Royal Ascot: The Complete Guide
Get your glad-rags on for the most prestigious week in horse racing, and an unmissable event on England's social calendar.
Known for its impeccable standards and timeless charm, Royal Ascot has long combined the thrill of horse racing, pomp and tradition with a celebration of exquisite style, drawing in well-heeled guests to showcase their sartorial elegance and creativity within the bounds of a strict formal dress code.
Perhaps the most prestigious event of the British social season, which takes place each June, the annual race meeting was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, and the first day still commences with the arrival of royalty in horse-drawn carriages. Keep your eyes peeled for King Charles, who is said to not enjoy the races, unlike his wife, Queen Camilla, and the wider royal family.
What To Wear To Royal Ascot
Royal Ascot is as much about fashion as it is about fillies, and each enclosure has a different annual dress code.
If you’re lucky enough to get invited inside the Royal Enclosure, women must wear dresses or skirts that are knee-length or longer, with straps at least 1 inch wide, as well as a hat (no fascinators are allowed). Men must wear morning dress; a suit, trousers and blazer in black, navy or grey, of matching material and colour, plus a tie, top hat and black shoes with socks that cover the ankle.
A formal daytime dress code must be observed for guests of the Queen Anne Enclosure too, which means no strapless, off-the-shoulder or sheer dresses for women. A hat, headpiece or fascinator is mandatory. Men are required to wear a two- or three-piece matching suit with tie.
Ladies in the Village Enclosure must wear an outfit for a “formal daytime occasion.” While there’s no minimum length on dresses or skirts, decorum is expected. Men can wear suit jackets and chinos. Last but not least, the Windsor Enclosure is more casual with no dress code, although guests are encouraged to dress in smart daywear.
Ladies' Day is the day for women to go all-out with their fanciest finery and the day to spot the racegoers wearing the biggest and most eccentric hats and outfits.
Eating and Drinking At Royal Ascot
Fuelled by Bollinger, Pimm’s and a fair few pints of Guinness, you can always expect a darn good party during a day at Royal Ascot. In fact, over the course of five days, 330,000 attendees will consume 56,000 bottles of champagne, 44,000 bottles of wine, 21,000 jugs of Pimm’s and 60,000 finger sandwiches, as well as 80,000 cups of tea. It is a very British event, after all.
Line your stomach with food from a number of Michelin-starred names, with a diverse range of food and drink options in each enclosure. The two Michelin-starred Chef Raymond Blanc will once again take up residence in the prestigious Panoramic Restaurant located in the Royal Enclosure, while Brett Graham will headline the Queen Anne Enclosure’s flagship fine dining restaurant ON 5. Think of a delicious four-course luncheon, accompanied by fine wines selected by your sommelier.
Elsewhere, guests can also enjoy the likes of lobster rolls, afternoon tea and a range of street food dining options, featuring cuisine from all over the world.
Guests of the Windsor Enclosure may bring their own picnic, which makes for a lovely way to spend an afternoon in the sun. (Or is a recipe for soggy sandwiches if the weather is a washout).
How Can I Make a Bet?
You can place your bets with any of the bookmakers around the racecourse, including the stationary desks and mobile kiosks inside the clubhouse and throughout the park.
To get involved simply find a betting slip, write the time of the race, the horse, your bet and the amount you would like to gamble. If you’re unsure or have never gambled before, ask! There are plenty of people who will be happy to help!
If you get lucky, you collect your winnings back from the same bookmaker at the end of the race.
How Can I Get Tickets for Royal Ascot?
The Royal Enclosure – whose origins can be traced back to 1807 when the area was reserved exclusively for family and invited guests of King George III to view the first running of the Gold Cup – is accessible by invitation only.
Other tickets can be purchased online here, starting at £90 for the Queen Anne Enclosure and £49 for the Windsor Enclosure.
Alternatively, there is a range of hospitality packages available in many of the enclosures, which include fine dining options, private boxes and group packages. Get in touch with the hospitality team for more information.
Getting to Royal Ascot Races
Around an hour’s drive from London, Ascot Racecourse is easily accessible by car and train. If you’re taking the train, trains go from Reading, Guildford and London Waterloo, taking around 27 minutes from Reading and 52 minutes from London. From there, it's just a short seven-minute walk to the grounds.
Gates open at 10 am, and we recommend arriving early to avoid queues on entry, while the event closes its doors at 8 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday. You can carry on the celebrations in the Village Enclosure until 9 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.