Nestled in the verdant hills of the Lake District National Park lies a hidden gem for horse racing enthusiasts and nature lovers alike: Cartmel racecourse. This picturesque venue is surrounded by rolling countryside, tranquil streams, and ancient woodlands, creating a breathtaking backdrop for a thrilling day at the races.
The nearest big towns to Cartmel are Kendal and Barrow-in-Furness. Cartmel is approximately 85 miles (137 kilometers) northwest of Manchester, England. The journey by car typically takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.
History of Racing In Cartmel
It’s believed that the fifteenth-century monks of the priory raced mules on Saint’s Days, but the earliest written account of racing at Cartmel dates back to 1856.
The early horse racing took place on the flat, and it wasn’t until the start of the twentieth century that the course became a jump venue. Initially, the races were held on a single day of the year, Whit Monday, then in 1947, a Saturday was added, and in the 1960’s the August meeting was introduced.
The oval track is not your standard shape, boasting a sharp and narrow left-handed circuit that sets it apart from other courses. However, the most distinctive feature is the home straight, which veers off and slices through the main oval, adding an unexpected twist to the races. The full circuit measures just over one mile and one furlong, with the run-in distance to the finish line known to be the longest in the country at just over 4 furlongs.
The course only holds National Hunt meetings (jumps racing), which include hurdles and steeplechase races. The narrow layout, sharp turns, challenging fences, and undulating terrain make it a real test for horses and jockeys alike.
The course is ideally suited to front-running horses and jockeys and has seen some top-class action. Nicky Henderson (2012/13 Champion Trainer), David Pipe, Paul Nicholls, who won the Grand National in 2012 with Neptune Collonges, and Nigel Twiston-Davies have all had runners in recent years. Jockey Graham Lee does pretty well at Cartmel along with Brian Hughes, as does trainer Donald McCain Jnr who is the son of Ginger McCain, Red Rum’s famous trainer.
The race meetings at Cartmel typically take place between May and August each year, with a total of nine meetings scheduled for the 2023 season. Here are the dates for the 2023 race meetings at Cartmel:
- Saturday 27th May
- Monday 29th May
- Wednesday 31st May (Evening Meeting)
- Friday 30th June
- Sunday 2nd July
- Saturday 22nd July
- Monday 24th July
- Saturday 26th August
- Monday 28th August
Please note that the dates may be subject to change, and it’s always best to check the official Cartmel racecourse website for the most up-to-date information and ticket availability. The first race of the day normally takes place around 13:30.
What To Wear At Cartmel Races
Cartmel encourages a relaxed and informal vibe. However, they request that racegoers wear smart casual dress in the Paddock Enclosure, especially in the restaurant areas.
In warm weather, T-shirts and shorts are more than acceptable. However, in rainy conditions, Wellington boots and macs are highly recommended since most of the racecourse is covered in grass.
As for umbrellas, they’re not just great for shielding yourself from the rain but also provide a convenient sun cover.
Tickets For Cartmel
Raceday tickets start at £22 for standard admission to the course. For £26, you’ll get admission to the course and paddock area. Those wanting a little more of a VIP experience can purchase tickets to the Parade Ring Restaurant for around £150pp.
The Louis Roederer Restaurant is located on the first floor of the Grandstand and offers great views of the racing. Expect to pay around £170pp for a 3-course a la carte lunch with coffee.
Cartmel’s Paddock Lawn Tipi is an exciting option that boasts stunning views of the home straight, as well as bench seating and a dedicated bar. This tipi provides full access to all attractions within the Course, including its funfair! Tickets cost around £49 per person.
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For a full range of ticket options, visit the official ticket shop.
Getting To Cartmel Racecourse
It has to be said that Cartmel isn’t the easiest place to get to, with long queues on the narrow roads on race days.
From the M6 (junction 36), follow signs for Barrow-in-Furness (A590). At the big Meathop roundabout, take the right exit and follow the brown signs for Cartmel Priory.
Should you wish to come by train, you’ll need to get to the station at Cark in Cartmel (2½ miles from the Course). A bus connection runs on race days, or if you have a light aircraft, Cark airfield is 4 miles away. Helicopter facilities are also available on the course.
On-site parking is available at designated car parks located on the racecourse, and it costs just £10 per car. However, if you’re looking to save some cash, our overflow car parks located on the edge of the racecourse offer free parking, so you can have more money to spend on enjoying the races.