There’s nothing quite like a day at the races. From the thrilling thunder of hooves down the track and the excitement of seeing your horse come home first, to a fun family picnic on the course or dressing up for ladies days, it’s an experience unlike any other.
When you think of horseracing in the UK, well-known venues such as Aintree, Ascot, Cheltenham and Newmarket probably spring to mind, but did you know that there are five fabulous horse racing courses in Scotland?
This popular sport has a long history here dating back over 900 years and a “day at the races” is a great addition to any trip in Scotland, whether you opt for a daytime, evening or twilight fixture. Read on to find out more about our five courses and the events they host.
Horseracing in Ayr dates back to the late 1500s and the first official meeting took place in 1771, with the course as it stands today opening in 1907.
Less than an hour’s drive south of Glasgow, this is Scotland’s premier racecourse and the biggest, with both Flat and National Hunt racing (jumps) events taking place here. It hosts over 35 fixtures each year including the Coral Scottish Grand National every April and, taking place in September, the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup is also one of its bigger events. Entry to the racecourse for under 18s is free of charge and you can even stay on site in the luxury 4-star Western House Hotel.
- The Scottish Sun Raceday is a highlight of the Ayr racing calendar and has set record attendances consecutively for the last two years. This year it takes place on 23 June with some exciting racing in store and live music to add to the energetic atmosphere.
- It’s time to get glammed up for QTS Ladies Night, this summer’s hottest night out! Taking place on 11 August, the programme includes seven thrilling races and live entertainment, with racing starting from 5.35pm.
- The three-day William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival is one not to miss. Taking place between 20 – 22 September, it all kicks off with the William Hill Doonside Cup Day on Thursday afternoon, the glamourous Ladies’ Day takes place on Friday and it all culminates with Scotland’s biggest (and richest) day of Flat racing on the Saturday.
Hamilton Park Racecourse
If you fancy a flutter further north of Ayr, you’ll find lovely Hamilton Park Racecourse just 13 miles south-east of Glasgow in South Lanarkshire. Opened in 1926, this Flat racing venue has a great reputation for fine horse racing, glamour and top entertainment.
The racing calendar here runs from early May through to late September and they also offer “The Saturdays Series”, combining the best horse-racing with top celebrity packed music events. Enjoy sumptuous private dining in a reserved box or soak up the atmosphere in the Dukes Restaurant, the Overton Farm Grill or The Hill bar and eatery. Admission for under 18s is free with a paying adult.
Kelso Racecourse in the Scottish Borders is a National Hunt (jumps) course and is regarded as Britain’s friendliest racecourse. It has been voted Best Small Course in Scotland and the North of England by the Racegoers Club several times and offers the unique charm of a bygone era, coupled with the very best modern facilities.
It was originally known as the Duke’s Course to honour the races’ patron, the Duke of Roxburghe and opened in 1822.
The course stages 15 jumps fixtures throughout the season from September to May each year and a range of race day tickets and packages are on offer. One of these is their Track 2 Track package, which includes transfers between Tweedbank Station – the last stop on the Borders Railway – and the racecourse. So you could let the train take the strain and travel from Waverley Station in Edinburgh and leave the car at home. Accompanied children of 17 years and under enjoy free entry to the course.
Located in East Lothian, not far from Edinburgh, Musselburgh is Scotland’s second biggest course, one of the UK’s most stylish, and hosts both Flat racing and National Hunt (jumps) fixtures. The racecourse dates back to 1816, however it’s unique in that it also has a nine-hole golf course (the world’s oldest) in the centre of the course.
Musselburgh hosts over 25 fixtures during both the Flat and the National Hunt seasons including family days and ladies’ days. There’s are racedays to suit all tastes and budgets, with lots of options for dining and hospitality and children of 17 years and under enjoy free entry when accompanied by an adult. They even have a New Year’s Day race meeting.
- If you’re looking for something to do during the school holidays, then look no further than Musselburgh’s Family Day, taking place on Tuesday 24 July. There’s seven thrilling races to enjoy starting from 2.15pm and plenty of entertainment laid on for the kids.
- The Caledonian Cup Race Day on Saturday 15 September is a great fixture to join. Have a flutter on one or more of the seven exciting Flat races in the programme, try a delicious Caledonian beer, enjoy some fine fresh foods and soak up the lively atmosphere including live music. Racing starts at 2.55pm.
- Bring in the New Year with an exciting day of top quality National Hunt (jumps) racing featuring one of the most historic athletic events in the world, The New Year Sprint, on 1 January 2019. Featuring the £30,000 Hogmaneigh Hurdle as part of a card of over £100,000, this promises to be an exciting day of Jump racing. Continue your celebrations at this traditional highlight with a seasonal flavour – warm up with mulled cider and a carvery pork roll! Gates open at 10.30am, and racing starts at 12.30pm.
The ‘Fair City’ of Perth has a long association with horse racing going back to the early 1600s, where events would be held on the city’s North Inch. Racing moved to the grounds of imposing Scone Palace nearby, following a North Inch drinking ban and in 1908, Perth Racecourse, the UKs most northerly, was opened.
This award-winning National Hunt (jumps) course is situated in lovely parkland about four miles from the city centre and hosts a fine programme of events from April to the end of September each year. As you might expect, there’s a great selection of bars and eateries available, or park your car in the Centre Course – in the middle of the track – have a picnic or barbecue and see the racing up close. Under 18s enjoy free entry to the Grandstand or Centre Course enclosures with adult ticket holders.
- Don’t miss the Braw Race Day, a brand new Saturday fixture, taking place on 23 June. There’s seven thrilling races to enjoy and live music from Massaoke Scotland, where the audience is the star! For the best of both worlds, a dedicated Centre Course screen will broadcast FIFA World Cup action.
- If you’ve never thought of taking the family to a horse racing meet, then you really should. Perth Racecourse go all out to make Family Race Day on 15 July a special occasion for everyone and this is one of their most popular days. A kids’ zone in the Centre Course will offer laser quest, bubble football, sumo suits, quad pods, segways, face painting, pony rides and more.
- The Summer Carnival was a sell-out last year and takes place this year on 18 August. Alongside thrilling jump racing, there’s live sing-a-long summer music, magicians, fun inflatables for the kids and more.
You don’t have to be a thoroughbred racegoer to enjoy Scottish horseracing. It’s a thrilling and fun day out for all and remember admission to all courses for those that are under 18 is free when accompanied by an adult.