Of the three racecourses based in Wales, Bangor-On-Dee, sometimes referred to as just Bangor, is the only one that lies in the north of the country. Surrounded by the banks of the River Dee, it is a place you can enjoy the sights of some wonderful countryside with virtually no obstruction.
There is not even a grandstand to block out some of the view as this racecourse, surprisingly, does not feature one. As you will soon find out, this is not the only thing unique about the rather quirky Bangor-On-Dee Racecourse either.
If you are under the assumption that Bangor-On-Dee is close to the cathedral city of Bangor in Gwynedd then you are in for a surprise. The two places are a long way apart with Bangor-On-Dee actually situated close to Wrexham, just a few miles from the English border. This does make it rather more accessible, for most, but should you not fancy doing all the travelling in one day, nearby hotels rooms are available.
Closest to the Racecourse
With Bangor-on-Dee itself merely a village, and a small one at that, it is unable to provide anything in the way of accommodation. There is a caravan park but that is the best you will find within a two mile radius. Increase the radius to four miles though and this does unlock a couple of options. To the north west you have Hollies Farm B&B, while to the north east you have the four-star Mulsford Cottage. Finally, and although this is a little further out, the Willington Lodge B&B is only a very simple drive away and comes highly recommended.
More Availability Within Wrexham
So far none of the places mentioned have a considerable number of rooms, meaning you may find they are fully booked on the day of a meeting. Additionally, they are not at the cheaper end of the scale, so not ideal if you are wanting to enjoy racing on a budget. This does not need to be an issue though as, Wrexham, situated around five miles away, has an ample selection of relatively inexpensive options. The large market town is home to not just one, but two Premier Inns, as well as a Travelodge, although the latter sits beside the motorway exit rather than in the town centre.
As well as these very familiar names, Wrexham centre also has other options, such as the Wynnstay Arms, Lemon Tree Hotel and the Ramada Plaza, all of which are good candidates for anyone getting the train in/out of Wrexham.
About the Racecourse
You might think that a racecourse without a stand suggests Bangor is a low-quality place to watch racing but this is not the case. In fact, Bangor-On-Dee are owners of a Gold Standard Award as issued by the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA). It is also a place that gets plenty of interest from major trainers too as it is seen a valuable course for inexperienced horses to learn the trade. You will only find National Hunt racing at Bangor but you do not have to travel far to see racing over the flat. Less than 20 miles north, sister racecourse Chester, which is owned by the same company, has you covered in this area.
Back to Bangor-On-Dee though and if this unique horse racing destination is somewhere you are keen on visiting, you will need to know how to get there. By car, the course is barely a mile off the A525, which connects Wrexham with Whitchurch. This is the easiest approach road from any travelling from the west but for all other directions you are likely best served by heading down the A482 and turning off at exit one or two. From either junction the racecourse is around 10-minutes away. If using a satnav/mobile app to guide you, you should enter the postcode LL13 0DA. There is no need to bring money for parking as this is free of charge for all meetings – very generous.
Despite being out in the sticks, Bangor-On-Dee is accessible for anyone relying on public transport. For the first part of your journey, you need to get yourself to Wrexham, most likely via train. You may need to change services to get yourself to the station but there is a regular direct line from Birmingham which also stops at Wolverhampton. Public bus services from Wrexham to Bangor-On-Dee are very infrequent but on racedays, the course operates a free shuttle bus that leaves from Wrexham station 90 minutes before the first race. Priority on this service is given to rail users.
It may be a National Hunt course, but racing takes place all year round at Bangor-On-Dee, not just during the main jumps season. It is therefore, one of only a few places, including Cartmel in the equally wet Lake District, to provide jump racing action during the summer months. No matter what time of year a horse comes here, they face quite a unique test because they spend a very large chunk of any race on the turn. Other challenges here include having two fences down a relatively short home straight, a narrow track, and races that are generally run at a fast pace.
Given that many young horses rock up here, it is seen as something as a trial by fire for them, especially because that the jumps themselves are far from the easiest. Some horses end up thriving on the distinctiveness of the left-handed course but this cannot be said for many others. As a result, always pay attention to any horse with a good course record when placing your bets.
Officially speaking, there is no dress code at Bangor-On-Dee Racecourse. Exceptions can apply for select meetings, in specific areas of the course, but generally this is not something you need to worry about. As a suggestion, the racecourse does recommend opting for something smart casual but given the absence of a covered grandstand, dressing for the weather should be your priority.
If you want to watch the action up close at Bangor, you may have to be prepared to get a little wet as there is no stand to keep you sheltered from the frequent rain. A racecourse not having a grandstand is highly unusual but it does not stop punters from having an enjoyable day out. It is really only this one feature that the course is missing too as it still has permanent buildings where you can buy food & drink and place bets. Additionally, racegoers have unrestricted access around the parade ring so they can get a close look at all of the competing horses before a race.
All public facilities, except for hospitality areas, can be accessed through a standard Paddock Enclosure ticket. This will cost you £17 if booked in advance or £20 if booked on the day. With this ticket you can visit the other area of the racecourse, the Open Course. This is simply the space in the middle of the racecourse, on the other side of the rail.
Families often choose to come here as it is great value and is the perfect place for kids to roam around and for the family to enjoy a picnic or barbeque. You can even bring your pet dog along to enjoy the action! Tickets here only cost £7 per person (in advance) or £10 (online) but there is an extra £10 fee if you wish to set up a gazebo.
No meeting at Bangor would be considered a major one on the National Hunt calendar but there are definitely some that are bigger than others here. Out of the 14 racedays Bangor-On-Dee hosts each year, there are four that tend to arouse a bit of extra interest. The Saturday meeting in November is one because it’s the biggest occasion from a racing point of view. For this meet, Bangor hosts a Listed (Class 1) quality race for novice mares and it is the highest-graded event to feature all year.
Outside of this and the other three ‘big’ meetings are probably more renowned for their off-course entertainment. In addition to the two family fun days, one in May and the other in August, Ladies Day in July inevitably proves to be a hit. So, whether you want a fun day out with the kids or you want to show off your finest attire and enjoy some sips (or frantic gulps) of bubbly, Bangor-On-Dee has got you sorted.
The creation of Bangor-On-Dee Racecourse is largely down to a £50gns battle between the Hon Lloyd Kenyon and Richard Myddelton Biddulph of Chirk Castle. A large crowd turned up to watch the horse race duel, which was won by the latter won with some aplomb. The popularity of this one-off contest, held in 1858, led to the creation of a permanent annual race meeting, with the first taking place the following year.
1859: First Official Meeting
With members of the Sir Watkin Wynn’s Hunt and local farmer stumping up the cash for the course, the inaugural official meeting took place on February 25th, 1859. The main race of the day attracted 12 horses that competed on what is virtually the very same course still used today.
Part of the supporting cast for these early meets was a race for ponies under 14 hands. In 1868, the winning jockey for this race was none other than Fred Archer, who was able to celebrate his first taste of victory at just 10 years old. The legendary Archer has his name firmly etched in the Bangor history books because of this, a place where he is joined by fellow jockey Fred Hassall. Born just down the road in Whitchurch, Hassall saddled five of a possible seven winners during one meet in 1889, a course record that has not been broken since.
Bangor on Dee Steeplechases Ltd
Before WWII, Bangor-On-Dee still had just the one meeting but in 1947 they doubled the schedule to have two spring fixtures. It seemed logical to expand at this point because there was a newly constructed hurdles course to use. With fixtures growing, the Bangor on Dee Steeplechases Ltd was created a few years later in 1953 to improve facilities.
New Facilities for Owners & Trainers
A year after the company’s creation they built a stable block and accommodation for stable staff just across from the racecourse. There was a change of owners in 2002 though as Chester Racecourse took control of the nearby Bangor-On-Dee to help secure its long-term future. Although the new owners continue to keep the racecourse without a grandstand, they did recently unveil a new and highly praised facility for owners and trainers.