Nowhere does sport quite like Britain. The country that gave the world football, rugby, cricket, golf and tennis has a legacy as powerful as an Andy Murray overhead smash. Its heroes and traditions are legendary, its inhabitants are sports-mad and its big-name venues are among the most iconic on the planet. Here’s what not to miss.
A Six Nations rugby championship match
When: February and March
Rugby has come a long way since 1823, when English schoolboy William Webb Ellis decided to pick up a football and run with it. The annual Six Nations tournament each February and March is now firmly entrenched as the highlight of the British rugby calendar. Expect packed stands and deafening support at England’s Twickenham, Wales’ Principality Stadium and Scotland’s BT Murrayfield.
A Premier League football game
When: August – May
The world’s first football association was founded in England in 1863, so it’s fitting that more than 150 years on, the country still plays home to the most followed league on Planet Earth. Clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea have avid supporters across the globe, and experiencing a match first-hand remains a heady thrill.
Athletics at the London Stadium
The cutting-edge London Stadium has showcased two of the biggest athletics meets in living memory, namely the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships. ‘The world’s stage’ hosts high-profile events all year round, welcoming the biggest competitors in the sport and attracting capacity crowds.
Tradition hangs heavy over Wimbledon’s All England Club, host venue to the world’s most famous tennis championships since the first tournament in the 1870s. Held each July, it’s an occasion of strawberries (28,000kg) and cream (7,000 litres), neat green-and-purple uniforms and freshly mown grass courts. Not to mention, of course, sold-out stands and the best players on the circuit.
A Test match at Lord’s
The smack of leather on willow. Polite applause rippling around a village green. Cricket remains a quintessential part of England’s social fabric, and the sport finds its spiritual home at Lord’s. The fabled London ground is more than 200 years old – bag a ticket for a summer Test match to experience ‘The Home of Cricket’ at its refined best.
The Open Championship
The only golf major to be held outside of the USA – and the oldest one of the lot – the Open Championship has a heritage dating back to 1860. It’s held each July at one of ten historic courses across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Even today, few events offer as much in the way of tradition, excitement and massed audiences.
Horse racing has been a part of British life since Roman times, and the still-functioning Jockey Club codified the sport’s rules back in 1750. Various world-famous events take place each year – among them the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National – but nothing beats June’s Royal Ascot for colour and pageantry.
The British Grand Prix
From Jackie Stewart to Lewis Hamilton, Britain has produced some of the best Formula One drivers of all time. The country’s F1 Grand Prix still takes place each year at the venerable Silverstone Circuit, which first welcomed the race in 1948. For any speed-loving motorsports fan, it’s a mouth-watering (and eardrum-pounding) proposition.