Date of Review: 18th July 2022
Address: Cartmel Racecourse, Cartmel, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, LA11 6QF.
Phone: 015395 36340
Track Layout: (Image: courtesy of & acknowledged to At The Races)
The long tradition of horse racing at Cartmel was started by the monks from Cartmel Priory in the 12th century. The Whit Holiday Races have been a feature of the racing calendar since 1856. There are now nine race days per year at Cartmel. All of them being National Hunt meetings. The left-handed track is circa 1 mile in circumference and is basically a figure of eight in shape, with six fences jumped on each full circuit. Despite Carmel's small circuit, it has one of the longest run-ins of any National Hunt course in the UK, with a four-furlong run in for chasers and a 2 furlong run in for hurdlers. Front-runners can excel at Cartmel but need to keep going on the long straight, so stamina is required to win. Horses that race prominently are favoured. For this reason, many horses cannot act at Cartmel, so course specialists should always be seriously considered. Cartmel was also the location of the notorious ‘Gay Future affair’ in 1974. This betting coup involved the switching of horses by an Irish syndicate. However, the bookies were suspicious and refused to pay out, and the attempted coup failed. More information on this infamous event can be found at:
The course itself is somewhat of a theme park / county show / funfair type of setup, with picnic areas, fairgrounds, bouncy castles, food, and market stalls. They also have a DJ who plays music all day long, regardless of the racing, though he does switch off as soon as the race commentary starts. A lot of people in attendance are not remotely interested in the actual horse racing itself but view Cartmel as a family, fun day out if visiting the Lake District. Definitely not for hard-core racing enthusiasts like us. However, that said, Cartmel is one of the best attended racetracks in the UK, so they must be doing something right.
The Racecourse Advisor Guide to Cartmel Racecourse:
Course Access: The course is approximately 20 minutes from junction 36 of the M6 motorway. Leave the motorway at J36 and join the A591 towards Kendal. Then pick up the A590 towards Barrow-in-Furness and follow the B5277 towards Grange-over-Sands / Cartmel. The SatNav postcode for the track is: LA11 6QF. By Rail: The nearest station is Cark-in-Cartmel (race day bus service to the racecourse) or Grange-over- Sands station. Reviews for the race day bus service from the station are not favourable. Rating: 7/10.
Parking: Free Parking for the course is available on a large adjacent field. However, it is approximately a 10-minute walk to the racecourse and grandstand. Parking behind the paddock stand is available at a cost of £10 per vehicle, which we feel is excessive. Rating: 7/10.
Pricing: Tickets that give entrance to the Paddock & Course Enclosure are a whopping £27 each (£25 if pre-purchased online). Tickets to the Course Enclosure only are £25 each (£21 if pre-purchased online). Various other ticketing packages are available if you wish to book picnic tables, etc. In our opinion, the pricing is very high in comparison to other provincial racetracks in the UK. Hence, the low rating below: Race cards can be purchased for £3.00. Rating: 2/10.
Catering: As we both enjoy doing “racecourse reviews” and not restaurant reviews, or pretending to be food critics, our aim is to just give you an overall idea of what culinary options are available at the track on race days.
Due to the theme park / county day / fun-fair type set up catering outlets are in abundance. There are basic fast food / burger type outlets to the more specialised seafood restaurant and the exclusive Louis Roederer fine dining restaurant in the Paddock Stand. There are also plenty of bars and more speciality drinks outlets, like the ‘Gin & Prosecco’ van. Rating: 8/10.
Guinness Standard: Disappointingly, there was no draught Guinness available at the course. We found two bars selling cans, but that just doesn’t cut the mustard. Not having draught Guinness available is a major faux pas, in our opinion. Hence, the lowest rating ever given so far. Rating: 1/10
Viewing: It simply has to be said that the viewing of the races at this course is lamentable, to say the least. In the vast majority, if not all of the races, the horses are out of sight for the majority of the race, and that is when you are situated in the main paddock stand. You see the horses briefly after the start, and then they disappear around the top bend behind the paddock. They then come back into sight for approximately three furlongs along the back, then are out of sight again until the home straight. The viewing is really poor at this track. To compound things even further, the paddock stand has no coverage or shelter whatsoever. You are totally exposed to the elements, be it rain or sunshine, at all times, with nowhere to gain cover or respite. On top of this, there is no seating at all in the main paddock stand. The overall viewing experience is one of the poorest we have seen at any racetrack we have visited. For what you pay to gain entrance to the course, the viewing experience is indeed very poor. Rating: 2/10.
Parade Ring: Is located in front of the Paddock stand. No tiered viewing, just flat grass. Access to the parade ring is easy for both pre- & post-race activities. The horses' stables are outside the course across a road, and they enter and exit via the track itself. In most races, this was via the finishing straight, which limited pedestrian transfer from the paddock to the inner course. Rating: 5/10.
Bookmakers / Betting Facilities: There are plenty of betting facilities all around the course. The main betting ring is left of the paddock stand along the rail and has approximately 20 bookmaker’s pitches. Rating: 8/10.
Friendliness of Course Staff: Plenty of locals working as ground staff at the many entrances, exits, and crossings on the course who are friendly and helpful. Also, the maintenance man working to get one of the big viewing screens set up was working extremely hard. Rating: 7/10.
Pros & Cons: Cartmel Racecourse is around a 20 to 25-minute drive from the M6. However, access to the track is down some tight country lanes. It is well signed. There is free parking some distance from the course, and £10 per vehicle for parking closer to the course. There are many negative reviews of the ANPR systems in place for parking, so take care, though we didn’t see any as we parked in the free parking area. The entrance charges, in our opinion, are excessive. The viewing facilities are very poor, indeed, as is the main Paddock Stand. The food and beverage facilities are relatively good, but there is no draught Guinness available on course, which is a big letdown. There are picnic areas in abundance, but the prime spots have to be pre-booked and paid for. There is a funfair, / bouncy castle, and an all-day DJ if that is your thing. The layout and configuration of the track do not suit all horses. Therefore, track specialists should be seriously considered, as should horses who like to race prominently. Overall, in our opinion, Cartmel is a most disappointing experience from a horse racing perspective and, in actual fact, is a funfair with a racecourse attached. Rating: 1/10.
VIP Watch: No VIPs of note, but one punter was an absolute dead ringer for Paul Merton!
Overall Dave & Ray Rating: 4.8/10.
The full day's racing results can be found here: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/meeting/2022-07-18/cartmel/92006
Facilities & location layout of Cartmel Racecourse
Aerial View of Cartmel Racecourse
Disclaimer: The reviews contained in the content of this website are just the opinions of the authors. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the authors, and not necessarily to any other group or individual. Any content or opinion provided in our reviews are not intended to malign any party, group, club, organisation, company, individual or anyone or anything whatsoever on any matter.