Royal Ascot is over for yet another year, and as we reflect on the five-day feast of racing, we compile our list of hits and misses for the carnival.

Late last year, Ascot invited some members of the Royal Enclosure (Lisa’s partner Drew was one of them) to partake in focus groups, aimed at improving the Royal Enclosure experience. We must say, this year’s Royal Ascot meeting was a vast improvement on previous years and we think other major racing carnivals can learn a thing or two from them. Thanks for a wonderful time, Ascot, and we can’t wait to see how you improve our experience even further next year.

 

 Highs

Picnic in the car park

Royal Ascot day 1 got off to a great start thanks to Lisa’s friends Craig and Gail, who drove us in early and set up a morning picnic in the car park to enjoy before we headed to the Royal Enclosure. It was the perfect leisurely start to what is usually a hectic day at Royal Ascot.


Many attendees use the car park spaces to set up completely catered feasting tables for the entire day. In the car space next to us were a lovely couple who provided great picnic inspo – we’re talking linens, fine china, crystal champagne coupes and roses… a picnic situation fit for royals! Clearly, we need to up our picnic game next year.



After the races were over, we returned to the car to wind down for the evening and finish any champagne the boys kindly left for us (miraculously there were still 2 bottles), before our designated driver kindly dropped us home.


The fashion and millinery

There were so many great outfits! For our Australian readers, the fashion at Royal Ascot is quite different to Australia. The overall look is quite classic in style, with elegant, pretty dresses or classic suits the most popular choices for the ladies. Millinery focuses on wide brims, with sinamay being the material of choice. In the Royal Enclosure in particular, you can see some fabulous millinery and eccentric characters.

 


 


Prince Harry making an appearance

There’s nothing to add. Love this ginger prince


Stop press!

On day 1 we were interviewed by the lovely Gina Harding from Channel 4 Racing, and on day 2 we had a chat with the stylish Martha Ward for Ascot TV. We talked fashion, millinery and also racing – Gina was particularly interested in hearing our thoughts on the Aussie sprint contenders. We were also excited to find we had made the Telegraph’s list of the 32 best hats at the conclusion of Royal Ascot, coming in at number 12.



The line game

Normally our most hated part of Royal Ascot is queuing for a simple sandwich on level 4 of the Royal Enclosure grandstand (there is only one outlet which sells them!). But this year when the lines started to snake around, staff suddenly appeared with welcome trays, saying hello and offering samples of cakes and cocktails. Cake and cocktails make everything better.

It also must be mentioned that the new cocktail bars in the Royal Enclosure – which make proper cocktails, no premixes here – were a hit, offering great alternatives for those not wishing to drink beer or champagne. And they make a mean whiskey sour, too!

Ascot souvenirs

Racedays always mean sore feet and no battery on our phones as the afternoon wears on. Ascot added new, branded souvenirs to their kiosks around the course and they were greatly appreciated: ballet flats which come folded in a bag, and rechargeable phone chargers. These were lifesavers to both of us. They weren’t expensive, with the flats coming in at £15 and the charger at £8, and the ballet flats were so much better quality than others we have seen.

Lows

Dress code violations being ignored

Part of the allure of the Royal Enclosure is the exclusivity. It is well known for its strict dress codes, and staff patrol the front gates to ensure attendees meet the guidelines. If your hat isn’t up to scratch (ie. with a base of at least 10cm) you are required to rent a hat, and if your skirt doesn’t reach your knees, you’ll be asked to wear an ugly slip underneath. But this year things seemed surprisingly lax, with many people removing their shoes and hats in the Royal Enclosure – a major no-no – and not being warned against it by staff. We even saw a gentleman trade hats with his female partner while staff looked on, laughed and then shook his hand. We do have a sense of humour, but come on – this is the Royal Enclosure. The Queen definitely wouldn’t approve of such hijinx.

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The selection of hats available to rent if yours didn’t meet the dress code criteria.

 

Losing our money

It’s not just the horses you can back at Royal Ascot. Being the fashion savvy ladies we are, we took a bet on what colours the Queen would be wearing on Wednesday and Thursday. We lost. Our fault for getting cocky after Tuesday was a day of fuchsia for everyone.


Ticketing debacles

Ascot had a new way to handle their ticketing this year. In our small circle of eight people, there were quite a few major problems that took many (overseas) phone calls, emails, and not to mention time and effort to rectify. Most of the issues stemmed from staff giving incorrect and conflicting advice to us, and although the head of the ticketing department acknowledged their mistakes, we really didn’t expect such hassle from a premier racetrack. We really hope next year improves because the new systems were terrible, but in case they don’t, here’s our advice – don’t trust email!