Edition takes a trip to Newmarket, discovering heritage, luxury hospitality and family fun in our West Suffolk neighbour
Known as the headquarters of British horse racing, there’s no question Newmarket’s ties to the ‘sport of kings’ run deep. As well as its famous racecourses – host to nine of 36 annual Group 1 races – it is also home to the UK’s largest cluster of training grounds, racehorse auctioneer Tattersalls, The National Stud and The Jockey Club – the oldest horse racing institution in the world. But look beyond the thrill of the racetrack and the rich royal history, and you’ll discover this corner of Suffolk is a place to taste the region’s finest produce, relax in top spas, see world-class art, visit an ancient market and lots more.
“Many people associate Newmarket with being the home of horse racing, however it’s so much more than that,” agrees Natalie Robinson, BID manager at Newmarket BID. “We have fantastic independent retailers alongside some unique restaurants and cafes, making the town a lovely place to spend time.
“One of my favourite treasure troves in town is Kitchen & Things – an eternal source of inspiration for a keen baker like myself!” she continues. “Or for a Friday treat, I always head to Victor Victoria for its delicious porridge, or one of the amazing cakes and a coffee.”
HOLD YOUR HORSES
Anyone who lives in the vicinity of Newmarket will know the connection the town has with horse racing – but fewer are aware of how it came to be in the first place. The relationship, in fact, was kindled over 400 years ago, when James I came to stay in Newmarket and deemed it the perfect place for indulging in coursing, hunting and racing horses, some of his favourite hobbies. Charles II would also find a fondness for Newmarket, building a lavish palace there during his reign (you can visit what’s left of it today), which would pave the way for the beginnings of organised racing and the founding of The Jockey Club in around 1750.
We recommend beginning a trip to Newmarket with a visit to the National Horse Racing Museum (NHRM), which traces the story of horse racing and Newmarket’s important role in it through hundreds of years, showcasing sculptures, paintings, jockey silks, trophies and other artefacts. As well as the permanent collection (and a racehorse simulator!), it has a calendar of special events and exhibitions – meaning there is always something new to discover. This summer, don’t miss The Urban Frame: Mutiny in Colour, which runs concurrently at three exhibition spaces in West Suffolk, visiting the NHRM between 3 June and 1 October. One of the UK’s largest ever modern art exhibitions, it’s a chance to see works from trailblazing artists such as Banksy, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, displaying pieces never exhibited before.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Newmarket without a visit to the racecourses to catch the gee-gees in full gallop – and there’s plenty coming up to tempt you into a flutter. Major events of the season include The Guineas Festival (5-7 May), The July Festival (13-15 July) and Dubai Future Champions Festival (13-14 October), plus there’s the family-friendly Summer Saturdays to check out, which offer a host of entertainment for kids alongside the action playing out on the track. Also hugely popular are Newmarket Nights – a chance to catch big names like Olly Murs (18 August) and Bastille (30 June) perform as the sun sets after a busy day of racing.
NEWMARKET ON A PLATE
If there’s one delicacy Newmarket is known for, it’s sausages. The town is home to three prestigious producers – Musk’s, Powters and Eric Tennant Butchers – each using their own closely guarded recipe and inspiring a football fan-like level of loyalty for their bangers. Everyone in Newmarket knows which team they support, and party lines are rarely crossed (or so it seems). Made with top-quality Suffolk pork and a perfectly honed blend of herbs and spices, these prized sausages are sold around the country. So revered are they, they’ve earned PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) from the EU, in the esteemed company of Stilton and Champagne.
“This means that only three local companies can actually call their produce ‘Newmarket sausages’,” explains Tristan Powter, director of Powters, which has been in the sausage-making game since around 1881. “Our focus is on maintaining our quality and heritage as one of the UK’s oldest independently owned businesses, ensuring we don’t lose touch with our roots; quality without compromise and an understanding of where our food comes from and what’s in it. We currently make all our own sausages, for sale in both our butchers in Wellington Street and in regional supermarkets. We also still run a family farm just outside Newmarket.”
Sausages aside, the food scene in Newmarket has much to recommend it, from upmarket Squires at Bedford Lodge Hotel to The Pantry, a proudly independent venue known for its seasonal plates and excellent cocktails. A must-try is The Tack Room, a sophisticated spot nestled within the National Horse Racing Museum. Accessed via Palace Street, the restaurant takes its name from its original use in the 80s by Grand-National-winning jockey Bruce Hobbs. Today, you’ll find a bright and airy restaurant serving top-notch local produce, with the added treat of the odd retired racehorse clopping through the courtyard while you eat!
Tipped by the Michelin Guide, nearby Moulton’s Packhorse Inn is a country pub par excellence. The first venue and inspiration behind the Chestnut Collection – which counts The Rupert Brooke in Grantchester and Saffron Walden’s Eight Bells among its members – it’s the ideal spot for a lazy lunch or sumptuous supper after a ramble in the Suffolk countryside.