Date of Review: 24th April 2023
Address: Hexham Racecourse, Yarridge Road, Hexham, Northumberland, NE46 2JP.
Phone: 01434 606881
Track Layout: (Image: courtesy of & acknowledged to At The Races)
Hexham is the only racecourse in Northumberland and has the honour of being the most northerly horse racing course in England. It’s an undulating left-handed track with a total circumference of 1 mile 4 furlongs. Keep an eye out for course specialists, as Hexham, while it is generally oval in shape, it is a sharp and twisting track with a number of steep dips that do not suit a lot of horses.
Due to an above average amount of rainfall in the area, it is common for the going to be soft or even heavy. This, coupled with a stiff uphill climb that starts halfway around the back straight and continues all the way around to the start of the final straight, requires horses with stamina to win here. It is very common for jockeys to leave their runs late, even until after the last fence before they go for home.
The course has 11 fences and is considered easy with relatively few fallers. Hexham only holds National Hunt meetings and holds the majority of these outside of the main jumping season in the spring and autumn. It hosts around 14 fixtures a year.
It is situated some 800 feet above sea level. So don’t forget to wrap up and wear warm clothing. Due to the severe weather in this part of the country, no meetings are held in February.
Hexham Racecourse has a rich history and has hosted National Hunt racing for over 200 years. Racing first started in this area in 1720 and moved to the current site in 1793.
The current course was founded by Charles Chipchase in 1890, who owned the local Durham Carpet Company. He bought the land, re-established the course, and personally funded the redevelopments required to continue and uphold the strong horse racing traditions of the region.
Racing ceased here during World War II, and it was used as an ammunition site due to its remote location. Racing resumed in 1946 after the war and has continued since.
The Racecourse Advisor Guide to Hexham Racecourse:
By Road: The racecourse is off the A69 Newcastle to Carlisle trunk road. You can reach this via the M6 from Carlisle or the A1M from Newcastle. Follow the signs for Hexham town centre, which is only 2 miles or so from the course. From there, follow the signs to the track. Pass the railway station on the left, and then the Hexham bus station. Turn right at a mini-roundabout and go past the County Hotel on the left. Turn left again on to Eastgate, then fork right. Go up a steep hill until reaching the top, and turn right onto the racecourse road. Rating: 7/10
By Rail: The good news is that Hexham Station is only 1.7m from the course. There is a free bus shuttle on race days to and from the course. Rating: 9/10.
Parking: Ample free car parking is available immediately in front of the main entrance. There is a graveled area to the left as you enter the car park and a large grassed area to the right. There are plenty of stewards in attendance, should you need them. Further to this, there are free parking spaces for disabled persons situated on the tarmac area to the rear of the Bramble and Tudor Bars and Henderson Suite (blue badges must be displayed). Make the stewards aware of your arrival so they can ensure that you are parked as close to the entrance as possible. Rating: 9/10.
Pricing: Is more than reasonable at Hexham. It is a £15.00 entrance fee into the Paddock Enclosure (£12 if purchased in advance). £23.00 for the Club Enclosure (£20 if purchased in advance) and £30 to gain entrance into the Ramshaw Stand. This gives you a private table (minimum 2 persons) and must be booked in advance. Concessions for over 65’s and students are available. There is free admission for under-18’s if accompanied by an adult. Dogs are also allowed on the track. For group bookings a 10% discount is available if booked in advance for groups of 15 or more people.
Coach drivers are also well catered for, with free admission on production of their ID badge. Along with this, Carers who are accompanying a paying disabled customer receive complimentary admission into the Paddock or Club Enclosure which is a nice touch. Good value all round, with plenty of options to suit all pockets.
Dave was particularly impressed with the locally produced race card for £3.00. Lots of information, course layout details, etc. Further to this, there are a number of signs and plastic cards in the bars that allow you to download a free version of the race card via a QR code, which is very handy. Once again, good value all round. Rating: 9/10.
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.
We are pleased to report that Hexham has a wide range of options to suit all people and all pockets. A number of corporate hospitality options are also available: Top of the range is the Henderson Suite at £95.00 per person. It directly overlooks the parade ring and winners' enclosure and has a four-course carvery buffet. It has its own bar, TV screens, and betting facilities (advance booking required).
Private boxes are also available, which are situated on the top floor of the Ramshaw Stand, with packages available from £68.00 for a finger buffet to £99.00 for a four-course carvery meal. Each box has excellent views of the racecourse, its own TV, and a fridge bar. The boxes can accommodate up to 24 people each.
Next on the list is the Curlew Room: which will set you back a modest £30 per person and has its own bar, betting facilities, TV screens, and excellent views of the racecourse and finishing post. Food and drink can be purchased, which ranges from snacks to hot dishes, and if you are in the mood, even a full afternoon tea platter can be had for £15.00 per person. Again, advanced booking is required. This is the option we chose, as Dave was feeling flush, so we decided to ‘go posh’.
The menu options are many and varied at Hexham, and in the stand where we were situated, we went for the Mince & Onion Pie with Mushy Peas & Gravy for £5.50 per head. Ray cheekily asked for chips, which were not an option, so they threw in a few roasted potatoes for us free of charge. How can you beat that? Our friend Peter the Apprentice went for the alternative option of chicken & vegetable, pie and to say we demolished them was an understatement. They were delicious! really good value for money.
Also, on the menu were sausage rolls, soups, sandwiches, cakes, and tea and coffee. Overall, a more than adequate menu and great prices. Well done, and all credit to Hexham Racecourse.
Further catering options are available at various locations around the track, such as the Bramble Tudor Bar & Café, which is situated at the back of the Parade Ring. It serves the basics, such as pies, sausage rolls, teas and coffees, and the like. It has to be said that on the day we were there, it was extremely well heated!
There is also the Chase Bar located in the Club Enclosure which has a decent sized seating area. To the left of the parade ring and in front of the club lawn area is the Princess Anne Bar (which was actually opened by HRH). While looking a little dilapidated, it is well located immediately in front of the main bookmakers' pitch and the racecourse itself. The bar serves beers, wines, and soft drinks.
In addition to all of this, you also have a couple of ‘street food’ options, which are located at the opposite end of the Shire Bar just past the Owners & Trainers Bar. On our visit, two ‘vans’ were in attendance:
‘Angelfish Fish & Seafood’ being the upscale Fish & Chip Van selling a considerable sized portion of Fish & Chips with Mushy Peas, Tartare Sauce, and a slice of lemon (posh!) for £10.00. While we didn’t experience this local delicacy ourselves, it has to be said, it did look extremely tempting, to say the least! There are plenty of other options, such as the ‘No Meat’ Sausage & Chips. An upmarket scampi & chips, again with tartare sauce & lemon was £10.00. A chip butty was a modest £4.00, and a single portion of chips was going for £3.00. Each menu item had a series of coded numbers after it such as 3,4,5,7,12,14 (for the fish & chips) and 9,12,17 (battered sausage & chips) which had us both baffled for a short while. However, Dave, being the clever one, and good with numbers, quickly realised they were the allergy numbers for each menu item, which corresponded with the Allergy Chart sat on the counter of the van. All part of the modern world we live in…
The other outlet next to the Chippy Van was an old Horse Box converted into a tea & coffee outlet, which also sold crepes & cakes. An Americano, Cappuccino, or Latte was £3.00 apiece. The Hot Chocolate £4.00. The ‘sweet treats’ as they were called, were the crepes. A variety of versions were available, such as: Lemon & Butter, Chocolate & Bashed Hazelnuts (Hazelnuts always taste so much better when they are ‘bashed’ don’t you think?) A classic Banana & Toffee version was also available. While crepes are not usually our go to food when on a racecourse, the old Horse Box was doing a roaring trade, and deservedly so.
Overall, there is an eclectic mix of food and catering offerings across the racecourse. All were relatively well priced, all were busy and all looked like they were giving a good level of service. Compared to a number of courses we have visited previously, this was good. We were impressed. Rating: 9/10.
Guinness Standard: The goods news is that draught Guinness is available at various outlets around the track, at a more than reasonable £6.00 a pint. A decent pint it was, and well deserved after the long journey to the track. Stella Artois was £6.00 and pint of Beck's Vier being £5.50. Rating: 8/10.
Viewing: Whilst there are very limited grandstand covered viewing and seating areas at Hexham, it has to be said the overall viewing experience is truly superb! The course is set in a natural amphitheater, so the slopes above the racecourse below, ensure excellent viewing areas of both the track and the surrounding countryside. The horses can be seen 100% of the time in all races. Hexham calls itself ‘Britain’s Most Scenic Racecourse’ and it certainly has to be up there with the best of them. It is surrounded by rolling hills as far as the eye can see. There is also a lake inside the perimeter of the racecourse, along with a number of fields that are occupied by sheep. In our opinion, you will need to go a long way to beat this viewing experience. However, due to the very limited covered area, which would be a problem when inclement or very hot weather arrives, we have deducted two points from the overall rating. While this may sound a tad harsh, we do try to be as fair and objective as possible when writing up our reviews. Rating 8/10.
Parade Ring / Winners Enclosure: Like everything else at Hexham, the parade ring is situated on a slope, immediately in front of the racecourse itself. It does offer a very good viewing experience to be fair, and full access is available all the way around the enclosure' which is great. It also means you can get very close to the horses and jockeys as they perambulate the ring. The horses access and return to and from the track via a chute at the front of the ring.
The winners enclosure is located immediately to the right of the parade ring. It is small, and access is tight as the front walkway is a direct pathway back into the stands. However, once again, it does mean you can get really close to the action and clearly see and hear what is being said by the jockeys and connections of the horses, along with the TV interviews. All of which makes for a very good race day experience. Rating: 7/10.
Friendliness of Course Staff: There is no shortage of helpful course staff dotted everywhere around the course. The catering staff in the enclosure we were situated in for the day were excellent. All of the staff were friendly, helpful, and courteous. Rating: 9/10.
Bookmakers / Betting Facilities: The main bookmakers' pitch is also on a slope immediately in front of the rails and behind the Club Lawn area. It is more than a decent size, with approximately 17 bookmakers in attendance when we visited. Therefore, it is easy to place bet and get paid out. There is also a Britbet concession in both the Chase and Princess Anne bar areas. With numerous Tote facilities also all around the racecourse, punters are well accommodated at Hexham. Rating: 8/10.
Pros & Cons: In our opinion, Hexham, while being a little bit quirky, is a gem of a racecourse. It’s not that easy to get to by car, however, it is most certainly worth the journey. Plentiful free car parking is available outside the main entrance. More than reasonable pricing and the great news that both cash and cards can be freely used in all areas and at all catering outlets anywhere within the racecourse. The frustrating and totally unnecessary ‘card only’ policy of the Jockey Club and a few others, has yet to reach this far north. Hallelujah for that, we say!
The catering is excellent, with a wide range of food options to suit all tastes, and most definitely delivers value for money. There is also a large picnic area in front of the Princess Anne Bar where food is allowed to be brought in (but no alcohol), so it is great for family days out. The viewing experience is top-notch as is the scenery around the racecourse. The only drawback is the lack of a decent grandstand or seating area. While the parade ring and winners enclosure are somewhat bijou, they do allow you to get up close and personal to the action. There is no shortage of bookmakers or betting facilities, making it very easy to place or pick up a bet.
They say that good things come in small packages, and they most certainly do at this very attractive and well-run racecourse. Hexham Racecourse also holds its own marriage licence. So, for those who fancy they have picked the biggest winner of them all, can get married there! Not only that, but Hexham also has a caravan and camping site adjacent to the course, so you could even have your honeymoon there as well!
Overall, a superb racecourse with great facilities within a very picturesque and pretty area. We highly recommend you give it a visit, sooner rather than later. Rating: 8/10
VIP Watch: No VIPs of any note were spotted during our visit.
Overall Dave & Ray Rating: 8.2/10.
The full day's racing results can be found here: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/meeting/2023-04-24/hexham/96903
Facilities & location layout of Hexham Racecourse
A birds eye view of Hexham racecourse can be found here:
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