Situated only six miles east of the centre of Edinburgh, in Musselburgh, Scotland’s oldest town, the Racecourse of the same name hosts 25 meetings a year, both flat and more recently jumps. Its proximity to the Firth of Forth coast means that the soil is sandy and well drained, making it a track which is seldom affected by the adverse winter weather. The track is flat, with comparatively easy fences and is about 11 furlongs in length. Its sharp bends favour a nippy front-runner.
Originally known as the Edinburgh Races, the first horse racing at Musselburgh was held in 1816 on the Musselburgh Links, also home to the oldest golf course in the world. At that time, racing was for the aristocracy and the very wealthy and although the races attracted an enormous crowd, it was not a commercial venture.
In the 1950s crowds of 15,000 were not unusual, with the racecourse being the only place for legal betting to take place. All this changed in the early 1960s when betting shops were introduced and the crowds dwindled with several racecourses in Scotland, such as Boghall and Lanark, going out of business. In the 1980s, there were fears that Musselburgh too would follow suit but in 1987, new technology was introduced whereby pictures of the racecourse activity could be sold to betting shops, thus giving Musselburgh a much needed injection of cash. It was not enough, however, and by 1991 the situation was looking bleak.
Fortunately, in 1991, East Lothian Council took the racecourse under its wing and within the first year it had broken even, thanks to the efforts of John Lindsay, Head of Finance. At this point, Lindsay and the Provost of Musselburgh, Pat O’Brien, set up the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee. This body still runs the racecourse today.
In 1995, ambitious plans were rolled out for improvements to the course. At a cost of £5million and taking 10 years to complete, the new improved Musselburgh Racecourse is an impressive venue. The improvements included a new hospitality stand, the new Links Pavilion with its weighing room and entrance complex, a new parade ring, landscaping and other environmental work, and refurbishments to the Edwardian Grandstand. The first few years of the new Millennium have seen attendance figures leap from 38,000 to 70,000 and the prize money more than double, making Musselburgh one of Scotland’s most successful racecourses.
Recently, the Racecourse Committee has been trying to have plans approved for an all-weather track with floodlighting but strong opposition from local residents meant that the application was turned down in August 2007.
Meetings and Tickets
For full details of all fixtures see the appropriate section of the Racecourse website.
One of the highlights of Scottish jumps racing, the John Smith County Hurdle Raceday, is held at Musselburgh. It is one of their most valuable fixtures and features two trial races for Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown, attracting some of the top horses in the country.
Tickets can be purchased online or on the day at the main entrance. They cost £15 on weekdays and £20 at weekends with a £2 discount for advance purchases. A £5 discount is available for advance group purchases and for tickets bought on the day by students, OAPs and the disabled (subject to satisfactory photo ID), whilst children under 16 are admitted free of charge, provided they are accompanied by an adult.
Tickets for Ladies Day, held in June each year, are more expensive at £25 or £23 for advance bookings. No further discounts are available for this fixture although the under 16s are still admitted free of charge.
Annual membership is available at £200. It not only entitles you to all of Musselburgh’s fixtures plus reciprocal arrangements at other courses, but also five free guest passes, discounts and special offers.
Eating and Drinking
There is a good choice of eateries at Musselburgh, ranging from bistros, bars, cafes, snack bars and a carvery to fine dining at the Epperston Suite. This Suite overlooks the racecourse, where a variety of packages are available which can include extras such as a glass of champagne and a Tipster talk. For Ladies Day, the Champers and Hampers package is a popular choice and costs £400 for a party of five.
Musselburgh Racecourse, Linkfield Road, Musselburgh, East Lothian EH21 7RG
0131 665 2859
0131 653 2083
an online enquiry form is available here
Musselburgh can be accessed from the Tranent junction of the A1 with the Edinburgh City By-pass. Follow signs to Musselburgh and the racecourse is well signposted from the town.
There is a choice of four buses from Princes St in Edinburgh. The 15 and the 15a both run past the racecourse and the 26 and the 44 take you to Musselburgh High St, from where you can walk.
The nearest station is Wallyford on the Edinburgh to North Berwick line, from where you can catch a courtesy bus to the racecourse. Details of the times of the courtesy bus are shown here
The closest airport is Edinburgh airport, a 30 minute taxi journey from the racecourse. Alternatively, catch the airport bus service to Edinburgh City Centre and take any of the four buses from Princes St to the racecourse.