I was dragged along to Ascot last weekend as part of a group trip David’s friends had organised. Now, I’m not a gambler. Unless 2p machines count in which case I don’t want to know how much I’ve spent. Plus, it’s a family tradition or whatever. Anyway, I was being dragged to Ascot to my dismay. Crowds. Overpriced booze. Horses. Gambling. Posh people talking about horses. HATS. It’s not my bag really. And there’s no way I was stumping up £10 (a literal ten shiny British pounds) for poncey fish and chips.
But, dear readers, sweet readers, I have to say I had an AMAZING time. After trekking across London and bagging to last two seats on the outbound train to Ascot, we settled in. My nerves were getting the best of me and considering it was a boiling hot day, I started to feel that familair flutter in my belly. Plus, it didn’t help the train was jam packed with people in their pretty dresses and high heels, all popping champagne corks and having a jolly ol’ time.
So, as someone who isn’t into gambling, knows nothing about racing, and isn’t fond of wearing heels in a glorified (if swanky) field, let me share my ways with you. Because it is actually a really rather fun day out.
Bring flat shoes, dear lord bring flat shoes
If your driver isn’t available and you’re not fond of a coach trip, you’ll more than likely be heading in from London Waterloo to Ascot. On race days they have a special service to ensure the thousands of travellers get to the track on time, but there is a fair walk once you’ve alighted, and chances are you won’t be able to be as lucky as us and grab a seat unless you’re super early. Flat shoes will save your soles, and if your heels end up giving you a blister – as mine did – you can pop them on later too.
BYOB – of champagne that is
A secret we didn’t know about until our seating parters on the train shared it, but Ascot allows guests to bring their own booze, but only if they also bring a proper picnic hamper of proper picnic food. No M&S sarnies in a carrier bag, it needs to be in a hamper or cool bag, and it MUST be sparkling wine, champers or prosecco. Given that a bottle of Bolly will set you back the cost of your ticket at least, it’s a great way to save the pennies and ensure you’re drinking the fizz you like.
Stay indoors if you want to
Aside from narrowly missing being puked on by a lass who’d clearly had one too many, Ascot has an expansive indoor area the length of the track. Which means if you fancy sitting at one of the classy bars, or having some food indoors, it’s open season. You don’t need to spend your time in a soggy field if it’s raining.
You don’t need to wear a hat, but it’s the one time you can totally get away with it
Ok, so some outfits were more suited to a night at the Sugar Hut than a classy place such as Ascot. But for the most part, the ladies were dressed in their best, and hats were a pivotal part of the ensemble. Most opted for little fascinators, but wow were there some Daily Mail worthy looks. Personally, in my blue dress and heels I felt really underdressed. So next time I’ll be sure to up my game.
Use the 50/50 drinking rule
Everyone is super merry by the halfway point, and you’ll find yourself making friends with the girls on the picnic blanket next to you. Alcohol abounds, but make sure you stick to one boozy drink and one soft. With all the excitement (and assuming you’ve had a few g&t tinnies on the train already) it’s so easy to find yourself sozzled and puking in the main building. Seriously. While having a drink and a laugh is fun, it’s really important not to ruin the day by getting plastered. And on that note…
Load up on stodge
Your usual brekkie might be a perfectly Insta-worthy array of avocado on toast with cracked black pepper sourced from the Andes and butter direct from the local farmer’s cow, but this is one day where that should go out the window. A full fry up will see you through the journey and well until picnic time. Meaning if you are drinking early, you won’t suffer later.
Gamble if you want, or not
For those such as myself who have no interest in horses other than how pretty they look (and how they can literally kill a man with one kick) gambling isn’t compulsory. Of course you get the types who enjoy a flutter, but there’s no pressure to partake if you don’t want. For most of Ascot’s guests, it’s all about the champers, the hats, and feeling a little bit like royalty for one day at least.