Windsor Castle

The Best Things to Do in Berkshire

Whether it’s a group getaway, a family cottage holiday or a romantic break for two, there is a lot to see and do in Berkshire. And with many dog-friendly activities, we’ve got properties to accommodate them too.

Naturally, Windsor should be high up on the to-do list. Among its highlights are Windsor Castle, the world’s oldest and largest occupied castle, the prestigious Eton college, and the Royal Windsor and Ascot racecourses. While the main racing meets take place over the summer, there are events throughout the year.

From Bridgerton at Basildon Park to Harry Potter in Bracknell, various locations in Berkshire have attracted the film crews over the years. Hop in the car and stand at the Dursley doorstep, the real life Downton Abbey, or at the scene of one of Lady Featherington’s parties.

There’s also an abundance of scenic strolls in the Berkshire Downs, Reading with its museums, cathedral ruins and shopping centres, and the chance to explore the region by boat on the Thames.

Ascot Races

A day at the races

What better event to plan your cottage holiday around than Royal Ascot? Whether it’s an all girls escape for Ladies Day or a romantic break for two, put on your gladrags and soak up the atmosphere as you enjoy a flutter. This quintessentially English tradition began at Ascot with Queen Anne in 1711 and it’s one of three racecourses in the county, the others being Royal Windsor Racecourse and Newbury Racecourse. On non-race days at Ascot, The Heath, a circular walk around the vicinity of the racecourse, is open to the public. There are also various events taking place at the race grounds throughout the year. Later, let the good times continue as you raise a glass of bubbly inside one of our equally stylish cottages.

The Berkshire Downs

Country walks

From leisurely strolls along the Thames to more energetic clambers up the chalk hills, with the Berkshire Downs and Chilterns on your doorstep, you won’t be short of scenic walks to suit every ability. In Goring and Streatley-onThames, three popular walking trails intersect: the Ridgeway, Thames Path and Icknield Way. And from Compton, there’s a six-mile circular walk which stops at Lowberry Hill, the highest point in the Berkshire Downs. At the summit sits the remnants of a Roman temple and a barrow from the Anglo-Saxon period.

Windsor Castle

Step into history

As one of the oldest counties in England, Berkshire has plenty for history buffs to sink their teeth into. Whether it’s the aesthetic beauty of old buildings or the stories behind them that captivate you, find Victorian manors, Medievel castles and buildings recorded in the Domesday book. Many belong to the National Trust or English Heritage and are open to the public. In Reading, feast your eyes on a rare Victorian copy of the Bayeux Tapestry inside Reading Museum or discover rural England through the ages inside the Museum of English Rural Life. A hop, skip and a jump from there are the Reading Abbey ruins, an important site for pilgrims taking the Camino de Santiago to Spain since the Middle Ages. And Windsor Castle, an official royal residence since the 11th century, is steeped in history.

Legoland Windsor

Visit a theme park

A cottage holiday in Berkshire provides plenty of opportunities to wear the children out. Big and little kids alike can feel the rush on a ‘coaster at Windsor’s Legoland, zip through the trees at GoApe in Bracknell Forest, or learn to wakeboard at Liquid Leisure Water Park near Windsor. At the end of a fun filled day, retreat to your cottage cocoon and light up the barbecue for an al fresco dinner or cosy up by the fire for a game of cards. Either way, a plush bed awaits you when you’re ready to collapse from all of the excitement.

Pedal to the medal

A bike ride is the perfect way to cover more ground than walking without getting in the car. Pack a picnic and venture out on one of the county’s numerous trails through unspoiled English countryside and quaint villages. Swinley Forest in Bracknell has 24km of waymarked bike trails at various lengths and activity levels, ideal for families. Those looking for a challenge could embark on the 38-mile Ludgershall Loop from Hungerford or the 36-mile North Wessex Downs AONB loop from Newbury. Both take around four hours to complete non-stop, but you could easily make a day of it by stopping to refuel at a country pub or viewpoints along the way.

Go for a picnic

Nothing beats an al fresco lunch surrounded by English countryside on a summer’s day. With so much natural beauty in Berkshire, you’ll be spoiled for choice for picnic spots. Set down among the buttercups on Basildon Park’s 400-acre estate and gaze out at the 18th century Bath-stone manor glowing in its amber glory as you bite into your sandwiches. Or perhaps a spot of live music on the lawn? In Windsor, the Live at the Bandstand programme brings musicians to the Alexandra Gardens each weekend. Feel free to take your picnic and soak up the atmosphere.

Cruise the Thames

Whether you set sail on a barge or kayak, the network of waterways in Berkshire offer an alternative way to see this beautiful county. Head to Reading, Streatley-on-Thames and Goring or Windsor and Maidenhead where there are various guided tours and self-sail options. Many boats and barges will allow dogs, so it’s a great activity to do with furry friends. If self-guiding, you can enjoy the freedom to stop off and explore as you choose.

Highclere Castle

Visit film locations

With so many beautiful heritage properties and dramatic landscapes, it’s no surprise that Berkshire has several film credits. Bridgerton fans will want to visit Basildon Park and wander around the Garden Room where a party at the Featherington’s was filmed for season three. In Newbury, period drama fans can step inside Highclere Castle, better known as Downton Abbey from the hit ITV series of the same name. In Bracknell, Harry Potter fans can visit the Dursley residence on the real life Privet Drive and find some of the backdrops for the hair raising scenes with ‘he who must not be named’ in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in Bracknell Forest. And in Maidstone, Streatley-on-Thames and Goring, Midsummer Murders viewers may recognise some of the streets from the show.

Windsor Royal Shopping Centre

Take some retail therapy

From independent shops to popular high street names, there are plenty of opportunities to shop until you drop in Berkshire. The Oracle in Reading is a modern shopping mall with a vast array of fashion, tech, beauty and home stores as well as a cinema and several restaurants and bars. In Windsor, a mixture of high street chains and independent retailers are housed inside a Grade II listed Victorian train station, now the Royal Windsor Shopping Centre. And in Bracknell town centre, The Lexicon offers shopping and dining in a contemporary semi-closed complex.

Channel Billed Toucan

Get closer to wildlife

Berkshire’s downs and forests are teeming with wildlife. Head to the Thames Basin Heaths to spot the Dartford Warbler, Hobby, Woodlark and Nightjars, among other species. In Blacknell Forest, families can get involved with a whole host of science activities at The Lookout Discovery Centre or make some discoveries of their own on a walk through its nature-rich woods, home to several Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). There’s also a falconry to visit, and for the chance to see non-native species up-close, visit The Living Rainforest in Thatcham, a rainforest in a huge glass dome providing the perfect habitat for its resident monkeys,tropical birds and insects from hotter climes.

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