Sports travel blog

Guide to sports travel and hotel accommodation

Arsenal FC – Emirates pub guide

Posted in  Football by Vincent on the August 31st, 2010

Away fans, more than most, know the pleasures of a pre-match pint. After enduring a hideously early rise and driving however many miles with a coffee in one hand and a map in the other, you more than deserve it. Here is MATCHhotels.com’s guide to pubs near the Emirates for those hardy folk who make the trek to Arsenal.

The Drayton Park

The Drayton Park is the main pub for away supporters, situated opposite the stadium’s away entrance. As such, it is seriously busy on match days. Unfortunately, there are no ales on tap.

The Drayton Park
66 Drayton Park
Highbury
London
N5 1ND

The Woodstore Bar & Grill

A quieter option is The Woodstore Bar & Grill, a clean, spacious pub serving up a wide range of drinks and some good grub. Football colours are allowed and the staff are friendly. They have full Sky Sports and ESPN coverage.

The Woodstore Bar & Grill
1 Carpenter Mews
North Road
Highbury
London
N7 9EF
0333 240 2000

The Twelve Pins

The Twelve Pins is a bit of walk up Seven Sisters Road, but they are big on sport and welcoming to all fans. It’s an Irish pub, so you can get a decent pint of Guinness.

The Twelve Pins
263 Seven Sisters Road
Finsbury Park
London
N4 2DE
020 8809 0192

The Blackstock

If you can’t get in anywhere else, try The Blackstock across the road. It’s not exactly the nicest pub in the world, but it’s good enough for a pre-match drink. It also has Sky Sports.

The Blackstock
284 Seven Sisters Road
Finsbury Park
London
N4 2HY

Craven Cottage, Fulham – Pub guide

Posted in  Football by Vincent on the August 16th, 2010

Fulham, Chelsea and its neighbouring communities are the playgrounds of London’s millionaires. Alas, paupers like ourselves at MATCHhotels.com will never be able to afford a lush pad around those parts, but we do like to pretend we can by drinking in the pubs. The following four come highly recommended.

The Eight Bells
Photo: Ewan-M @ Flickr

Photo: Ewan-M @ Flickr

The Eight Bells is a friendly pub with a few hand-pumped beers attracting a genteel crowd, as it’s tucked off the usual football route (but still very close to the tube). It is the oldest recorded alehouse in Fulham, dating back to 1629, when it was known as The Bell.

89 Fulham High Street
London
SW6 3JS
020 7736 6307
The King’s Arms

Kings Arms (Fulham)

There’s a lot of competition in the area, but The King’s Arms (formerly The Larrik), on the corner of New King’s Road, is a gem that stands out. It’s been transformed into a modern, airy venue serving excellent seasonal food. The range of drinks is similarly good.

425 New King’s Road
London
SW6 4RN
020 7371 9585
The Duke’s Head

Duke's Head Putney (Fulham)

If you don’t mind a brisk 20-minute walk to the stadium, there are a few decent pubs across the river in Putney. The more civilised travelling fan can enjoy some excellent grub while looking out on great views of the Thames at The Duke’s Head.

8 Lower Richmond Road
London
SW15 1JN
0208 788 2552
The Bricklayer’s Arms

Bricklayer's Arms Putney (Fulham)

Another Putney pub, The Bricklayer’s Arms, is a proper beer drinker’s pub, with a huge range of excellent real ales – and many awards to show for it.

32 Waterman Street
London
SW15 1DD
0208 789 0222

Chelsea FC pub guide – where to drink near Stamford Bridge

Posted in  Football by Vincent on the August 6th, 2010

At long last, the Premier League is upon us. At 12.45pm next Saturday, August 14, Spurs welcome Man City to White Hart Lane for the first fixture of the 2010-11 season.  What a cracking tie it ought to be: the two sides fought furiously for fourth place last year, with Spurs pipping City by just three points. While it would be crazy to make any predictions after the first game of the season, it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top when they were so closely matched last year.

To celebrate the start of the new season, MATCHhotels.com is compiling an away fans’ drinking guide for each Premier League team, so you’ll know exactly where to drink before every match. We’re starting with last year’s champions Chelsea, who face newly-promoted West Brom at Stamford Bridge on opening day. The majority of pubs near Stamford Bridge are strictly home-fans only, and it would be wise to keep away colours under wraps. There are, however, a couple of excellent pubs about 15 minutes’ walk away.

The White Horse
Photo: Ewan-M @ Flickr

Photo: Ewan-M @ Flickr

One of the best locations for away fans is The White Horse, “a haven of Victorian grandeur” near Parsons Green. It’s a charming boozer, with a smart dark wooden bar, some great big leather couches and a superb selection of beers (over 135 bottled varieties alone, as well as six to eight cask ales at any time). They also hold four beer festivals a year, and regular barbecues in their spacious beer garden. There are loads of Chelsea fans in on matchdays, but it’s friendly enough for away fans.

The White Horse
1-3 Parsons Green, London, SW6 4UL
020 7736 2115
The Blackbird
Photo: Iain Buchanan @ Flickr
Photo: Iain Buchanan @ Flickr

The Blackbird at Earls Court is one of Fuller’s ale and pie houses, run by friendly, capable staff (which helps on a busy match day). A wide selection of Fuller’s fine ales is available, but not much in the way of cider. The pub has a few nice decorative touches, including an old clock behind the large central bar, set in exquisitely carved wooden panelling, and a large antique mirror with the pub’s name etched into it. All in all, it’s an excellent traditional pub.

The Blackbird
209 Earl’s Court Road, London, SW5 9AN
020 7835 1855

Barclays Premier League 2010-11: Introducing the new season

Posted in  Football by Vincent on the August 5th, 2010
Jamie Cureton scores the winner for Bristol Rovers against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road in 1999. How times have changed (Photo: Rick Weston @ Flickr)

Jamie Cureton scores the winner for Bristol Rovers against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road in 1999. How times have changed (Photo: Rick Weston @ Flickr)

It’s that time of year again, ladies and gentlemen, when extortionately-priced new kits are purchased, fantasy teams are carefully assembled and Sky Sports News occasionally finds real, actual news to report – yes, it’s the start of the football season. As far as we at MATCHhotels.com are concerned, it couldn’t come soon enough. Summer is great and all, but life is that much worse without Match of the Day on Saturday nights.

It ought to be an intriguing and particularly passionate season. Sure, we’ll have the usual derbies, such as Man United v Liverpool, the Merseyside derby and the north London derby, but there will be added spice this time round. For the first time in 27 years, all four major West Midlands teams – Villa, Birmingham, Wolves and West Brom – will be in the league at the same time, and it will be the first season to witness the Black Country derby between West Brom and Wolves. And while both Newcastle and West Brom are far from unknown quantities, it has been a full 39 years since Blackpool last competed in the top flight.

The introduction of the league’s new rules also makes the competition a lot more interesting. Clubs can register only 25 players, of whom at least eight must be ‘home-grown’, ie they must have been affiliated to the FA or FAW for at least three seasons (or 36 months) prior to their 21st birthday. This pool of 25 can, however, be supplemented by an unlimited number of players under the age of 21, and registration can be changed during transfer windows.

The rules are intended to bolster the number of young English players playing regular football and, over time, improve the standard of the national side. The most immediate impact of the rules, however, will be on clubs like Chelsea who have massive squads and will effectively be forced to freeze players out. Towards the end of the season, too, as players pick up injuries and suspensions, clubs will be far more restricted in terms of who they can pick than in previous seasons. 

Perhaps with the new regulations in mind, champions Chelsea have already shed quite a few players in the close season, including Juliano Belletti, Michael Ballack and Deco (although Joe Cole, who left to sign on a Bosman for Liverpool, qualifies as home-grown). So far their only signing is skilful midfielder Yossi Benayoun (who effectively swaps positions with Cole), although an £18 million deal to sign Benfica’s Brazilian midfielder Ramires is close to completion.

Man United have been similarly quiet in the transfer market. Manager Alex Ferguson has repeatedly insisted the club’s finances are in order, but their absence from the transfer market certainly suggests otherwise. Their only new recruit so far is young Mexican striker Javier Hernández, who impressed during the World Cup.

Arsenal fans approach every season with increasingly naïve optimism that they might win something, but perhaps this time they are right to be hopeful. It looks like Cesc Fabregas will be staying at the Emirates (at least for another season), which is a coup in itself. Jack Wilshere, fresh from a promising spell at Bolton, is an extremely talented footballer who has the potential to make a real breakthrough this season, and perhaps Theo Walcott will find some consistency after his, ahem, extended summer break.

But of the big four, it’s Liverpool who look the most likely to make serious improvements on last year. Finishing seventh was a disaster, and things have rightly been shaken up. Rafa Benitez is out and Roy Hodgson in, which should at least guarantee that a regular team will be picked. A fully fit Alberto Aquilani almost seems like a new signing, and the attacking trio of Torres, Gerrard and Cole is not to be sniffed at. Weaknesses at the back remain, but if Hodgson can make Chris Baird look like a Premier League defender then anything is possible.

Man City are surely the best of the rest, and look more likely than ever to end up in the top four and secure the Holy Grail of Champions League football. If they do that, they will surely have no trouble attracting even better players, and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we will seeing them lift the Premier League title within a few seasons.

At the bottom end, Bolton should do fine under Owen Coyle and West Ham will expect better than last season’s 17th. Wigan and Wolves will both need to score a lot more goals next year, or at the very least concede fewer. Wigan in particular were prone to awful defensive displays last year; perhaps they will have learned from the experience.

And Blackpool? Well, with Olly in charge, it’s bound to be entertaining…

To get you in the mood for the upcoming season and help you prepare for the trials and tribulations ahead, MATCHhotels.com is compiling a pub guide for every team in the Premier League which will be published over the coming weeks. We’ll start with last year’s champions, Chelsea, tomorrow.

Newmarket Champion Stakes: Flat racing at its best

Posted in  Horse Racing by Vincent on the July 26th, 2010
Newmarket Racecourses, the home of flat racing

Newmarket Racecourses, the home of flat racing, is one of the most famous racecourses in the world. It holds many Group One races, the most prestigious races in the sport. The course itself actually consists of two different tracks, the Rowley Mile, used in spring and autumn, and the July Course, used, as the name suggests, in summer. Newmarket is a special place to visit for any race, let alone the Champion Stakes, one of the leading autumn races in the UK. First run in 1877 at the Rowley Mile over 1 mile and 2 furlongs, it is open to fillies and mares over three years old. This year’s race, on October 16, is particularly worth seeing, as it is your last chance to see the race at its spiritual home: it is due to switch to Ascot from next year.

Where to stay

Originally a Georgian hunting lodge built for the Duke of Bedford in the 18th Century, Bedford Lodge Hotel was converted into a luxury hotel in the 1940s. It was named Suffolk Hotel of the Year 2006-07, and it is easy to see why. Set in three acres of beautiful rose gardens but just a 10-minute walk from Newmarket, it marries contemporary luxury with traditional charm. There is a gym and pool, an excellent restaurant and free wi-fi.

Just outside Newmarket, in the hamlet of Saxon Street, is The Reindeer, Cheveley, a stylishly finished, surprisingly modern hotel. The quality of its food is excellent.

Newmarket is quite an expensive place to stay, but there are a few more affordable options around. The Black Horse Motel, in the village of Swaffham four miles outside Newmarket, offers rooms in a converted stable block. They are fairly basic, but include a colour TV, central heating and tea and coffee facilities, as well as a full English breakfast. The historic university town of Cambridge, well worth visiting, is just a 10-minute drive away.

The Cadogan Hotel Newmarket is a cosy family-run hotel which was recently upgraded from 2 star to 3 star by the AA. All 12 en-suite rooms come with a TV, hospitality tray, hairdryer and ironing facilities. Free wireless internet is available throughout the hotel. There are no leisure facilities on site, but guests can use the facilities of a local hotel for an additional charge.

How to get there

The majority of racegoers travel to Newmarket by road. As such, the immediate environs of the town itself become rammed with cars in the hours before the first race. Road diversions will be in place, attempting to take you around the town, but you are best advised to ignore them and continue through the centre – it is far quicker. The Rowley mile is clearly signposted.

It is also possible to reach Newmarket by public transport. Regular rail services run from London Kings Cross and Liverpool Street to Cambridge, Stansted Airport and Ipswich, where onward connections by rail, bus or road can be made, for example by picking up a taxi or hopping on one of the Newmarket-operated return coach services from Cambridge train station (which also operate from the Robin Hood pub at Cherry Hinton).

There are, of course, a large number of taxi firms operating in Cambridge and Newmarket.

Celtic v Braga Champions League 3rd round

Posted in  Football by Vincent on the July 20th, 2010

Following a disappointing season in 2009-10, Celtic face qualification for the group stage of this year’s Champions League, something they would not have hoped for (or perhaps even expected) in August 2009. But we at MATCHhotels.com wouldn’t want you to get down in the dumps about your team’s underachievement – an extra European tie means an extra opportunity for a city break. Come on guys, think outside the box.

The Glaswegians have drawn Liga Sagres runners-up Braga, and travel to north-west Portugal for the first leg on Tuesday, July 27, before welcoming their opponents to Celtic Park a week later on August 3. An aggregate victory would leave Celtic with just the play-off round (in which they were eliminated by Arsenal last year) to negotiate, so the rewards could be huge.

 Where to stay

Celtic Park is situated just outside Glasgow city centre, so there are accommodation options to suit every budget. The urban chic of the Brunswick Hotel Glasgow, situated in trendy Merchant City, makes it one of the most attractive modern hotels in the city. Facilities are limited, but its bar is open until 4am every day and wi-fi is complimetary. Rooms start at a rather reasonable £50.

Another classy hotel is the Carlton George, a “boutique” hotel right smack in the city centre. The rooms are finished to the highest standard and come with that rarest of treats, a free mini-bar. The rooftop restaurant is excellent too.

If you’re looking for a more homely feel or fancy staying for a few nights, it might be worth considered a serviced apartment, such as those offered by Saco Hotel Glasgow. Prices start around £90, for which you get a beautifully furnished flat complete with a dining table and chairs, a dishwasher and a fully equipped kitchen.

 How to get there

Celtic Park is in the east of the city, about a mile and a half from the centre. Many fans make the half-hour walk and take in s0me of the pubs along the way, but you can also catch a bus (number 43 from Renfield St or numbers 61 and 62/262 from Union St) or a train, from Central Station to Dalmarnock, a five-minute walk away. Bridgeton station is also close, but should be avoided: the area is a Rangers stronghold and Celtic fans are not particuarly welcome. Trains from the other main station, Queen Street, run to Bellgrove and Carntyne, but both are still a 20-minute walk to the ground.

If you arrive early enough (at least an hour before kick-off), you will be able to park on any of the streets within a few miles of the stadium. Any number of entrepreneurial young locals will offer to “watch your motor” in exchange for a small sum of money, which is undoubtedly a good deal. It is also possible to park for free in the stadium’s own car park, but this is not advised: it is almost impossible to get out. Other unofficial car parks charging competitive rates are dotted around the area on match days.

Two airports serve Glasgow: Glasgow International, 15 minutes from the town centre, and Glasgow Preswick, about 50 minutes south-west of Glasgow.

World Cup 2010 – Cape Town Guide

Posted in  Football by Paul on the June 17th, 2010

Boasting a natural landscape that captivates all who visit, Cape Town is one of the world’s most iconic cities. There are few places in the world able to match its stunning setting that combines colossal mountains, lush green vegetation, golden sandy beaches and a vast ocean.

On street level, visitors are greeted by a cultural melting pot of Indonesian, Dutch, British, French and German influence – reflected in the city’s cuisine which is fusion at its finest. Temporarily added to the ethnic mix right now are the fanatical masses from around the globe for the World Cup.  Indeed, the world’s greatest sporting carnival taking place in such a vibrant country represents World Cup travel at its finest.

Travelling to Cape Town

International flights arrive daily from across Europe, Asia, North America and the rest of Africa, with many cities offering direct flights to Cape Town, including London, Frankfurt and Atlanta. Some airlines offer a connection through Johannesburg, which is two hours by air from Cape Town.

Visitors arriving at Cape Town Airport can make use of private charters, bus shuttle services and metered taxis to take you onto your final destination.

Weather in Cape Town

Whilst Cape Town enjoys a mild and temperate climate virtually all year round, the World Cup will take place in South Africa’s winter season, meaning the average daytime temperatures of 20C may be interspersed by chilly spells as well as rain. Visitors are advised to pack some warm clothing for your trip, and an umbrella.

Cape Town Fan Fest

During the tournament, there will be two fan zones set up across the city. One will be located in front of the City Hall, while the other can be found at the Bellville Velodrome, an indoor sports arena located in the northern suburbs, a 25-minute drive from Cape Town Stadium.

At both venues, visitors can watch matches on big screens, enjoy food and drink concessions, art and craft stalls, and other entertainment offerings.

World Cup 2010 – Travelling Safely In South Africa

Posted in  Football by Paul on the March 10th, 2010

2010 World Cup

South Africa’s undisputed beauty makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and the country is currently preparing for an influx of visitors from across the globe for this summer’s FIFA World Cup .

Unfortunately, however, South Africa has been hampered by a reputation for crime that instills fear amongst travellers that is both disproportionate and unnecessary. The reality is that whilst many of the country’s urban centres – notably Cape Town and Johannesburg – do have relatively high crime rates, there is no reason to be unduly concerned as long as you take the appropriate precautions.

Most of these are the same precautions you should take when visiting any unfamiliar territory. Namely, taking taxis rather than walking home late at night, avoiding ostentatious displays of material wealth, and trying to move around in groups rather than alone.

Another important tip for South Africa World Cup visitors is to always ensure your 2010 accommodation is sorted before you arrive in a city. Due to the vast numbers visiting the country for the tournament, hotels, hostels, B&Bs and camp sites will fill up quickly, and the last thing you want is to be left without a bed for the night and the prospect of sleeping on a park bench or in a shop doorway.

The safest way to travel across South Africa is by using one of the myriad of established and reputable tour operators who will provide you with a vehicle and a driver. However, if you are on a budget and intend to travel between cities by bus, be sure to place all valuables in your luggage, rather than anywhere that can be reached while you sleep.

Those planning to hire a car are likely to hear and read horror stories of car-jacking. This is actually a rare occurrence, and only really happens in busy cities like Johannesburg. However, vigilance is still required, and drivers are advised to always keep car doors locked. It is also recommended that – so long as it is safe to do so – you avoid stopping at traffic lights late at night. South African police will not treat this as a driving offence.

For visitors intending to spend their entire trip in one city, the standard advice applies. Avoid walking anywhere late at night, particularly if you’ve been drinking, and always plan your journey home before you head out for the evening. If possible, pre-book a registered taxi to take you back to your accommodation at the end of the night.

To reach the World Cup stadiums, visitors should make use of the shuttle buses that will be put on by tournament organisers and will operate from several points across each city. Alternatively, for those hiring a car, there will be park-and-ride schemes to help you on your way.

A safe spot to congregate before and after matches will be the official FIFA Fan Zones that will be set up in every host city across the country. These well-policed venues will allow fans to watch games live on big screens, and enjoy an array of entertainment options.

Above all else, enjoy yourself. This is a country with so much to offer, and you don’t want to spend your entire trip looking over your shoulder. Keep your wits about you, lap up the stunning scenery, and you’ll depart with nothing but incredible memories. Have a great World Cup!

Ireland Vs. South Africa, Croke Park, 28th November

Posted in  Rugby by Paul on the October 28th, 2009

rugby-croke-parkIreland and South Africa have a rugby rivalry dating back to 1906, and until recently South Africa has dominated the meetings with the Irish only winning three times in 100 years. Luckily for Ireland, they have won the two most recent matches and they were both at home. Hopes are high in Ireland that victory will be theirs again as they face-off with South Africa at Croke Park Stadium November 28, 2009.

Croke Park is the largest stadium in Ireland, holding 82,300 fans. It is located in the heart of Dublin, just a 15-minute walk from the main thoroughfare of O’Connell Street. Croker, as it’s called, is also the fourth largest Stadium in Europe making it a favorite stop for big touring rock bands like U2, Tina Turner, and Bon Jovi. In May 2008, an environmentally friendly program was launched that aimed at making the stadium carbon-neutral that focuses on electricity, waste and water management.

Where To Stay

There are several hotels within walking distance to meet all travel budgets. Located opposite the stadium is the four-star Jurys Corke Park Hotel, a contemporary 232-room hotel with complimentary parking. Rooms are air-conditioned with satellite TV and high-speed internet connections. Jurys Croke is also close to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Hugh Lane Gallery, and the airport. Less than a mile away is Ireland’s oldest hotel, the Gresham Hotel. Since 1817 visitors to Dublin have enjoyed the luxurious rooms, afternoon tea, and hearty meals. The Gresham offers old world charm with modern amenities like WiFi, interactive TV, and room service.

Half a mile from the stadium is Glen Guesthouse, a luxurious family-run hotel that is very affordable. Start your day in the sunny dining room with a complimentary Irish breakfast. The friendly staff at the Glen Guesthouse will be happy to tell you how to enjoy the sites by foot, car, or double-decker bus. The Lynams Hotel is another 3 star within walking distance of Croker. Located on O’Connell Street, this boutique hotel is housed in two Georgian Townhouses facing the Dublin Spire. It maintains its warm Georgian ambiance while offering travelers modern amenities, with breakfast served until noon.

How To Get There

Croker is located in central Dublin, in the middle of a residential area so parking is limited and priority given to residents. Fans are encouraged to use public transportation- bus, rail, DART, and LUAS all bring you less than a 15 minutes walk from the stadium. DART, LUAS, and buses provide service from around Dublin, LUAS runs additional services to facilitate Croke events. If you are driving to Dublin, it is best to park and take one of these public transportation options to get closer to the stadium. There is also rail service from all over Ireland to get to Dublin, with extra local service on game days.

Calling football fans: what makes a great stadium guide?

Posted in  Football by Paul on the October 16th, 2009

At MATCHhotels.com we are writing guides for travelling sports fans and want to know what kind of information would help you plan your trip.

Our guides will eventually cover all sports, but we are beginning with football. We currently have:

  • Stadium information
  • Directions to the ground
  • Hotel recommendations
  • Places of interest in the area.

Supporters’ clubs listings have also been discussed, and we’d like to know if you think they should be included in our guides.

So, what else would benefit you as a travelling football fan and ensure you get the most out of your trip?

We’d love to hear from you, the people we are ultimately writing for, to make sure we deliver the most useful advice possible. Please add a comment to this blog post, or talk to us on Twitter.

Thanks in advance!

Paul Joseph

MATCHhotels.com

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