Britain’s most popular and fashionable horseracing event, Royal Ascot, is being held in the pretty Berkshire town of Ascot this week. Visiting Royal Ascot is always a fun day out, a great opportunity to dress up, people watch and enjoy some fantastic horse racing. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to see the Royal Family close up.
Her Majesty The Queen traditionally attends every day of Royal Ascot. As an owner and breeder of racehorses, Her Majesty takes a keen interest in the races, both at Ascot and elsewhere. My husband took the photograph above at Royal Ascot a couple of years ago. It felt like the Queen smiled right at us that day – but then I’m told she has a knack for making everyone feel like that!
Other members of the Royal Family attend Royal Ascot too, and many celebrities enjoy visiting Royal Ascot. The best place to see them is in the Grandstand on their way to the Royal Box or speaking to the media just after the entrance to the race course.
As a very traditional race meeting, there are strict dress codes at Royal Ascot. These vary depending on your category of admission.
Tickets for The Windsor Enclosure (formerly known as the Silver Ring) offer a view of the start of the daily Royal Procession and the races. Racegoers here are ‘encouraged to wear smart clothes’, however there is no actual dress code other than that ‘replica sports shirts are not permitted’. Windsor Enclosure ticket holders must stay in their designated area, which is somewhat restricted.
From experience, I recommend the Queen Anne Enclosure which allows access everywhere except the Royal Enclosure. There is an opportunity to upgrade your ticket and access some of the more elegant catering options at Ascot. Ladies in the Queen Anne Enclosure (formerly the Grandstand) must dress for a formal occasion and wear a hat, headpiece or fascinator at all times. Formal trousers must be full length and strapless or sheer tops or dresses are not allowed. Gentlemen must wear a suit with a shirt and tie.
The Royal Enclosure is by invitation only and the dress code is extremely strict. Morning dress (a specific, formal suit which must include a waistcoat and tie, black or grey top hat and black shoes) is the sole option for men. Ladies must wear dresses that fall just above the knee or lower, with shoulder straps of no less than one inch. Trousers suits are allowed but only if the trousers and jacket are of matching materials. Hats – or headpieces with a solid base of at least four inches – are obligatory (fascinators are not allowed).
Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot
The most popular day for visiting Royal Ascot is the third day – traditionally known as Ladies’ Day. This is the day when the Gold Cup, one of the most important races in the British horse racing calendar, is held. Designer creations and extravagant hats take centre stage as ladies from around the world vie for the attention of race goers and the press.
Visiting Royal Ascot – Helpful Tips
Visit the Royal Ascot website early to sign up for notification when tickets go on sale. Tickets sell out fast and early bird pricing is generally available.
Plan and book your day fully in advance as early as possible for access to the best restaurants and accommodation.
If you are on a budget, consider one of the pre-bookable picnics as they are considerably less expensive than the restaurants, and in my experience very good quality.
To get the best view of the Royal Procession, which starts at 2pm, arrive early to get a good position.
Treat yourself to a striking new hat (if you are a lady that is!) I love hats and can never resist a pretty one. Here are some (affiliate links) relatively frugal ideas for a last-minute hat purchase.
Consider attending a day other than Ladies’ Day – While Ladies’ Day is a wonderful experience it is incredibly busy and later in the day things can get quite raucous. All the days of racing at Royal Ascot are great fun.
Travel by train to Ascot – The traffic jams during Royal Ascot are the stuff of legend. Believe me, I’ve sat in them.
Royal Ascot is a colourful, exciting day out and a real glimpse into the celebrations of the ‘London Season’. If you do have the chance to attend, it really is not to be missed!
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Please note: Do check the dress code before attending Royal Ascot as the rules have been known to change year to year.
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