Carlisle Racecourse Guide

The Course at Carlisle Racecourse
The Course (JThomas /

While far from the biggest venue around, Carlisle Racecourse is one of the best regarded smaller tracks in the north west of England. Lying south of the city, it’s a venue surrounded by countryside and one offering some picturesque views.

With Flat and National Hunt racing on at Carlisle, it’s a place many go to see horses in competition but there are those more tempted by the top musical performances Carlisle regularly attracts. With action on the Flat as well as NH, fine scenery and great music too, Carlisle may not be a bucket list destination but it certainly offers something for everyone.

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The Course

The flat course at Carlisle is a galloping, pear-shaped one with right handed turns. Sprint races take place on a small chute near the final bend, making the track reasonably straight but for longer races they must take on the long sweeping bend before the home straight. In seven furlong races, having a prominent position around this turn is a notable advantage. In longer distance events, there is less jockeying for position by this point as the field often stretches out around a mile and three furlongs out.

There are a few things that the flat and the jumping courses have in common. Both have a rather sharp climb to the finish which does put a bit of emphasis on stamina here. Another shared feature is that, due to the wet weather Carlisle often receives, jockeys, particularly during jump racing, will switch to the stand side where the ground tends to be a little firmer.

Carlisle has three jumping tracks in total, all of which are a little more undulating than the flat track, one for steeplechases around the outside and the two on the inside for hurdles. Given the stiff nature of the course, it’s a track where many trainers give horses a worthwhile run out. It’s not really a test of jumping ability though. The fences are quite easy compared to others and there’s only a couple that ever catch runners out.

Major Races

Carlisle’s showpiece fixture comes in June and it’s the Carlisle Bell and Cumberland Plate day. The feature race on the day is the Carlisle Bell which boasts the oldest sporting trophy in the world having first been run in 1599. This historic race is accompanied by the Cumberland Plate, which is believed to have been running for over 175 years (a mere toddler of a race!) and the far younger Eternal Stakes which formerly was run at Warwick and Newmarket.

When it comes to jump racing then the Colin Parker Memorial Chase is the highlight of the National Hunt season at Carlisle. The two and a half mile affair regularly attracts some very talented names such as Grand National champion, Many Clouds, who won the race in 2014. Two years later and the race was very much of case of quality over quantity with just two horses, Seeyouatmidnight and Bristol De Mai competing for victory.


The Grandstand
The Grandstand (JThomas /

Useful Info

Dress Code

In the Grandstand & Paddock areas, no dress code applies, although sports shorts and denim shorts are discouraged. On Ladies Night, many women come wearing extravagant hats and there is even a prize for whoever is deemed to be best dressed.

If travelling to Carlisle for a winter fixture, it’s always a good idea to pack some wet weather gear with you.

Ticket Prices

General Admission at Carlisle is £14 for the vast majority of racedays when tickets are purchased in advance or £17 on the day. Students and Senior Citizens are eligible for a concessionary rate on the gate however and will pay £12 instead.

The Premier Enclosure is only open on busier racedays with admission starting at £20 in advance and £23 on the gate. Each meeting has restaurant packages starting at £74 per person and a Punter’s Package ticket for £27, which includes admission, racecard, pie and an alcoholic beverage.


An annual badge at Carlisle costs just £190 for adults and £170 for OAPs but both have the chance to upgrade to Gold membership (£299) which guarantees you an exclusive box in the Lawn Suite.

Perks include over 50 reciprocal fixtures, half price entry to 28 fixtures at Haydock Park and Aintree, free tea/coffee at some racedays and two fixtures where you can bring a friend along for free.

Getting There

If driving to the racecourse, the postcode you want for the sat nav is CA2 4TS. If relying on public transport, you can head to Carlisle Station on the train which is approximately 2.2 miles from the course. From there, the easiest option is to walk five minutes to Lonsdale Street for the Reays bus service.

The bus will take you to the racecourse, 90 minutes and 45 minutes before the first race and return you five minutes and 35 minutes after the last. Tickets are £1.60 each way and you can buy them on the bus.


An annual pass for trackside parking can be purchased for £55 or you can choose to pay £10 each time you go (£5 for annual badge holders). Alternatively, there is free parking outside the course, opposite the main grandstand.


Bust of Sir Gordon Richards
Bust of Sir Gordon Richards (Rose and Trev Clough /

Amazingly, racing in Carlisle dates back to the late 1500s and the Carlisle Bell, first run in 1599, is evidence of this. The race came with two bells as a prize, but the bells themselves went missing for some time before turning up in the town clerk’s office in the late 1800s. Today, replicas are handed out to the winner but the originals are brought to the racecourse on the day.

The Tote

Not only does Carlisle boast the oldest trophy in world sport but on 2nd July 1929, it made history by being the first racecourse to introduce the Tote. The betting pool system, still going strong today, did also make a debut appearance at the same time at Newmarket so it’s a record Carlisle must share.

The Grandstand

Originally, racing took place on the ‘Swifts’ near the modern Sands Centre but in 1904 the switch was made to Blackwell where the track remains today. Shortly after making the move, a new grandstand was erected and more than 100 years later it is still going strong, having been progressively upgraded since. In 2002 however, a state of the art Jubilee Grandstand was built and a year later it was announced that £2.5m would go towards redevelopment across the whole course.

Further Reading

More information on Carlisle Racecourse’s very lengthy past can be found in Ralph Greave’s book, ‘A Short History of Carlisle Racecourse’, if you are fortunate enough to find a copy. For those less interested in history and more in racing action, a trip to Carlisle will uncover a small but perfectly formed venue with a warm welcome and decent facilities.

You'll also find a commemorative bust of Sir Gordon Richards pictured above at Carlisle Racecourse who was a British racehorse trainer who specialised in National Hunt racing.