Sometimes the right sporting event can make for an excellent occasion to plan a trip around. Clearly this can be the case for major sports fans, but even if you wouldn’t label yourself as such, you can find a lot to enjoy in a big game or tournament. Interesting locations, beautiful venues, fan participation and a general air of festivity can truly make an event out of a sporting contest, from a traveller’s perspective. And as it happens, the UK has some of the best occasions of this kind anywhere in the world.
If this sounds intriguing to you, read on four our picks of four UK sporting events worth travelling for.
There may not be another sporting event in the world that could so easily delight even those who aren’t fans to begin with. Far from being just another professional tennis tournament, Wimbledon is an annual summer event in London that simply radiates a special quality. The facilities are gorgeous, the crowds of fans are as friendly and polite as they are enthusiastic, and the competition just has a way of producing memorable moments. It’s such a beloved event you can actually find multiple lists and articles about why people fall in love with it, and you’ll find that many of the reasons have as much to do with the setting as the actual tennis.
North West Derby
Truth be told, any rivalry match in English Premier League football can be worth the trip. But if you get a chance to see one of the two contests between Liverpool and Manchester United in any given season, you should take it. These matches, known as the North West Derbies, constitute what most view as the most intense and enjoyable rivalry in English football. As such, they tend to be closely contested and immensely enjoyable to attend.
Travelling for the Derby also gives you a good excuse to explore either Liverpool or Manchester – both wonderful cities – and enjoy the build-up for the competition (as there tends to be a palpable buzz for a few days in advance). And if you want more of an attachment to the match, if you aren’t a supporter of one club already, you’re always free to explore the betting markets during this time. The UK’s online bookmaking services are generally quite busy when it comes to Premier League football, and reliably list odds for major matches involving top clubs. Those certainly include Liverpool and Manchester United, both of which tend to be given decent odds to compete atop the league in any given season. Placing a bet isn’t necessary of course, but plenty of the locals will be doing it, and it’s a fun way to dive into the rivalry with some more enthusiasm.
The Open Championship
The Open Championship is actually another event that keeps the bookmakers busy, which means a lot of spectators ultimately find fun in betting on outcomes. But beyond that, it offers a thoroughly different experience than that of the North West Derby. The Open Championship (sometimes called simply The Open, or the British Open), is one of the four “Majors” in men’s professional golf. It’s held annually at a coastal course in the UK, with the most famous (and challenging) venue being the legendary St. Andrews in Scotland. And while the conditions can sometimes be a little bit chilly and windy, the tournament is often a chance to see some of the most skilful golf in the world, in he midst of stark but beautiful surroundings. For golf fans it’s a bucket list item. But for other curious travellers too, The Open can be unforgettable.
The Boat Race
Sometimes referred to as the University Boat Race or, more formally, the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, this is actually one of the oldest sporting competitions in Europe. Essentially a rowing competition between university athletes at Oxford and Cambridge, it has been held in one form or another since 1829. Women’s rowers joined the event in the 1920s, and since 2015 have rowed at the same time as the men.
If you have any interest in or familiarity with collegiate athletics, you know there’s just nothing quite like a good rivalry between schools. And needless to say, a two-school event that’s pushing 200 years of age carries more than a little of that rivalry atmosphere! Even for those who aren’t connected to either university though, the Boat Race is a celebrated occasion. People find various places to watch along the Thames in London and simply make a day out of it, enjoying some time outdoors and cheering on the rowers. It’s not quite as raucous as, say, the North West Derby, but it’s always a joyous occasion.