Which is the best horse racing meeting for a stag do in the UK?
Stags – or their best men – up and down the country are faced with a plethora of options when it comes to planning their last night of freedom these days, but for us there is no better choice than a horse racing stag do.
Mixing adrenaline, excitement and of course free flowing alcohol and betting action (might as well make the most of it guys, you may not be able to do this again in a hurry!), with courses located in, or within a stone’s throw of some of the UK’s biggest party cities, we really don’t think you can go too far wrong.
A wide variety of options are available, from the full on suited and booted affairs of the major horse racing festivals, to more casual low key events. Whichever way you decide to go though, we are sure you won’t be disappointed with a trip to the track.
With 59 racecourses in all to choose from, there are no shortage of options, but here we give you a helping hand by selecting our top five stag do tracks. One word of advice if you are planning a racing stag do: be sure to contact the track in advance as many courses offer significant discounts for group packages (and some might not be too keen on a mankini-clad stag!).
Newcastle: Northumberland Plate Day
We will start up north with my home town of Newcastle. Famous throughout the land for its nightlife scene (and soap opera of a football team), Newcastle is already one of the most popular stag destinations around. Luckily for the purpose of this article, the city also houses the top racecourse in the North East.
Racing is staged throughout the year with the course playing host to both flat and National Hunt events, but for us the standout meeting is Northumberland Plate Day. One of the top staying handicaps of the season has the advantage of taking place in late June early July each year, and despite what they think down south, the sun does shine in Newcastle in the summer (sometimes). Any single members of the group will no doubt be keen to get the party started on the Friday before Plate Day, as the course stages its hugely popular and always packed out, “Ladies day”.
After the racing is over it’s only a ten minute taxi ride into the city centre and a choice between the traditional Geordie experience of the Bigg Market, or the more cultured and picturesque Quayside. We aren’t sure why you would, but should your party wish to go “full on Geordie Shore”, then the Diamond Strip on Collingwood Street is the only place to be.
Aintree: The Grand National Meeting
Headed to the races for your last hurrah before married life, then why not make it the big one and the most famous horse race in the world: The Grand National. Much like Newcastle, Liverpool is probably one of the cities that immediately springs to mind when planning a stag do, and there’s no better time to head to the birthplace of The Beatles than Grand National weekend.
With seemingly half the population of Ireland descending on Liverpool, the famous scouse humour intermixed with a large dose of Irish craic provides an atmosphere that is tough to beat. When you add in attendance at the truly unique spectacle of the race on which even your granny has a bet, Aintree in April has to come pretty close to the top of our list here.
For those who really want to make an occasion of it, Grand National Day itself is merely the culmination of a three day festival of top drawer jumps racing, featuring the obligatory ladies day on the Friday.
Want to keep the party going after the last race? Of course you do. Head to the thriving Seel Street for a huge variety of bars and clubs or Hardman Street for your more traditional British watering hole. Be sure to book well in advance for this one as they don’t call this Britain’s most popular race day for nothing.
York: Ebor Meeting
Looking for something a little more relaxed than the hurly burly of Liverpool on National weekend? You can’t go wrong with a trip to York. Offering amongst the highest prize money in the UK, racing at York is invariably of top quality, which should please any racing aficionados in your group. The track itself is also amongst the best in the land, offering top class service and hospitality. We are yet to have a day at York racecourse which has been anything other than excellent, but in terms of excitement and buzz, Ebor Day in August is tough to beat, featuring the Ebor Handicap itself.
York may not be the largest of UK cities, but it nevertheless possesses no fewer than 365 pubs and clubs, that’s one for every day of the year. Probably best not to try them all in one night, but there’s still plenty of room for a pub crawl of epic proportions to round off your stag celebrations. Our picks would be the Lamb and Lion Inn with its excellent beer garden against the city walls, and the hidden gem of the Blue Bell in Fossgate, which offers some of the very best locally brewed beer in the city.
Newmarket: The Guineas Meeting
This list wouldn’t really be complete without a visit to the home of British racing itself, the historic headquarters of the sport; Newmarket. There are many cracking meetings here over the course of the flat season, but if we were to pick just the one, it would have to be Guineas weekend in late April/early May. The atmosphere at the track can be relied upon to absolutely buzzing ahead of what are the first two Classic’s of the flat racing season, the 1000 Guineas and the 2000 Guineas. and as you would expect of one of the jewels in British racing’s crown, the facilities on course are top notch.
After racing, there’s plenty of fun to be had in Newmarket itself, with pubs and bars aplenty, not to mention the four storey nightclub, De Niro’s. Looking to fly a little further afield for the night time activities, both Cambridge and Bury St.Edmunds are close by and have plenty to offer. Head to Cambridge for a mix of 100 year old traditional boozers intermixed with a vibrant student scene.
Bury St.Edmunds would be our pick for something a little different. Be sure to pop into Britain’s smallest pub, The Nutshell, for a pint and a look at the hanging puffer fish and 400 year old mummified cat, before hitting Flex Nightclub and its dance floor straight out of Saturday Night Fever.
Ascot: Royal Ascot
Looking to make a real occasion of your stag do, then where better than at the race meeting which even the Queen doesn’t miss. Its top hat and tails at the ready for the annual international jamboree that is the five day Royal Ascot Festival. Attracting the crème de la crème of flat racing talent from around the globe, for us this is the best flat festival on the planet, bar none. In terms of the actual venue, Ascot would come top of this list by some margin. Not that the other courses are by any means shabby, it’s just that the recently refurbished Ascot is, for many, the classiest modern racecourse anywhere in the world.
With a direct train running from the course to Clapham Junction in our wonderful capital city, the choice of post-race entertainment is almost endless. With pubs, clubs, restaurants and entertainment venues covering the full spectrum, if you can’t find what you are looking for in London, chances are you won’t find it anywhere. This will no doubt come in as the most expensive option on our list, but the Royal Ascot experience alone will no doubt provide memories to last a lifetime, without even factoring in what you get up to afterwards.