Whether you fear the impending stampedes, or intend to plonk yourself at the centre, we’ve devised a handy survival guide to The Chester Races…
Oh the marmite races, dividing Chester folk since the early sixteenth century (one can only assume) when the course was built. There are those of us so passionately against the onslaught that we bitterly enter race dates into our calendars each year, reminding ourselves to hide (yes, I’m one of them). And others who join in, don their blue suits and mile high hats and (by the sounds of it) have a right good time.
I also can’t avoid how much race day visitors feed our city, spending their hard earned race winnings all over the shop. According to Marketing Cheshire, 47.73 million people paid us a visit in 2016, and I bet a significant chunk of that came for the horses. Wide open arms or a cold shiver, whatever your reaction is to this regular event we’ve devised a few coping strategies to serve you well…
Brought to you by race day fan Ellena McGuinness
The outfit is everything for women (and most men these days) – it’s all about the fashion. Dress to impress and style the look from head to toe. Most importantly keep in mind the occasion; stay classy and comfortable with a light coat/shawl and shoes that will last you from morning until midnight. The racecourse is bigger than you’d think and you don’t want to rely solely on your beer jacket.
Start the day off right. With brunch offerings at almost every eatery it’s the perfect way to kick of the fun and line your stomach ready for later. Urbano32 is a great choice if you’re in a group. In 2017 you could book a brunch for 6 and they’d throw in a free bottle of Prosecco – keep your eyes peeled for similar offers this year. Expect a wide range of options from a full Italian fry-up and Eggs Benedict on a toasted muffin, to yoghurt, granola and omelettes.
Tickets or totes. If it’s a race day and you’ve got a pair of heels on, chances are that on the walk down Watergate Street you’ll be hassled by the totes. But why take the risk of a dodgy ticket? Believe me they will sell anything! Nine times out of ten tickets are still available on the gates to purchase, but if you’re organised they offer discounts on selected meetings throughout the season.
When is the best time to go? Everywhere in the racecourse gets busy quickly so if you want the best seats get there early. If you’ve had your brunch you’ll be set for the day and won’t go hungry. The best seats in the house in my opinion are by the new refill bar. Close to the track, tote, food and drink it’s a perfect spot to get a jug of Pimm’s and set up camp for the day.
When you’re in there. If you aren’t a local or regular to the course it can be daunting when you first get in but don’t be put off; exploring is often the best way to find seats and quieter bars. For instance, Tattersall/County Concourse ticket holders are welcome to use the underpass and venture into the Paddock area to see the parade ring and try the street food offers. The best new addition for 2017 would be ‘The Bar’ located on the Festival Chalets. It’s a hidden gem with an ice-cream van, views of the track and loos only a stone’s throw away.
Post racing hotspots. The racing is finished but you still want to carry on having a good time so follow the hoards that slowly make their way up Watergate Street. Barlounge is a massively popular hotspot and is always heaving but if you want something equally as sophisticated without the hour long bar queues try stopping off at Liquor and Co. A fig and amaretto sour is a personal favourite. Here’s a link for further race info and booking tickets.
Brought to you by race day critic Gemma Glover
Stay in! Arm yourself with a good stash of local delicacies and make sure your house is secure. Close your curtains. Don’t answer the door. We highly recommend Farmer’s Meats (butchers) in the Garden Quarter if the sun is out and it’s bbq o’clock. Or skip main meals entirely and just eat chocolate from Rococo. Don’t forget the Cheese Shop. They will make you a three tiered cake of cheese. I think it’s mostly for weddings but I won’t tell anyone. It feeds 100-120 people so it will last you a while.
Look to the suburbs. Yes, I’m suggesting you flee the centre at pace, just make sure you’re dressed. Hide out in the Handbridge Pub beer garden.
Go in search of treasure. Just a short drive out of Chester and you’ll be occupied for hours, and bound to find something of value. Reclaimed World -They salvage beautiful things from buildings about to be demolished, from Chesterfield Sofas and vintage trunks to bricks, stained glass doors and garden sheds. Then there’s Beeston Reclamation – a 4 acre site bursting with radiators, roofing, fireplaces and oak beams, to mention but a few items on offer.
Compete. Throw a garden party and turn up the volume. Get your supplies in pre-race day so you don’t need to venture out into the madness at all. Hit Chester Market for most (if not all) of your foodie needs. It’s inside the Forum Shopping Centre – there’s even a fancy dress shop, should your party demand a theme.
Keep it local. So you don’t want to hide just because the place is teaming. Chances are visitors will frequent the chains, so stay loyal to the independent and out-of-the way places. For coffee or lunch: Gustum (up on the walls off Northgate Street – see our review, or Sally’s Secret Garden (a shop up on the rows with a cafe on the top floor). For dinner Moules A Go Go or 9 Elephants.
RACE DATES 2018
Wednesday 9th May
Thursday 10th May
Friday 11th May
Saturday 26th May
Saturday 16th June
Friday 29th June
Saturday 30th June
Friday 13th July
Saturday 14th July
Saturday 28th July
Sunday 5th August
Saturday 1st September
Friday 14th September/ Saturday 15th September
Saturday 29th September