One of the best things about watching live sports in some English venues is that you can go for a pleasant stroll afterward and grab a nice pint in a welcoming pub, perhaps even treat yourself to a roast dinner. Or at the very least, a home-made scotch egg. Then walk off the calories with a scenic walk in the countryside. Or is it just me?
Many English venues have unique charms, from beautiful scenery to swanky events to historic locales — and, of course, nearby pubs. Here’s a look at some of the best places to watch sports in southern England.
If you are in London, you definitely have to check out the world headquarters of cricket, Lords cricket ground. Lords is truly magnificent. You stumble upon it as you wander through the St John’s Wood neigborhood in North London, and it’s hard to believe this venue is tucked away just a stone’s throw from Sherlock Holmes’ manor at Baker Street.
Lords, officially home to Marylebone Cricket Club, has many unique features that make it the world’s most interesting cricket ground: a beautifully manicured playing surface, the Father Time weather vane, the spaceship-style media center and the famous playing surface slope that has foxed many a visiting player over the years. Get there early for a tour and take in the atmosphere, smell the bacon sandwiches being prepared, listen for all the champagne corks being popped and the for the bell at 10:50 a.m., which means the players will soon begin play.
We’ve talked about cricket a few times over the past year, but until you have visited Lords, you haven’t really seen cricket. After the game, if you still have a couple left in you, go to the Lords Tavern or Duke of York pub for some additional refreshment.
Although the Royal Ascot tends to get most of the attention during the summer, the four-day Glorious Goodwood festival in July and August is a close second in attracting fancy hats and posh frocks. But the venue hosts multiple race meetings during racing season (May through October), so you don’t have to mix with the beautiful people if you don’t want to. It’s also a magnificent spot for viewing the nearby South Downs chalk hills and surrounding countryside.
Sit in the stands and watch the field turn for home in the final few furlongs with some of the best views in southern England staring you right in the face all the while. Better still, watch the racing from the Trundle — a nearby domed hilltop officially called St Roche’s Hill, the resting place of an Iron-Age hill fort which itself was built on top of a Neolithic enclosure. Take your metal detector. And then, make the short drive to Cocking and visit the Bluebell Pub for a scrummy bite to eat and a glass of the local tipple.
Football & man’s best friend
Down in south west England, in the heart of Devon, is the historic city of Exeter, the origins of which go back to Roman times. If you are into Roman history, there is plenty to see and do here — from following Roman roads to checking out an old Legion II Augusta fortress site and, of course, just circumnavigating the walls surrounding the city. When you’re there, check out one of the narrowest streets in the world: Parliament Street. Exeter is also the home of one of my favorite pubs in the country, the Double Locks.
Now yes, you could go to watch Exeter FC play at St James’ Park – a quaint little stadium built literally right on the railway line (the station is behind one of the stands) — or you could go for a slightly less human spectacle and instead plump for the more canine-oriented yearly Dog Show. Which, very handily, is very close to the Double Locks. There, you can sample some locally made cider while sitting on the riverside playing pooh sticks and watching the canal traffic meander by. It’s a wonderful summer stop off. Dogs always welcome.
Part II: Midlands & the North coming soon…
by Matt Goff
Photos: Goodwood racecourse is set among beautiful English countryside with a backdrop of rolling green hills. (Photo by Julian Herbert/Getty Images)
Lords cricket ground is one of the must-see venues for sports fans visiting England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Ladies’ Day during the Glorious Goodwood festival draws beautiful people (shown here: Preeya Kalidas, Kelly Brook and Michelle Rodriguez last year) dressed in fancy duds. (Photo by Indigo/Getty Images)
The Old Father Time weather vane overlooks Lord's cricket ground. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)