Horses have long been associated with opulence and they’re one of the most aesthetic animals to capture on film. Racecourses have been around for 200 years and photographers have captured excellent stills of supreme equine talent whilst in the chase for a win. So it’s no surprise that race days bring out all kinds of guests, with racing enthusiasts, punters, photographers and other groups mixing to make each event a spectacular occasion.
Many of the racecourses throughout the United Kingdom are blessed with immaculate scenery and wonderous surrounds, which make the perfect backdrop for photographers of all levels. Even if you don’t know anything about horse racing, you can find all you need from an expert tipster and that will take all the hard studying away to leave you to focus on your next shot. In this article I’ll rank the most idyllic racecourse locations for photographers to visit.
The lake district is one of the most beautiful locations in all of Great Britain with rolling hills and countryside in pristine condition. Tourists flock to the north of England to experience the scenery and peacefulness of the lakes, as well as the land.
Cartmel is in the heart of the lake district and boasts a charming racecourse at its centre. A dog-friendly course, Cartmel is considered a small National Hunt track. However, crowds can exceed 20,000 spectators on busy racedays. The hurdle track is truly picturesque and is lined with old stone from the surrounding area. The course itself dates back to the early 19th century for horse racing, however there are records in the local area which suggest monks may have raced mules even earlier.
Once you’ve taken in enough snaps of the course and its delights, the surrounding town of Cartmel and Grange-over-Sands provides plenty of perfect photo opportunities. Overlooking the racecourse is The Priory, which is a parish church founded in 1190. The Priory has aged wonderfully and is not only jaw droppingly beautiful, but it also holds historical significance. In 2015, The Priory celebrated 800 years of the Magna Carta as it is believed The Priory was the location where the principles of freedom, justice and democracy were signed into law.
When you’ve filled up your camera roll (and you will!), be sure to pick up Cartmel’s signature dessert – sticky toffee pudding – for your return home.
The pinnacle of opulence in horse racing, Ascot is home of the top hat and tails.
Located in Berkshire, Ascot is the premier location for Britain’s Flat Group 1 horse races and is where you’ll find the most lucrative thoroughbred horses. The animals themselves are the most photogenic of the species due to the expense and care taken in raising them for the events. In perfect condition, these specimens are nothing short of the best of the best and make for great subjects for your photos.
It’s rare that people dress so formally in modern times, but Ascot’s meetings can draw the most high class outfits with men dressed in top hats and tails, and women with formal headwear and gowns. Decadent outfits and stunning architecture make Ascot a prime location for excellent photo opportunities.
You’re also likely to be able to get candid celebrity shots at Ascot as not only does it attract A and B list stars of the silver screen, but there’s also a chance you’ll bump into The Queen. Queen Elizabeth II is the owner of many thoroughbred horses and has been known to make annual visits to the course to see her mares in action.
It doesn’t get any more historic than Chester. Chester racecourse is the oldest in Britain still in operation, and it is also widely considered the smallest track to hold significant events.
Known as The Roodee, Chester racecourse has a small mound in the middle of the track with a cross (supposedly a burial site) and Roodee is a shortened version of ‘Rood Eye’, meaning Island of the Cross.
Chester’s ancient and famous city walls line the racecourse, where budding spectators can watch the racing from beyond the border of the course for free. At the South side of the course there is the picturesque Grosvenor Bridge, which along with being a lovely piece of architecture was also the former longest single arch bridge in the world.
Once the racing finishes the local area boasts idyllic landscapes, from Roman built roads to the Grade I listed Roman Amphitheatre. Take a walk down the Chester Rows, the distinctive 14th century galleried walkways are full of character and make for a fantastic backdrop to any photograph.
They call it Glorious Goodwood for a reason, and that’s because it’s one of the most beautiful racecourses in the world. Five miles north of Chichester in West Sussex, Goodwood racecourse hosts the world famous annual five day event in July and each year it exhibits style and excellent flat racing.
The most elite equine athletes have graced Goodwood, including Stradivarius and Frankel in recent years. To see these horses in the flesh are worth the ticket price alone, and when combined with the other class competitors, it makes a day at Goodwood well worth the value.
King Edward VII was a frequent visitor to the Glorious Goodwood event and famously dubbed it “a garden party with racing tacked on”. Over a hundred years later and guests at Goodwood can be brought back to the 1800s as they eat and dance on The Earls Lawn. This event is a take on social garden parties of years gone by and is a definite showpiece to compliment the horse racing. It boasts elegant décor and seats guests dressed to impress — and they certainly do — so your camera roll will be full of unusual sights.
If you’re interested in people more than scenery, Ladies’ Day is always a guarantee for photographic highlights. With glamour in every direction you look, the women are dressed with panache and even the jockeys in the Magnolia Cup — a horse race solely for amateur women jockeys — are dressed in vibrant silks to catch the eye. Goodwood will never disappoint.