‘What a smashing, positively dashing spectacle – the Ascot Opening Day!’ sang the chorus of musical My Fair Lady. And what an apt description that is – for Ascot is both smashing and positively dashing, especially when experienced from within the Royal Enclosure. However, with access to such exclusive grounds comes definitive rules; rules all race-goers must carefully heed…
Picnicking in the Car Park
Royal Enclosure badge holders not lunching in the grounds of the racecourse, will picnic in the car park. If you think this sounds uncivilised, you have clearly never witnessed it. Packaged garage sarnies on a car bonnet in some concrete complex, it ain’t. Smoked salmon blinis and ice cold champagne, in an emerald green field, it is.
Car Park Number Two accommodates most Royal Enclosure visitors, but Car Park Number One is the coveted spot because it’s closer to the entrance (and post a few glasses of bubbly, that’s always a bonus).
The big no-nos in terms of catering are: caterers and butlers. Both are vulgar. Gazebos are tolerated but not encouraged. As Debrett’s points out: ‘a gazebo may provide emergency rain cover for picnics and race-goers, but should fit within the allocated car parking berth, and be dismantled before racing starts.’ Hot and greasy food should be avoided too; anything slopped or smeared down an Ascot outfit isn’t going to be sufficiently removed from the midst of a field.
Play it safe and go for a standard Ascot picnic. This usually consists of: fold-out chairs and finger food, like quails eggs, smoked salmon sandwiches and champagne. Lots of champagne.
Code of conduct inside the Royal Enclosure
There is no running or shouting in the Royal Enclosure. Much as you would behave in a garden party, voices are kept to a jovial, light-hearted hum, raised only when one finds oneself reunited with an old school chum.
Enclosure badges should always be visible – otherwise you’ll be shamefully escorted out – and hats should be worn at all times (although, top hats may be removed in restaurants, private boxes and clubs).