Berkshire, a county located in southern England, is full of surprises. With Reading (pronounced Redding) as its capital, it offers a host of attractions, from picturesque countryside to vibrant cities. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or a fan of cultural events, a visit to Berkshire will undoubtedly leave you pleasantly surprised – and ready to return.
Within easy reach of London, you can soon be out in the countryside, whether you take a self-drive holiday or a day out by train. It’s the perfect destination for beautiful countryside, historic towns, and cultural attractions. It is home to Windsor Castle, the charming town of Henley-on-Thames, famous for its regatta, Ascot Racecourse, and more. Here are just a few things to do in Berkshire:
Just an hour from London is the busy city of Reading. Be sure to visit the fabulous Museum of English Rural Life (aka MERL). Bursting with beautifully displayed artefacts and regional handicrafts, you’ll learn all about an important part of England’s rural development (and it has a great gift shop, tea room, and peaceful garden too). The town itself offers a remarkable blend of modernity and history, with a rich architectural heritage, Victorian pubs, ancient ruins, and even a link to Oscar Wilde. Reading Museum is a Must Visit for any history buff; those who appreciate craftsmanship will marvel at the incredible hand-crafter replica of the Bayeux Tapestry, which fills an entire room of this museum.
Why not take a break for a lavish tea at the beautiful Roseate Hotel, and enjoy a stroll through Forbury Park (don’t forget to snap a pic of the Maiwand Lion) over to the Abbey Quarter, where you can view the recently restored ruins of Reading Abbey and imposing Victorian walls of the former jail, where Oscar Wilde wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Eagle-eyed visitors can also spot an original Banksy artwork!
And, of course, because Reading is on the banks of the Thames, a relaxing cruise with Thames Rivercruise during the summer months is highly recommended.
Fans of horse racing will enjoy a visit to Ascot racecourse, famous for the annual Royal Ascot event as well as its regular races at its magnificent race track. Attracting horse racing enthusiasts from around the globe, it offers an unforgettable experience for both racing enthusiasts and casual spectators alike. And it’s within easy walking distance of the station.
For animal lovers
Because of its open countryside, there are plenty of places in Berkshire for animal lovers to enjoy. Just outside Reading is Bozedown Alpaca Farm, where you can enjoy a stroll in the fresh air in the company of one of these adorable animals. Kids will love the Bucklebury Farm Park and its friendly farm animals, while Beale Wildlife Park provides a great visit for the whole family.
Nearby Reading, the historic market town of Newbury has a rich history dating back to Roman times and today it boasts a bustling town centre and excellent local museum – the West Berkshire Museum, which is located in two of the town’s historic buildings, the 17th century Cloth Hall and the old Granary/Corn Stores. Nearby, the crumbling ruins of 14th Century Donnington Castle, overlook lush parkland and provide a glimpse into its past grandeur, with sections of the outer walls, gatehouse, and tower still standing tall.
Did you know that Bombay Sapphire – the delicious gin famous for its iconic bright-blue bottle – has a gorgeous distillery in Berkshire? Set in a historic paper mill in Laverstoke in converted into a state-of-the-art gin production facility, the distillery offers fascinating immersive guided tours to learn about the gin-making process. Visit the unusual greenhouses which house the botanicals responsible for the distinctive Bombay Sapphire flavour. The highlight is the tasting session, where one can sample a delicious gin cocktails.
Berkshire plays host to various events and festivals throughout the year, attracting both locals and tourists. For equine enthusiasts, there’s the annual Royal Windsor Horse Show, taking place in the grounds of Windsor Castle, and Royal Ascot. Reading Festival, one of the UK’s most renowned music festivals, attracts thousands of music lovers from around the world. The Henley Royal Regatta, held on the River Thames in Henley-on-Thames, is known for its competitive races and social scene. Newbury plays host to two festivals – the Newbury Spring Festival for classical music and the Royal County of Berkshire Show for agriculture.
These are just a few examples of the events that take place in Berkshire throughout the year. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and hop on the train or into your car for a visit to the county of Berkshire!