THE north of the United Kingdom is a hotbed of sport giving locals the chance to travel short distances to watch elite action.
But, out of all the great northern cities, where are the best places to catch games or races, offering an unrivalled sense of occasion. Here are our top picks that are must-visits.
Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, is one of the most hallowed football stadiums in the United Kingdom and is second behind Wembley in terms of capacity. Just under 75,000 spectators can attend a United game, and more often than not the stands are packed to the rafters. United are the most successful team in English football, winning the top-flight crown on 20 occasions along with three European Cups.
During Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, United were unstoppable in the Premier League and unleashed stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Eric Cantona on their opponents.
Although the club have recently fallen down the pecking order behind rivals City, there is still a wealth of prestige and history you’ll find visiting Old Trafford. You’ll not see the flowing style of Pep Guardiola’s side, but it is a special place to watch the beautiful game, especially when United are on top.
Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool stages the most famous horse race in the world in the form of the Grand National. The event takes place every year in April as part of the Aintree Festival, where over 250,000 fans flood through the gates to watch the pinnacle of the National Hunt season. The Grand National is the ultimate test of horse and jockey competed over four miles and 30 fences that test the skill and stamina of all competitors.
Legacies are made over each jump of the race, which has thrown up its fair share of surprises in its illustrious history, including two 100-1 winners. Mon Mome was the last 100-1 winner in 2009 under the tutelage of Venetia Williams. Williams is undoubtedly one to watch for producing elite horses if you like a flutter at Aintree, or better still, you can buy racehorse shares in one of the charges from Williams’ yard, Jolly Nellerie, thanks to syndicates. Being part of a syndicate adds a bit of spice to a day at the races, even more so if your horse is a winner.
Headingley is home of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, who have produced some of the greats of the English game, including former England captains Joe Root and Geoffrey Boycott among others. The game of cricket is in the blood of every Yorkshireman, and therefore every game is taken extremely seriously. But, some matches take on greater prevalence, notably the Roses’ game between Yorkshire and Lancashire. The feud between the two counties dates back to the 15th Century, and although swords and bows have been cast aside, the rivalry on the field remains intense.
Then there are occasions when it is Headingley’s turn to host England matches. There is never a shortage of drama when England take on Australia in The Ashes. Headingley has witnessed two of the all-time great games between the two nations in 1981 when Ian Botham brought England back from the brink to secure a remarkable victory. It was only topped in 2019 when Ben Stokes produced heroics to deliver a famous win over the Aussies. If you’re lucky enough to attend make sure to get tickets for the Western Terrace, the most raucous part of the ground. It’s not an atmosphere you’ll forget in a hurry.