The Royal County straddles the best of both worlds: proximity to the city and rural delights aplenty. These are the places to visit and things to see.

Ah, bucolic Berkshire. Locals will be quick to tell you that they have the best of both worlds. They can commute to London in less than an hour and relish in beautiful, fresh open-air countryside in evenings and at weekends. The restaurants are first class courtesy of Heston Blumenthal and the Bray crew. It’s got Ascot (and Newbury) Races and Downton Abbey (or rather Highclere Castle). Berkshire is even known as The Royal County because of Windsor Castle. Bucolic indeed. Here, we share some of the best things to do and places to go in Berkshire.

For Something Out Of The Ordinary



The Family Nudist Campsite




Heritage Family Naturist Club from Heri Heritage on Vimeo.


Who knew? Perhaps the county’s best kept secret is the family naturist club Heritage in Crowthorne where members are encouraged to wander around naked from start to finish of their holiday. The four-acre-plot, described as a ‘tranquil naturist haven’ has been around for over 80 years. Members play naked sport, naked sunbathing and naked swimming. Well, I never. Find out more here.


See The Changing Of The Guard At Windsor Castle



Less crowded than Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle is a super spot to catch the Changing of the Guard. Walk beyond the crowds at the Queen Victoria statue to get a better view of the pomp and ceremony. The guard changes at 11am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Find out more here.


Caversham Court Gardens Open Air Cinema



Set in the Thames-side gardens, the Open Air Cinema at Caversham Court must be the best in the county. This summer’s screenings include Mamma Mia, The Breakfast Club, a Grease sing-and-dance-along and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Find out more here.


Reading Festival





Attending is a rite of passage. Reading Festival is one of the largest music festivals in the world bringing the biggest names in rock music to the county. Hosted on the banks of the River Thames, the festival hosts up to 90,000 music fans every year over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Book tickets here.

For Kids



LEGOLAND Windsor



Brace yourself, your wallet, and your patience. While queues are long, LEGOLAND Windsor rightly belongs on your children’s to-do list. Set in 150 acres of parkland, this theme park aimed at under twelves, has over 55 interactive rides, live shows, building workshops and driving schools. Book tickets here.

Go Ape Bracknell



Want an adrenalin hit? Go Ape is beckoning in Swinley Forest. Not for the faint-hearted, Go Ape’s tree to tree challenges have wobbly bridges, intricate crossings and speedy zip lines. If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, explore the forest riding a Segway. Book tickets here.

Wellington Country Park



Perched on the Berkshire/ Hampshire border is Wellington Country Park, an open-air adventure park for under-tens. You could while away an entire day exploring the several playgrounds, a car track, bouncy pillow, train ride, picnic tables and a dinosaur trail. Book tickets here.


Silchester Roman City Walls And Amphitheatre



Bring history to life with a picnic and walk around the Roman walls and ruins at Silchester, an important town in ancient Britain. Children rate the excavated amphitheatre thinking up the hustle and bustle of life in days gone by. Visit Reading Museum to see artefacts that have been removed from the site over the years. Book tickets here.


The Living Rainforest



Hidden in a tiny, quiet Berkshire village is The Living Rainforest and its resident sloth. Three climate controlled steamy glasshouses replicate a lush tropical rainforest making it an ideal activity on a cold winter’s morning. Wander through spotting the lizards, butterflies, birds, monkeys, rare plants and even an armadillo. Book tickets here.


Coral Reef Waterworld



One of the largest interactive water worlds in England, Coral Reef has five water slides, rapids, an erupting volcano, a pirate ship, a toddler zone, sauna, spa and steam room. The timed sessions keep queues for the slide to a minimum. Book tickets here.


Food And Drink



The Hind’s Head, Bray



Berkshire’s epicentre for fine dining and pop-up restaurants is the pretty village of Bray nestled on the banks of the Thames. Take your pick from the many pop-up restaurants and established favourites. Perhaps the most popular is Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin Star gastropub The Hind’s Head, best known for its eccentric menu. Book it here.


The Woodspeen, Newbury



If you’re out to seriously impress, bag a table at The Woodspeen and ask to sit near the open kitchen so you can watch the masters at work. This Michelin star restaurant, housed in a restored 19th century farm building, boasts a state-of-the-art cookery school and kitchen garden. Book it here.

Crab & Boar, Chieveley



Unpretentious and comfortable, this award-winning country pub and boutique hotel has a reputation that precedes it. On the menu, you’ll find rich local game, fresh-off-the-boat crab, scotch eggs and other delicious titbits. Book it here.

The Pheasant Inn, Hungerford



A highlight of the North Wessex Downs is the Pheasant Inn, especially on race days and bank holiday weekends when the live music draws a crowd. Request a booth if you want an intimate gathering. Book it here.

Hotels/ Places To Stay



Cliveden House Hotel



Notorious for decadence, scandal and drama, this terribly grand National Trust property won’t disappoint. If it was good enough for Megan Markle the night before her wedding, it’s probably up to scratch. Set in 376 acres, this country house hotel dates to the late 17th-century, has 46 bedrooms and a spa beyond your wildest dreams. Book it here.

Gilbey’s Eton



This luxurious self-contained apartment, a stone’s throw from Eton College and Windsor Castle, is repeatedly described as ‘a home away from home’ in its visitor book. It’s full of antique furniture, Oriental vases and wood carvings. ‘If you’re searching for Eton’s most exclusive pied-a-terre, book Gilbey’s Studio Suite on the top floor,’ wrote Lux Magazine. Book it here.

The Swan at Streatley




The stunning Thames-side location cannot really be rivalled. This dog-friendly hotel recently underwent an epic six-year renovation resulting in a well thought out clean, countryside chic. This hotel has a small spa and yoga studio. Book it here.

Shopping



Mojo & McCoy, Hungerford




Thank goodness for designer boutique Mojo & McCoy, which brings bucket loads of London glamour to Berkshire. This beautiful tiny Hungerford shop sells unique labels including Saloni, Pink City Prints and Temperley. Get on their mailing list. Explore more here.

Cobbs Farm Shop




Forget Jeremy Clarkson’s farm shop, Hungerford’s offering is far superior. Country folk drive for miles to shop at Cobb’s Farm for the best cheeses, eggs and fresh vegetables. There is a pop-up fishmonger, butchery, florist, delicatessen and an indoor kids play barn. Explore more here.


The Corner Shop, Woolhampton



Loyal locals rave about this treasure trove of unusual and beautiful gifts for friends, family, children and the home. You must see it to believe it as there is yet to be an online ordering service. Worthy of a trek; we want it all. Explore more here.

Fifi & Moose



Hunting for an outfit for somewhere special? Tucked down a hidden alley, next to our favourite pizza restaurant Lusso, is a small but mighty fashion boutique. Fifi & Moose sells independent brands including Luella, Nooki and Maruti. Explore more here.


For hikers



Cliveden National Trust



Stretch your legs beyond the immaculately manicured formal gardens and explore the 376 acres which has a river walk. It spans to woodland and beyond. Book in advance here.

Combe Gibbet, Inkpen



You can see for miles from the top of Combe Gibbet, just south of Hungerford. Start your walk at the Inkpen Beacon car park and climb to the gibbet along the Test Way long distance path. The views across the Berkshire countryside are breathtaking. Explore more here.

Beacon Hill, Highclere



This is a short, very steep, rewarding climb. Hike up Beacon Hill for views of Highclere Castle and surrounding countryside. The ancient iron age hill fort, which encloses the grave of the fifth Lord Carnarvon, is one of the highest points (261m) in the North Wessex Downs. Warning, it can be very muddy! Explore more here.


Gardens To Visit



Basildon Park, Lower Basildon



You may recognise Basildon Park from its appearances in the TV shows Pride & Prejudice, Downton Abbey and Marie Antoinette. Explore the rose garden and wander around the lovingly restored 18th century house. Find more details here.

Alexandra Gardens, Windsor



Escape the crowds of Windsor and discover Alexandra Gardens. Stroll by the Thames, nab an ice cream, soak up views of Windsor castle and enjoy the ornate Jubilee fountain. Find more details here.

By Annabel Jack
February 2022

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Annabel Jack

Contributing Editor

Annabel is a regular contributor to The GWG, with a taste for finest in food, fashion and interiors.

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