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Newmarket's Sport of Kings

A quick canter through the world of horse racing.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 131ft (40m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Town streets and surfaced horseways

Landscape Newmarket town and heath

Suggested map Map from tourist information centre, Palace House

Start/finish TL 644633

Dog friendliness Not very suitable

Parking All Saints Road car park (free), near Palace House

Public toilets In cemetery and opposite post office on High Street

1 Start at Palace House, where the tourist information centre is housed in a wing of Charles II's palace. Walk up Palace Street towards a white house with shutters. This is Nell Gwynne's House, where the King installed his favourite mistress.
Turn right along High Street towards the clock tower. Before reaching it, turn right along Rous Road, passing some attractive gabled cottages. At the end of the road, turn right into Old Station Road and walk past the Rous Memorial Cottages, formerly almshouses for retired jockeys.

2 Across the street you see Warren Hill and the famous 'gallops' where the horses train each morning. The training grounds are closed to pedestrians until 1pm each day but after this time you can follow the exercise track on the left to Moulton Road. Before 1pm, you will have to return along Old Station Road and take the alley between Nos 13 and 15, emerging on Moulton Road opposite the farriers Curtis and Sons. Turn left along Moulton Road to return to the clock tower.

3 Cross the road and walk down the right-hand side of High Street. After 200yds (183m), turn right along an alley into the Rookery shopping centre. On your left is the Bushel pub, where Charles II is thought to have attended cock fights. Bear left at the library and right across Market Place. Cross the road just beyond a relief sculpture of a horse, and bear right along The Watercourse on a horse way behind a large white house. Behind the high wall to your left is the Hastings Centre, an equine swimming pool and therapy clinic. Turn left when at a junction and climb to the top of the street. Turn left and walk downhill as far as the Methodist chapel. Cross the road here and turn right on another horse way to St Mary's Church. Bear left through the churchyard and keep straight ahead on Fitzroy Street, passing the Memorial Gardens, a theatre and a real tennis court. At the end of the street, turn left into Black Bear Lane past a large horse requisites shop opposite the entrance to Fitzroy Stables.

4 Turn right up High Street. When you reach the Cooper Memorial drinking fountain, fork right along Birdcage Walk to arrive at Newmarket Heath, with views of the Rowley Mile racecourse and Millennium Grandstand. Cross the main road to enter the cemetery and follow the path to the left, passing the chapel and leaving via the main gate. Cross Dullingham Road and walk down High Street to the next corner, where you will see Queensberry House, headquarters of the British Bloodstock Agency. Turn right and then left along a private road, passing Gibson Saddlers, suppliers of racing silks to the Queen.

5 At the foot of this road, a short detour right leads to Tattersalls, the leading equine auctioneers. Otherwise, turn left to High Street and turn right at the traffic lights. After the post office, you come to the Jockey Club, where the rules of racing are administered, and the National Horseracing Museum. Just beyond the museum, turn right towards Moons toy shop and go left along a passage to the start.

Newmarket has been the capital of British horse racing ever since James I moved his summer court here in 1605 and established the town as the home of the sporting fraternity. Long before that, Queen Boudica used to race her chariots across Newmarket Heath, but it was the royal patronage of the Stuart kings which made Newmarket the place it is today. The town is utterly devoted to racing, with farriers, saddlers and bookmakers taking the place of more conventional shops. With over 2,000 thoroughbred horses based here in training, no one could ever accuse Newmarket of being a one-horse town.

This walk takes in many of the sights associated with horse racing, starting at the former palace of Charles II. It was Charles, a keen rider, who did more than anyone to put Newmarket on the map and his twice yearly visits established a pattern of spring and autumn race meetings which continues to this day. Several of the top trainers have their stables on Moulton Road, including Henry Cecil at Warren Place and Sir Mark Prescott at Heath House.

Where to eat and drink

Coffee & Co, near the start of the walk, offers a varied menu of quiches and panini at outdoor tables in summer. There are several pubs on High Street, as well as the Bushel in the Rookery Centre. There is also a good café inside the National Horseracing Museum.

While you're there

The National Horseracing Museum has displays on the history of racing as well as a hands-on gallery where you can ride on a simulated racehorse and try on racing silks. The museum also organises equine tours of Newmarket, some of which take place on race days and include advice on betting.

What to look for

A white cross in the cemetery marks the grave of Fred Archer (1857-86), perhaps the greatest jockey of all time, who was 13-times champion jockey before shooting himself at the age of 29 after his wife died in childbirth and he grew increasingly depressed at his inability to keep his weight down. The fatal revolver is on display in the museum.


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