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Off to the races

A newbie’s guide to all things Royal Ascot

'...they will literally be your saviour come the end of the day...'

Let’s face it, the British sporting calendar wouldn’t be complete without the spectacular, equestrian extravaganza that is Royal Ascot.

The world-famous horse racing event returns in June for five days and if the rigid dress code, enclosures and picnic policies (yes, these are actually a thing) are all a mystery to you – have no fear! We’ve put together a newbie’s guide to all things Royal Ascot so that you get the most out of this momentous occasion. Because when you’re (potentially) mixing with royalty, fashion gurus and sporting celebs, you need to know what you’re doing, right?

Jump the crowds

If you’re visiting Royal Ascot, you’ll obviously want to soak up every second of the action. But, with 570,000 racegoers arriving over the five days, it’s going to be busy.

That’s why we recommend arriving as early as possible (gates open at 10.30am – the same time our coaches get you there!) in order to dodge the crowds, make it through the bag checks in one piece and get the best view of Her Majesty The Queen’s arrival at midday.

Image credit: visitbritain.com


Know your enclosure

Royal Ascot has four main enclosures with each putting you right at the heart of the racing action.

The Royal Enclosure is reserved for members only and really does go all out to offer the VIP atmosphere with it being a prime target for spotting horse racing royalty, celebrities and actual royalty too (anyone for a game of Where’s Wills?).

The Queen Anne Enclosure is the premier public enclosure and offers access to the Pre-Parade Ring, Winners’ Enclosure and Windsor Enclosure. You can even join in with traditional singing around the Bandstand at the end of the day, if that’s your kind of thing.

Or if you’d rather be a part of the roaring crowd and be the first to be passed by the horses when the racing begins, then the Windsor Enclosure is for you.

Enjoy the new Village Enclosure

…and finally, the fourth and newest addition to the enclosures is the Village Enclosure. Situated on the inside of the race track opposite the grandstand, the Village Enclosure offers a modern take on traditional British summertime.

This is perfect for younger racegoers who want to experience Ascot within a vibrant, party atmosphere. Expect everything from live music and DJs to parties and boutique restaurants.

Dress to impress

It goes without saying, but when it comes to an event as grand, glossy and downright glam as Royal Ascot, you don’t want to be the one turned away for a #fashionfail. Thankfully, you don’t need to gamble your way in the style stakes, as Royal Ascot has outlined its dress code, so you’ll be a winner every time.

Ladies, if you’re in either the Queen Anne Enclosure or Village Enclosure, or you’ve pulled some strings and got yourself into the members-only Royal Enclosure, you should dress in formal daywear with a hat, headpiece or fascinator at all times. Strapless, off-the-shoulder and sheer strap dresses are not permitted – so pay attention when you’re shopping!

For the gents in the Royal Enclosure, get ready to channel your most sharp and dapper self as you need to wear a waistcoat and tie, a black or grey top hat and black shoes. Those in the Queen Anne and Village Enclosures have it slightly easier, needing to simply wear a matching suit and tie.

Whilst if you’re cheering on from the lush green lawns of Windsor Enclosure, there’s no formal dress code, we’d still recommend making sure your outfit is appropriate for the occasion and definitely don’t wear a replica sports shirt as these are actually banned from the event!

Image credit: iStock.com


If all else fails, dig out the jumpsuit

Whether you’re fashion-forward or simply can’t stand the thought of wearing a dress or skirt, step aside for the Queen (no, not that one) of failsafe fashion, the jumpsuit.

2017 marked the notable addition to the Ascot Style Guide and reflects the Race’s ‘awareness of seasonal trends.’ So we suggest jumping on the bandwagon, comfort and style all rolled into one – you really can’t ask for much better than that.

Remember you’ll be on your feet all day…

…so leave the skyscraper heels at home!

Whilst it may be tempting to ramp up the sass and wear heels so high that they’d make Posh Spice wince with fear, we can assure you that even Royal Ascot’s not worth it. You’ll be standing, walking and, possibly, jumping around all day, so we’d advise opting for the classy kitten or medium heel.

Still not convinced? Make sure you’ve got a pair of fold-up ballet pumps in your bag, they will literally be your saviour come the end of the day (or an hour in, if you’re anything like us).

And finally, for the men (because we haven’t forgotten your footwear needs either), a second pair of socks and a packet of plasters are always a good idea, especially when you’re still breaking in those shiny new brogues.

Place your bets wisely

Whether you’re a betting newbie (in that case, take a look at Ascot’s bet placing guide), or are known by your mates as the ‘lucky one’ because you always seem to pick the winning horse, you still need to be careful with your money and you must bet wisely!

Our top tip? Leave your card at home and only bring cash on the day. It’ll help you keep track of those pennies and avoid those endless queues for cash machines (which often have a £2.95 service charge too). And also, make sure you’ve actually got time to place your bets, because yes, racegoers have been known to get so wrapped up in Ascot’s atmosphere that they’ve actually forgotten to bet until the race is over *hands over the eyes emojis* all round.

Image credit: Pexels.com


Pack a picnic

Wonderfully British and the perfect way to refuel from the horseracing action, we all love a good picnic. And, they’re completely permitted at Ascot if you’re in the Windsor and Heath Enclosures. So get those mini pastries packed.

Take the coach

Yep, like the dark horse of the competition that darts past the finishing line out of nowhere, we’ve saved the best tip till last – there’s no more convenient or environmentally friendly travel option than taking one of our coaches.

Thanks to our Royal Ascot travel packages, you can travel direct to Ascot (and back) from over 20 key UK locations from as little as £29 meaning you’ll have plenty of money left over for a little flutter on your fave horse.


So, there we have it! From the pomp and prestige of a day at the races (don’t you just love that phrase?) through to the life-changing hacks they didn’t tell you about *cough, fold up shoes, cough*, these are our top tips for an Ascot experience fit for Her Royal Highness herself.

And, when you’re all dressed up, cheering on the horse you chose only for its wacky name, make sure you send us a tweet at @nationalexpress. Deal?


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Please note that this blog was written prior to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Because of this, the information above may no longer be entirely accurate. We apologise for any inconvenience.

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