Do you wince at the thought of muddying your new Louboutins? Or shiver at the prospect of drinking lager from a plastic cup? If so, don’t despair, you don’t have to party with the masses at this summer’s festivals, as there are a host of posh events in and around London which attract a more sophisticated crowd. TNT picks the best of the civilised affairs, from drinking Pimm’s in the park to listening to opera in the company of royals.
What: Celebrating 300 years of racing this summer, Ascot has come a long way. In 1922, a Times correspondent wrote that “Ascot is notoriously the best place in England to see beautiful women in beautiful clothes”. Today, however, the annual ladies’ day event is more about outrageous hats than trying to impress. As the event is celebrating its tercentenary, there are special exhibitions, books and fashion shows taking place.
Who: Perfect for spotting A-to-Z-list celebrities as well as well-known faces. Think Princess Beatrice through to Jodie Marsh.
When: June 14-18. Ladies’ Day (Gold Cup Day) is Thursday, June 16
Price: From £59
Dress: To impress
Goodwood Festival of Speed
What: For more refined petrol-heads, Goodwood is a motoring garden party showcasing a mix of classic vehicles, Formula 1 racers and 200mph supercars. Gape in awe at the stunning display of iconic cars that you’ll never be able to afford, then watch the experts as they burn rubber around the track in every type of machine, from bikes to steam engines. Order a hamper filled with traditional summer fare and relax on the lawns of Goodwood Park with a glass of bubbly. Book a fancy two-course lunch at the Richmond Arms in the Goodwood Hotel, based just behind the Start Line and Moving Motor Show exhibition.
Who: Everyone and anyone who’s involved in motoring – from Jenson Button to Jeremy Clarkson.
When: June 30-July 3
Price: From £20
Dress: Casual is fine for general admission
What: At Henely boaters and Bollinger come out to play at this quintessentially English summer party on the picturesque banks of the Thames. Tom Jones will open the five-night event with Jools Holland and Alexander Burke among the other headliners. Expect opera and classical music as well an eclectic collection of art galleries and sculpture lawns. Sip Pimm’s while watching yachts of all sizes float nearby, then book a table at Albert and Michel Roux’s á la carte Riverside Restaurant. Head to Chinawhites for late-night drinks.
Who: You’re more likely to see faces who are famous for their trade – such as Michael Roux – than those who command column inches.
When: July 6-10
Price: From £35
Dress: Black tie and dresses
Hampton Court Palace Festival
What: World-renowned artists perform in the stunning open-air court of King Henry VIII’s palace at Hampton Court Palace Festival – whatever the weather. Be prepared to exercise that stiff upper lip and carry on regardless with a £1 emergency poncho if the heavens open. This year, Bryan Adams, Westlife, Jools Holland, Brian May and Kerry Ellis as well as The Australian Pink Floyd are among those performing. Order a picnic with Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts – don’t attempt to make one yourself unless you’re a pro, as regulars pull out all the stops while dining on deckchairs under a row of mushroom-shaped English Yew Trees.
Who: It’s an old-school crowd of gentlemen and ladies. Think politicians and presenters such as James May.
When: June 8-18
Price: From £45
Dress: No strict code, but you won’t look out of place in tweed
Full Dining Party
What: Full Dining is one of West London’s most exclusive secret dining clubs. For its inaugural summer party, it promises fun and frolics in the magical walled garden of Fulham Palace. Guests will enjoy a delicious hog roast from London chefs, decadent desserts and copious amounts of drinks. There will also be games including welly wanging, apple bobbing and an egg and spoon race.
Who: It’s early days for the event to attract anyone high-profile, so instead expect trendy Londoners.
When: June 12
Price: £45 including food/drinks
Dress: Traditional summer-fete wear
What: You don’t have to be a tennis buff to enjoy this spectacular (if the sun’s shining) event. Wimbledon is celebrating its 125th championships this year, the finest players from more than 60 countries will compete in five main events. Scoff scones, smoked salmon and, of course, strawberries and cream.
Who: Royals, sophisticated A-listers and politicians galore.
When: June 20-July 3
Price: From £35, but you’ll have to queue – usually overnight
Dress: Blazers and floaty dresses
Taste of London
What: Taste is a sumptuous, indulgent foodie day out. This year introduces The Secret Garden – a gastronomic oasis and exclusive area of hidden treats which will be tucked away in Regent’s Park. Take part in Q&As with chefs, feast on canapés and champagne and enjoy VIP access to private bar and lounge.
Who: You’ll see plenty of food geeks – think Gary Rhodes/Jamie Oliver – milling around.
When: June 16-19
Price: From £22
Dress: Casual summer clothes