Royal Ascot, a great day out

Summer in England is a state of mind. At least where the weather is concerned, much of the time. The summer social season in England, however, is the best in the world. 

Which other country can give you: Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, Glastonbury, Lords cricket, Henley Regatta the Royal Academy of Art exhibition, a plethora of music festivals and literary festivals all in the space of 4 months?

No wonder tourists stream in  from all over the world to experience these joyful celebrations of music, sport, tradition, art, culture and high society. 

Royal Ascot gives them everything on steroids.

On Friday, I enjoyed a day out at the races in Berkshire, with a group of friends. I had an absolute ball. 

I’m not even into horse racing but Royal Ascot is more than that. It’s a social occasion. People attend in groups, eat, drink, have a flutter on the races and just have a jolly good time. And they do it while dressed up to the nines which is glorious. There are so few occasions people still make the effort to dress up for these days, that it’s actually inspiring to see everyone go all out. Royal Ascot has dress code and with the rare slobbish exception, people rise to the challenge beautifully. And no, it’s not all mega expensive designer wear. The majority of the crowd are not aristocrats or exceptionally well heeled. They’re  just people wanting a special day out and taking pride in their appearance. 

An occasion like Royal Ascot is a treat but tickets are no more expensive than for a concert at Wembley Stadium or the O2. And while the dress code requires hats or fascinators for women and suit and tie for the men (morning suit for the Royal Enclosure), many people I spoke to had combined High Street or even home made fashion with designer accessories to create a sophisticated and stylish look. Hats and fascinators came from a range of sources; charity shops, Etsy, creative friends, department stores.

Royal Ascot is a great showcase, too, for budding designers. The press loves to photograph an outrageous hat or a particularly striking ensemble. One designer I spoke to had been featured in the Telegraph, wearing one of her own creations, which sparked huge interest in her small business. All the designers I spoke to , dreamed of having their creations worn by the Princess of Wales who, sadly, was missing from this year‘s lineup as she is still undergoing chemotherapy treatment. In her absence, the Princess Royal, Zara Tindall and Princess Beatrice stepped up to the plate in the Fashion stakes. 

The Royal element is what elevates this particular week of horse racing into something special that makes headlines around the world. 

The thousands of people attending, on Friday, clamoured to get a glimpse of the King and Queen as they rode past in a carriage. Smart phones aloft they strained to capture an image of the monarch they could show off to their friends and family. Some spontaneously broken into God save the king. It was very moving. As was the tremendous singalong at the end of the day with a brass band. From Sweet Caroline, My Way, Country Roads, to Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem and finally God save the King, the crowd sang lustily along, creating an atmosphere of such life affirming joy that you couldn’t help but walk out of the place with a huge smile vowing to return next year.