The sport of kings takes pride of place in several Scottish town and cities, from the prestigious Musselburgh track in East Lothian to the challenging steeplechases of Kelso Racecourse. All of Scotland’s major racing venues offer free admittance to children under 16 who are accompanied by an adult, making horse racing in Scotland an ideal day out for families on a budget.
All racecourses also offer ticket discounts if you book before the day of a race, rewarding early planning. While there is no official dress code at Scottish racecourses, smart casual is preferable. Some event days also have competitions for the best dressed woman or the lady wearing the most fetching hat.
If you’re looking to make a bet before the big race you can place a wager with the Totepool (formerly the Horserace Totalisator Board) at any ground.
A day at the races
For those visiting the capital, Musselburgh Racecourse is an historic venue dating back to 1816. Formerly known as Edinburgh Racecourse, it is one of only two courses in Scotland that features both Flat and Jump races. The venue also has a rather unusual feature in that it contains a nine hole golf course in the middle of the complex. Musselburgh is located a mere six mile drive from the centre of Edinburgh.
Visit Ayr Racecourse and you can expect to see the most prestigious, high-quality races held in Scotland. Home to the Scottish Grand National and William Ayr Gold Cup Festival, it’s no surprise the 13 furlong length track - which was opened in 1907 - is often referred to as Scotland’s premier racecourse.
Like Musselburgh, both Flat and National Hunting events are held at Ayr. The latter consists of races that branch to include either hurdles or steeplechase action. The course also hosts car boot sales every Sunday on dates that don’t clash with race fixtures.
Venture to the Scottish Borders and you’ll find Kelso Racecourse situated in an idyllic market town. Formed in 1822, it is known as ‘Scotland’s Friendliest Racecourse’ and has won Best Small Course in Scotland and the North of England.
All of Kelso’s races now operate exclusively under National Hunt rules, meaning all events feature hurdles of some sort. Its principal races are steeplechases (particularly challenging for both jockey and horse), with the most notable being the King’s Own Challenge Cup. Kelso Racecouse also hosts most of its events during winter months.
Those who travel to Hamilton Park Racecourse will be treated to a glamorous venue that mixes thoroughbred racing with occasional live music gigs. Lying just 12 miles south-east of Glasgow, the course has long been known for its pioneering nature since it opened in 1782. Not only did it host the first evening fixture in 1947, but it also held the first morning meeting in 1971.
Hamilton remains Scotland’s only dedicated Flat track, hosting 18 race meetings throughout the summer including the Super Six meetings. The course has also enjoyed a number of musical concerts from the likes of Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Alesha Dixon.
Perth Racecourse is Britain’s most northerly track, set in the sublime surrounds of Scone Palace. The Times describes the venue as “a little piece of heaven”. Opened in 1908 its racing year begins with the Perth Festival and continues with Jump racing in September. The course is ten furlongs in circumference and jockeys must negotiate a dramatic water jump in front of the grandstand.