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Holywell Racecourse

Holywell Racecourse was abandoned just under 150 years ago and today little remains but for the two-mile racetrack. The circuit itself is now open-access land, crossed and accessed by a number of public rights of way, including countless footpaths and a bridleway, some of which form part of the ‘Five Villages Heritage Trail’. A reasonably-wide country lane bisects the circuit from north to south, connecting the villages of Gorsedd and Babel, and the course of Offa’s Dyke also crosses the site.

The first race at Holywell Racecourse was in November 1769, with regular meetings including the ‘Holywell Mostyn Mile’, the ‘Hawarden Stakes’ and the ‘Taffy Stakes’. The last race was held in October 1852. Like Oswestry Racecourse, which also closed around the same time, it likely faced dwindling attendances as the rise of rail travel made the superior Chester Racecourse accessible from across the region. Like Holywell, the racetrack is now open for public access and Offa’s Dyke also crosses the site.

The eastern end of the circuit takes a wide corner along an embankment, making it easily spotted by passengers travelling westbound on the adjacent A55 expressway.

Holywell Racecourse embankment from afar

Walking routes

The track itself forms a circuit of just over two miles, all of which open for the public to walk on, though this does not apply to the area within the track which is private farmland. The road from Gorsedd to Babell splits the circuit into eastern and western sections of vaguely equal size.

The racecourse can also be accessed from the main road at Naid y March, via a short walk through the open access land of Holywell Common, or alternatively via a footpath through sheep fields.

Route one

Tractor on footpath to Holywell Racecourse

This circular route begins on the western edge of Halkyn Common, crossing a small valley to access the racecourse itself. Paths and roads crossing the two-mile racecourse circuit allow walkers to reduce the length of the route to as little as a 30-minute stroll, while the expanses of Halkyn Common offer limitless options to extend the route.

Directions

  1. One
  2. Two
  3. Three

Route two

tbc

Grandstand

Holywell Racecourse grandstand remains
Photo © Joseph Jones (cc-by-sa/2.0)

The grandstand was located at the westernmost end of the racetrack, just to the north of the corner outside the track perimeter. It is said some wooden remains were in place until recently but the pile of stones seen above is all that remains today. This is unlike Oswestry Racecourse, which despite being in generally the same condition as Holywell, much more remains of its grandstand.

The location of the grandstand is marked on Ordnance Survey maps and the shape of the open access land here reveals the former position of the starting gate, though little evidence of this remains on the ground.

A footpath extends west from the site of the racecourse giving access to Coed Moel-dda, Coed y Ffrith and multiple woodlands.

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Other resources

Holywell Hunt Racecourse – Greyhound Derby.com
In-depth information on the race meetings held at Holywell with listings of winning horses and their owners.

Map links