I'm sure there are many more controversial claims to make, but allow me to make my point. England is the birthplace of many of the sports we love. It has given us rugby, soccer, cricket, hockey, and boxing, to name a few. You could go almost anywhere around England and find sporting history right in front of you, and spend months trying to fit in all the stadia and historical sights to try and capture the full sporting history of England. However, regardless of your chosen sport there are five must-visit sporting venues that should be on every sports fan’s list. The best part is that all are located within an hour of central London.
1. Wembley Stadium
Reopened in 2007 following the destruction of the Old Wembley in 2002, the new Wembley Stadium is majestic. With a seating capacity of 90,000-plus, the stadium is a sight to behold. On a tour, you will get to take in the view from the stands before heading beneath the stadium. Take a break in the Legends Lounges before sitting in the players’ changerooms. You then stroll out pitch-side through the Players Tunnel as the stadium speakers echo the effect of a packed-out stadium.
Get a feel of what it is like to sit in the Manager’s Benches before ascending the stairs to the presentation area, where you will be able to get your hands on the prestigious FA Cup trophy. The tour also highlights many key features of the development of football in the UK and the role Wembley played in laying the foundation for football becoming a powerhouse sport around the globe. Tours depart daily on the hour from 10:00am, except on public holidays and match days.
2. The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club
The All England Lawn Tennis Association is home to the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon, and the venue will be celebrating its 150th birthday in 2018. The Museum tour has been masterfully curated and brings to life the history of tennis. Wimbledon is one of the few tournaments to still maintain many of its traditions, and you'll get to fully appreciate them on a venue tour.
On a tour of the grounds, you’ll take in the Broadcast Centre, Press Room, Millennium Building and Members Enclosure, with a relaxing end to the tour in centre court seats facing the Royal Box. You can also get a fantastic view of central London from the Picnic Terraces. Tours operate daily outside of Wimbledon dates.
3. Twickenham Stadium
Often referred to as the home of rugby union, Twickenham is a stadium that is instantly recognisable the world over. Twickenham Stadium also houses the World Rugby Museum, which showcases a glittering history of rugby from across the globe. A tour through the stadium takes you high into the stands, inside the Royal Box, through the Player’s Tunnel, and finally pitch-side for a walk beside the hallowed turf. A personal favourite is learning about the match day preparations that the players and team go through on game day.
Unfortunately like most stadium tours, the grass is off limits, but standing pitch-side you truly get a feel for the magnitude of this historic stadium. Tours operate Tuesday to Sunday throughout the year, except for Easter and Christmas public holidays and match days.
4. Lord's Cricket Ground
More than 200 years old, Lord’s has undergone constant refurbishment and revamping, but continues to maintain all of its historical charm. The true home of cricket and the most prestigious cricket club in the world, Marylebone Cricket Club, a tour of this great stadium will take you through the dressing rooms, inside the different stands, and along the hallowed Honours Board hallway. At every stop you gain a full appreciation of the history of this majestic stadium, with a chance to gaze upon the famous Ashes Urn trophy at the end of the tour.
My tip: be sure to soak it all up in the walk through the Long Room. A walk taken by many of cricket's greats, it is the only walk of its kind in any cricket stadium across the globe. Tours run seven days a week throughout the year, with the exception of match days and from 22 December to 1 January.
5. Ascot Racecourse
Located roughly an hour away from London, Berkshire is home to the over 300-year-old Ascot Racecourse. For those lucky enough to attend the Royal Ascot race, you’re in for a truly memorable day. Attended by the Queen and the royal family, it is one of the rare moments for anyone to catch a glimpse of the British royals on a day out.
If you’re keen to go to Royal Ascot, you’ll need to book in with a tour company to be able to attend such an event. Otherwise, there’s many other opportunities to attend a race and see the venue. If you wish to sit in the prestigious Royal Enclosure, you’ll need to apply in advance and have been invited by someone who has attended the enclosure for at least four years. Ascot does not operate daily tours, so you will need to book for an event to gain access to the venue.
Feature image: Getty