There might be more reasons to travel around England than just about any other country. You can do a tour of castles and cathedrals, a trek through national parks, an exploration of a surprising number of beaches, or a look at all of the major cities around the country. The great part is that England is actually pretty small, so most of these trips are perfectly feasible. In this article I want to talk about yet another reason for a jaunt about Britain, and that’s sports tourism.
That’s right! Not everyone loves sports, and even those who do don’t always feel the need to go out and see live events. But thanks to historic venues, major competitions, and passionate spectators, England is a terrific destination for those who do happen to love live sporting events. Here are five such events to put on your travel itinerary if the timing is right during your next trip to England.
If you’re looking for a distinctly British sporting event to attend, you might not be able to top the Henley Regatta. It’s a rowing race hosted by the town of Henley-on-Thames and taking place on—you guessed it—the River Thames. It’s been going on since the 1830s, and has developed over time into an occasion steeped in tradition. Watching the rowing teams compete on the river can be a thrill, but attending the races is almost like attending a festival. People dress up, drink champagne, and even have fun out on the water in canoes or on miniature cruises going up and down the river. It’s a fun-filled occasion where the sports are almost second to the general festivity.
Choosing a football match to take in during a trip to England is difficult. There are a lot of terrific teams and countless historic venues to consider. If you have the opportunity catching a Manchester Derby can be particularly special. This is the title given to the two Premier League matches each year when Manchester City and Manchester United play each other, either at City’s Etihad Stadium or United’s Old Trafford. This is a major rivalry, and the fans packing either stadium make it an intense experience you won’t soon forget.
The Open Championship
This is one of the four major tournaments in golf, alongside the U.S. Open, the Masters, and the PGA Championship. It’s also probably the most unique because it’s both the oldest and the only one that doesn’t take place in the United States. The course varies from year to year, so it’s difficult to describe exactly what sort of atmosphere you’ll be getting into. But year in and year out it draws the best players in golf as well as thousands of enthusiastic spectators. There’s a joy to watching a golf major that’s rare in other sporting events, perhaps due to the fact that most people are rooting for terrific golf and good drama.
The Cheltenham Festival is one of a number of major horse racing competitions that happen throughout England during the spring and summer. But while some are a little bit formal or even somewhat stuffy, this one is made for spectator fun. The races are tremendous, but it’s a little bit like the Henley Regatta in that it’s as much about the surrounding experience as what’s happening on the tracks. Fans often spend days or even weeks reading betting guides previewing the festival action that are available at online information hubs for sporting events and other games. People also like to dress for the occasion, and often spend as much time socializing at champagne bars and restaurants as they do sitting and watching the races.
If you’re interested in the prestige of major sporting events, Wimbledon ought to be your top destination. It’s historic, beautiful, and often home to elite spectators from Queen Elizabeth to David Beckham. As one article put it, Wimbledon stands on a different plateau than any other occasion in sports, combining history, top-notch competition, and stunning venues. It can be viewed as the perfect sporting event, especially if you’re interested in tennis. Check out my true fan’s guide to Wimbledon.