If there's one occasion worth leaving London for this season, it's the polo. And there's one destination you shouldn't miss this season.
Coworth Park in Ascot was opened two summers ago and loved ever since. Under an hour from London, this princely country retreat from the Dorchester Collection is the UK's only hotel to provide its own polo fields and practice facilities.
Its affiliation with Guards Polo Club is all the credentials any chukka-wearing pony enthusiast needs to know that this is a serious polo destination. Guests of Coworth Park are given automatic entry to open events, and those wishing to gain a closer grasp of the game can train at the polo academy - catering to everyone from novices to seasoned equestrians - via tutorials spanning from one hour to three days.
Popular in Asia since the 5th century BC, polo spread from Persia to Byzantium, Egypt and the Levant, then on to China, Japan and India. It was there, in the 19th century, that the first polo club was formed by British tea planters at Silchar and the Calcutta Polo Club, the oldest existing polo club today, was founded. English officers began to partake in the sport, taking it back to Britain during the 1860s, where it was written about in The Field magazine and re-enacted among senior military figures at grounds around London. Not long after, emigrees introduced the sport to the Americas - Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and the USA.
While polo was originally brought to prominence by Middle Eastern monarchs (earning it the moniker 'Sport of Kings'), its popularity later spread among the royalty of Europe, India and the rest of the world. One of the most elegant sports known to man, it requires multiple talents, skills and resources. It returned as a competitive sport to the Summer Olympics of London 2012, following a 76-year hiatus. Most senior British royals play competitively today, with the Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry hosting and playing at their own charitable events this summer.
It isn't, of course, purely for the love of horses, pristine fields and competition that high society loves a polo match. Matches are played against elegant backdrops of lavish lunches, charity auctions, high-octane after parties and, of course, the chance to mix with the cream of international society, sponsored by the most dazzling luxury brands.
Bag a table at the Cartier International, Queen's Cup, Prince of Wales Trophy or Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup this summer and return having experienced one of the highlights of 'The Season'.
Coworth Park, Ascot: Coworth Park, Blacknest Rd., Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7SE, Tel. +44 1344 876 600