It’s one of the things that people that don’t have access requirements will rarely ever think about, yet for those that do it can be the difference between them enjoying themselves and having a terrible time. Whether it be something as simple as a prevalence of accessible toilets or something more troublesome such as every entrance having steps, accessibility matters.
Cheltenham Racecourse is obviously most closely associated with the horse racing that takes place and that’s a vital part of it for all concerned. It is, however, a much more wide-ranging event with things to do all over the racecourse. Is accessibility something that racecourse organisers have thought about in every respect, allowing people of all abilities to take part?
Getting Into The Racecourse
Any access problems in terms of actually getting to Cheltenham Racecourse aren’t really the fault of the racecourse itself and more to do with the method of transport that you’ve chosen. For that reason, we’re going to skip this section and instead look directly at how you actually get into the racecourse once you’ve arrived there and are ready to watch the races.
Cheltenham Racecourse aims to provide an accessible environment for all attendees, regardless of age or any disabilities that racegoers may have. If you have special requirements then it’s worth getting in touch with the racecourse directly in order to ensure that these can be dealt with as easily and suitably as possible.
The racecourse has worked with AccessAble in order to ensure that there is a detailed Accessibility Guide. The Main Entrance at the Hall Of Fame has on-site parking for those with a Blue Badge, ramped access with manual doors and an entrance for guests with impaired mobility. There’s also seating available and assistive listening facilities, whilst staff have been given training.
If you need a parking area then Red 2 is where to head. It will be found close to the Steam Railway Station, with a wheelchair accessible buggy service in operation on race days to take people to the North Entrance. Once this area is full, however, Blue Badge holders will be directed to any of the available car parks, so early arrival is recommended.
Some people with access issues require additional help. One such example is an assistance dog, which are welcomed. You will need to show an identification document either from Assistance Dogs (UK) or your own international equivalent. The assistance dog doesn’t need an additional ticket, but the racecourse should be informed in advance.
Equally, personal assistants or companions are welcome provided the person that they’re helping has already purchased a ticket for themselves. They must be able to do things such as assist you around the course, evacuate if necessary, assist you in the toilets and help you when buying food and drink from vendors, amongst other things.
You’ll be able to apply for a complimentary ticket for your assistant on the proviso that you are eligible to do so. Eligibility criteria includes those people on Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, people receiving Person Independence Payments and Armed Forces personnel in receipt of an Armed Forces Independence Payment.
If you’re hoping to take advantage of this then you’ll need to write to the Jockey Club at least five working days before the event in question. If it’s the Cheltenham Festival that you’re going to then make sure that you apply at least two weeks ahead of it, with no passes available on any of the Festival days themselves.
Once you’ve mad it into the racecourse you’re obviously going to want to make sure that you can actually watch the racing. There are a number of accessible viewing areas that you can head to in order to do just that, depending on where you’re located within the venue. Here’s a look at the main ones on offer:
- The balcony of The Centaur
- Opposite the Weighing Room, providing a view overlooking the Parade Ring
- Level 1 of the Princess Royal Stand, just outside the Big Buck’s Champagne Bar
- On the Club Lawn. This view overlooks the finishing straight and outside the foyer of the Mandarin Bar
- Opposite the Sales Arena of the Tattersalls Enclosure is a viewing area that overlooks the finishing straight
- Also in Tattersalls is another area on Level 2, with a terrace outside the Winged Ox Bar
- On Level 2 of the Best Mate Enclosure grandstand is another viewing area
As you might imagine for a venue as large as Cheltenham Racecourse, there are accessible toilets all over the place. The The Panoramic Restaurant on the 5th Floor, near the 4008-4028 boxes on the 4th Floor, the Sovereign and Crest Rooms on the 3rd Floor, the Winged Ox Bar on the 2nd Floor and the William Hill Betting Hall on the 1st Floor all have Radar Key toilets in the Main Grandstand.
Every floor of the Princess Royal Stand has a Radar Key toilet, with other accessible toilets located in the likes of The Centaur, the Istabraq Bar and the Gold Cup and Festival Restaurants. There are many more besides, with the Cheltenham Racecourse organisers recommending that you bring you own Radar Key, but stewards will also have one.
For the biggest meetings, which include the Festival and the November Meeting, additional accessible toilets can be found in a number of places. These are all well signposted for the events, but you can also speak to stewards if you’re struggling to find them. Places such as the Guinness Village are a good place to look.
If you use a mobility scooter or a wheelchair then you’re obviously welcome to bring these with you to Cheltenham Racecourse. Some people don’t have such devices but do need to use them on occasion, so if that’s the case for you then you’ll be able to collect one from near to the North Entrance.
If you’d like to reserve one in advance, which is obviously recommended for the busiest events, then you can do so online. The various devices are provided to Cheltenham Racecourse by Event Mobility Charitable Trust, who specialise in such things. If you’ve been to a major event and used such a thing in the past then they’ll probably have supplied it.
The Grandstand has lifts that supply access to all five levels, located in the Mandarin Foyer. There are also glass lifts at the end of the Hall Of Fame, whilst the Centaur has a lift in its Entrance Foyer that will give you access to the Istabraq Bar. From there you’ll be able to get to the balcony as well as the Hall Of Fame itself.
Access to the rest of Cheltenham Racecourse is relatively good. Obviously much of the area is turf, so the viability of using a wheelchair on it will depend entirely on the weather and how wet it has been. That being said, there are other ways of navigating around the racecourse that don’t involve going on grassy areas so most people are well catered for.
The racecourse does have a lot of steps around the place and this is largely due to the age of the course, which has been built upon over time. Still, organisers have worked hard to create accessible routes to pretty much everywhere they could within the course. From personal experience I see 100’s of people with accessibility issues at the festival, which in itself tells you it is an accessible course.
The decent accessibility of Cheltenham Racecourse is probably best summed up by the fact that Euan’s Guide has given it a 4.5 Star review. Euan’s Guide, in case you aren’t aware, is a website for disabled people to offer reviews of how they catered for at different locations. The review of the racecourse dates back to 2014, so will have been improved upon since then.