The charming city of Bath is not only home to some exquisite architecture and authentic Roman baths, but it even comes equipped with a popular racecourse too. It is by no means the largest in the country but with modern facilities and a track that offers something of a unique challenge, as well as the obvious appeal of the city itself, plenty of punters end up making the journey. If you are considering being one of them, our handy guide will provide you with all the essential information to ensure your visit goes smoothly.
Bath Racecourse is very much on the outskirts of the city, actually located in the village of Lansdown inside the Cotswolds. This makes it an incredibly picturesque course but not the easiest at which to find nearby accommodation. There is only one real option in Lansdown itself, which is the Charlcombe Inn pub but with a maximum capacity of 10 rooms and it is not always easy to find a vacancy on race days.
A Quiet Retreat
If you are wanting to stay nearby within the Cotswolds, then there are a few bed and breakfasts located reasonably close to the racecourse. To the north there is the Toghill House Farm located on the uniquely named Freezinghill Lane, as well as Brittons Farm Estate in Beach, and Tracy Park which offers two separate golf courses. There are also a couple of alternatives in nearby Kelston, to the south west, such as the Roundhill Farmhouse.
The Heart of Bath
As a popular tourist hotspot, Bath has no shortage of hotel options. Due to its popularity with visitors, prices can be somewhat expensive, especially during the weekend, so midweek race meetings are probably your best bet if you are on a budget. We will not list all hotels in the centre of Bath but we will tell you there is abundant choice, some offering their guests four- or five-star luxury, while others provide a more basic experience. If you are getting the shuttle bus to the racecourse, we would recommend staying close to the train station (north side) as the bus collects from the adjacent Manvers Street.
About the Racecourse
Bath is one of many courses owned by the Arena Racing Company (ARC) and it is thanks to their investment that the venue underwent huge renovation works in 2016. Given a massive facelift, Bath Racecourse is now able to boast modern facilities and a sleek new look. The refurbishments were such a success that the following year Bath was named as one of the country’s best small racecourses and handed the ROA Gold Standard Award. The awards did not stop there either as in 2018 Bath scooped the ‘Best Event’ award (RCA Showcase) for their fantastic ‘Kids Takeover Racing’ initiative and they were champions of the ‘Best Casual Dining Experience’ at the National Catering Awards.
With a commitment to fun for everyone, not just the adults, and high-quality but affordable food, Bath is firmly one of the most popular small racecourses around. Rather than take our word for it though, you are welcome to see for yourself. If arriving by car is the best option for you then Bath is still easily accessible despite its Cotswolds location. It is situated just six miles south Junction 18 of the M4 Motorway and you will find it well signposted along the way. Upon arrival you will have plenty of room to park your car at absolutely no cost.
If public transport is better for you though, then there are a couple of options. For people travelling from further afield, you can you get the train to Bath Spa station which is served by direct routes from the likes of Bristol Temple Meads, London Paddington, Cardiff, Salisbury, Reading and Gloucester. From Bristol, the average journey time is just 15 minutes. From the train station, the racecourse runs a shuttle bus on race days which costs £5 for a return ticket. It is possible to get a taxi instead, but the approximate 20-minute journey will cost you in the region of £20-£30. Save it for the way back when you have got winnings to burn!
We mentioned before that Bath offers horses something of a unique test and this is thanks to its kidney-like configuration. It is also the highest racecourse in the United Kingdom, although being 780ft above sea level is not high enough to have any hugely significant impact. What its lofty positioning does mean, however, is that the course gets less rain than most, so some of the summer meetings can see very dry ground which means quickly run races.
Back to the course’s shape though and its resemblance to a kidney means that horses are almost always on the turn at Bath. The final large bend is situated nearly half a mile from the winning post so there is a long run-in here too. Our advice would be not to celebrate too early as it is not uncommon to see front runners take off too early and get caught within the final furlong.
If you want to fit in with the crowd at Bath we would recommend coming in smart casual attire as this is the standard approach. There are no formal requirements, however, outside of a few hospitality areas, although sportswear and ripped denim are ‘discouraged’. Fancy dress is acceptable, providing it is in good taste. As ever, if you have doubts that your idea of good taste and that of the course may differ, phone ahead to check!
If you are planning on visiting one of the hospitality areas or the Bottega Terrazza Restaurant, certain rules apply. Smart casual is still okay for the restaurant but any denim must be smart and trouser-length, trainers need to be smart and any shorts must be tailored. In hospitality areas, smart dress is enforced so this typically means wearing a suit with, or without a tie, and a smart shirt. There are no specific requirements for women accept to avoid any ripped denim, sportswear, tracksuits or casual trainers.
Bath Racecourse has three stands, the Langridge Stand, the County Stand and the Kelston Stand. You do not buy tickets for a specific stand however as the ticketing situation at Bath is very simple. With a standard Grandstand & General Admission ticket you will be able to access the vast majority of the racecourse, including all three stands and the paddock. There is a lot of standing area too, with the public area spanning almost the final furlong of the track, so you will never be without an unobstructed view. For the absolute best views though, you will want to head to the Bottega Terrazza Restaurant, which is on the top floor of the Langridge Stand.
Sheltered by a very distinctive canopy, you can enjoy top class food while overlooking the course just short of the winning post. To gain access to here, you can upgrade your regular ticket on the day but it is cheaper to simply buy a restaurant ticket in advance. On select racedays, Bath also offers tickets for ‘Centre Course’ in which patrons will spend their time in the middle of the course. There are no stands here, and only limited food and betting facilities, but it is a great (and cheap) option if wanting to have a picnic in the sunshine.
Bath Racecourse is home to 21 days of racing held between April and October, although June, July and August are its busiest months. There is a real mix of afternoon and evening meetings across the flat season and with both falling on the weekend and in midweek, there is always a convenient time to come visit. As for major meetings, Bath does not have any fixture that is miles more popular, prestigious or lucrative than the rest, but they do have a couple of fixtures that do have some heightened interest.
The Season Finale in October
One, as you might expect, is the seasonal finale held in October. With this the last chance to see racing action at Bath for six months, many people savour the opportunity. It also helps that the afternoon sees one of Bath’s highest quality races, the Class 1 Beckford Stakes. The other Class 1 (Listed) race to feature here in the Cotswolds is the Lansdown Fillies’ Stakes which falls at the other end of the season, either first or second up in April. Although this is one of the best meetings from a racing perspective, many racegoers prefer to simply go when it is warm so the summer fixtures generally enjoy a healthy attendance.
As a city steeped in history, it should probably not surprise you that Bath Racecourse is not a modern creation. There is evidence that competitive racing took place in the area as early as 1728 but it was not until 1811 that a proper meeting was held after support from an influential local family, the Blathwayts. To begin with, Bath held just one meeting per year which spanned two days but additional meetings were added as the decades went by.
The Somerset Stakes
In the earlier years, the biggest event Bath hosted was the Somerset Stakes. In 1844 it operated as a sweepstake, costing owners £25 to enter with an additional £100 topped up by the racecourse committee. The Duke of Richmond’s future Chester Cup winner, Red Deer, secured the win, giving him the lion’s share of the fund. Not all the money was his to keep though as somewhat cheekily Bath deducted him £15 for costs involved preparing the course and for the weights & scales.
RAF North Stoke & the 1953 Scandal
During World War II, the Royal Air Force used the racecourse as a landing field, calling it RAF North Stoke. From serving the war effort in the 1940s, Bath Racecourse then went on to be the focal point of a huge, and somewhat ingenious, scandal in 1953.
What happened was one horse due to run at Bath was replaced with an identical looking, but significantly better horse. The criminal gang behind this backed the horse at 10/1 odds. Normally the bookies would have reduced their odds after a couple of big bets but the gang also damaged the power supply to the course to prevent this. The horse did indeed end up wining but suspicious racing officials contacted the police who arrested those involved. Oh, well, nice try lads.
Investment & Refurbishment
Things have been much quieter for Bath since then with there being few major talking points to report over the last half a century. It did suffer something of a blow in 2011 though when one of its top races, the Dick Hern Fillies’ Stakes, was transferred to Haydock Park but good news followed five years later. This is when the racecourse benefitted from some serious investment with a revamped parade ring and a freshened-up track accompanying the new Beckford Bar and Langridge Grandstand.