9 August 2014
Reviewed by Amanda Hayes
After a pretty stressful couple of hours of indecision about what to wear, we finally made the choice of smart dress for me, suit and tie for my husband and smart trousers and waistcoat for my toddler and set off excitedly for Ascot. The M23 and M25 were a complete nightmare so we pulled onto the roundabout at Ascot about 45 minutes later than we hoped. As we turned into the road adjacent to the racecourse we realised that we had made the right decision with our outfits, as the whole area was bursting at the seams with people dressed in smart suits, dresses, heels and hats.
As we drew alongside the Grandstand, first impressions were wow! The new building, completed in 2006 at a cost of £200 million is a vast steel and glass structure overlooking the course on one side and the parade ring on the other. We weren’t quite sure where to park as we needed to pick up the tickets and parking permit, so we pulled into the press parking and asked for advice. The attendants couldn’t have been more helpful; they sorted out a place to park temporarily and showed me where to pick up tickets, which I did with no fuss whatsoever. I was back at the car in no time and directed to the correct car park just a minute’s walk from the entrance.
We decided against taking the pushchair so just took a bag of the essentials, sun cream, water and nappies and joined the mass of people crossing the road. Our pass got us straight in without any queuing and then we were inside staring at the wonder of the crowds, the rides and the parade ring. The first thing we noticed that all the rides were free, so we marked out a few to try out later and went into the grandstand to find out where we needed to be. As soon as we looked even slightly lost one of the many staff came up to us and explained that we needed to go up the escalators to the 6th floor, or we could take the lift if preferred. We chose the escalator as from there you could see the whole area, bars restaurants and masses of people. We soon found our way to our box as they are all numbered and the number corresponds to the badge you are given on arrival. We were greeted immediately by the two ladies staffing the room; they introduced themselves and asked what we would like to drink. They were expecting us and knew we were bringing a toddler which put our mind at ease. Lunch was already laid out, a fantastic buffet of chicken and salmon with various salads, our son’s eyes were on stalks and so after taking in the fabulous view across the course we tucked into lunch. Ethan ate up everything offered to him, then wolfed down a large fruit jelly which we didn’t realise until later had champagne in it! At capacity there were around 12 people from various companies in the box and although there was more than enough food and drink to go round there was limited viewing space so most drifted off down to the course to watch the racing. There was also a large TV on the wall showing the racing so if you missed it out of the window you could catch it on TV.
After watching a couple of races over lunch we headed down to the concourse and walked around the rides, Ethan had a pony ride, we all went on the tea cups, flying planes and mechanical horse and then we had a rest while he enjoyed the soft play and ball pit. All the time a band was playing mainly eighties music in the bandstand adding to the already great atmosphere. We realised then that there were only two races left, there are six in total, and so we went to the track to watch the last races and had a bet each. Neither of us won unfortunately so we headed back upstairs for tea and cakes before the concert. The staff were great with Ethan, bringing him out treats and letting him watch them in the kitchen, nothing seemed too much trouble.
We collected our bits and headed down to watch the concert, what a fabulous atmosphere with huge crowds mostly on picnic blankets listening to the music. Unfortunately I hadn’t noticed the timings in the race card and we had missed Chesney Hawkes, but there was plenty more music with Bewitched, Scouting for Girls and Abba and Commitments tribute bands.
We watched until Ethan got too heavy to carry then headed off tired and happy to the car. The car park was well organised and there were not any queues to leave the course, which can so often ruin a good day out.
We used to go to the races a fair bit before Ethan came along but hadn’t been for two years thinking that it may not be a great family day out. How wrong we were. Ascot has fantastic family race days throughout the year, and with rides being included in the entry fee its great value for money.
Ascot comes very highly recommended from all of us and we will definitely be returning and remembering to dress up for the occasion!
For more information visit www.ascot.co.uk.
Ascot Racecourse, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 7JX | o844 346 3000