Star-studded racegoers at Ascot to the elegance and serenity of Coworth Park, there is something for the most resolute sybarites in this Berkshire pocket, writes Natalie Li
The thunder of hooves, the cheering crowds, and the sartorial statements – it doesn’t get more quintessentially British than Royal Ascot.It’s one of the highlights of the sporting and social calendar and a place to be seen. Every year in June 300,000 fabulously well-heeled racegoers descend upon this quaint, pretty town in Berkshire, located six miles from its regal neighbour, Windsor.
Ascot Racecourse was founded by Queen Anne in 1711, who declared this area of East Cote “ideal for horses to gallop at full stretch”. Royal Ascot, the crowning jewel in Ascot’s racing calendar, which first took place in 1768, has been attended by British monarchs since its inception. The Ascot summer race meeting officially became a Royal week in 1911.
As for the garb, there’s simply no room for a fashion faux pas. Each Royal Ascot enclosure has varying dress codes; in the Windsor enclosure ladies are advised to adorn smart finery with a hat or fascinator, while men sport jackets, collared shirts, and full-length trousers.
They mean business in The Royal Enclosure – obviously invitation only – where the strict dress code stipulates that dresses and skirts should be of modest length falling just above the knee or longer. You can forget strutting around in strapless, halter-neck, off-the-shoulder numbers here. Fascinators are a no-no – only hats can be worn. Gentlemen wear either black, grey, or navy morning dress. which must include a waistcoat and tie.
Tickets for Royal Ascot go on sale in November, with prices ranging from £15 for standing room on the heath to around £80 for seats in the stands. If the pomp and pageantry of Royal Ascot seems daunting, fear not. Races at Ascot Racecourse run regularly throughout the year if you fancy a flutter.
Lap of luxury
If all this equine activity has left you as hungry as a horse, it’s only a short drive to Coworth Park, near Sunningdale, for afternoon tea or fine dining. Once a grand mansion house for William Shepheard, a prosperous East India merchant, it opened as a Dorchester Collection hotel in 2010 after an extensive restoration.
Complete with its own polo field, once visited by Prince William and Harry, the estate sits in 240 acres of picturesque parkland. There’s no escaping horses – the theme is reflected in the art and design of the hotel.
Relaxation is the name of the game here with the option of picnicking in the wildflower meadow, indulging in treatments at the luxury spa or dining at the Michelin-starred restaurant. Run by executive chef, Adam Smith, the dining experience offers modern British fayre, based on the classics, highlighting the best of British ingredients.
Fancy a round of golf? There are three golf courses located less than five miles from Ascot – Berkshire Golf Club, Sunningdale Golf Club and Mill Ride Golf Club. Sunningdale remains a highly regarded course, with American pro golfer Arnold Palmer declaring it “one of the great golf courses in Europe”.
Sunningdale, which borders Surrey and neighbours to Ascot and Sunninghill, features the Parish Church of Holy Trinity, with its elegant spire. Inside is the tomb of the exiled sculptor Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who died in 1891 and is best known for his colossal statue of King Alfred at Wantage in Oxfordshire.
Sunningdale and Sunninghill, once home to musicians John Lennon and Yoko Ono who lived in the country estate, Tittenhurst Park, are peaceful spots where keen walkers can explore. Starting from Sunningdale, a circular walk passing through the exclusive areas of Wentworth and the polo fields of Coworth Park gives amblers a glimpse of how the other half live. A mixture of grass paths, private estates and woodland tracks offer a leisurely walk heading up to Virginia Water, once a picnic spot for Queen Victoria.
Those wanted to trek further afield can venture to Windsor Castle and The Savill Garden, an enclosed part of Windsor Great Park, which features stunning woodland and beautifully designed gardens. A majestic end to a jaunt in this exclusive part of Berkshire.
WHAT’S ON IN NOVEMBER
Ascot Farmers’ Market
Traders offer local seasonally produced food, drinks, and artisan crafts every third Sunday of the month. On-site parking available for a stress-free, relaxed shopping experience.
Racing at Ascot
Want to see some future racing stars? The November Racing weekend offers the chance to watch promising novice hurdlers and chasers. Alongside the track excitement, expect a glimpse into what it’s like to own an equine star. Presenter Frankie Foster will host a series of talks and visitors can try out a Virtual Reality Ownership Experience. There is also an opportunity to meet a syndicate ex-racehorse up close and learn about their career on the track.