the Queen Anne Enclosure is the one I would recommend. I’ve always had a great experience there!