One of the Home Counties, Berkshire’s bucolic rural scenery coupled with being close to London makes it a place where most people will pay handsomely for property.
The county can be extremely fancy, and has been home to royalty since the early 1100s when Windsor Castle was built.
The presence of royalty can be felt in many places, including the distinguished racecourse at Ascot.
And as we work our way through Berkshire you’ll see how much the county’s waterways contribute to its charm.
The Thames meanders west to east, broadening as it goes and nourishing verdant water meadows beside the towns and villages.
The Kennet and Avon Canal was also an important shipping route from the West Country to London, and is now navigated by holidaymakers on barges.
Lets explore the best places to visit in Berkshire:
Two of the most visited attractions in the country are in this regal town on the Thames.
Windsor Castle hardly needs introduction: Since the reign of Henry I in the early 12th century this has been residence for the royal family, which makes it the oldest occupied royal palace in Europe.
You could easily get lost in the 5,000-hectare Great Park, while you can spend a few hours idling around the town, seeing sights like Christopher Wren’s 17th-century Guildhall.
And then for little guys there’s LEGOLAND Windsor, which in 2016 became the UK’s favourite theme park and promises a day of LEGO-themed amusements and rides for kids up to 12.
A well-preserved historic town, the centre of Newbury makes for an agreeable walk, and the grassy tow paths on the Kennet and Avon Canal are wonderfully serene . Newbury Racecourse hosts the Lockinge Stakes in May, one of the most valuable races on the calendar.
The stately home, Highclere Castle is majestic, and is in a sweeping 2,000-hectare estate.
It needs to be part of your plans if you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, as one glance will tell you that this was where the TV show was filmed.
The house is newer than it looks, from the 1800s, and has a “Jacobethan” design inspired by the 16th and 17th-century palaces.
Ramble on the downs in the surrounding country parks, and get to Donnington Castle, where an 18-month siege took place in the English Civil War.
Without knowing about its culinary pedigree, Bray would seem like any other well-to-do and charming village in the South of England.
There are almshouses from the early 1600s and the handsome Church of St Michael, which was constructed in the 1290s and has a lot of riveting medieval artefacts within, including a monumental brass on the tomb of Sir John Foxley.
But Bray’s modern reputation comes from its restaurants, as two of the four three Michelin-starred establishments are in the this village.
The older of the two is the Waterside Inn, founded by the Roux brothers in 1972, while Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck has won acclaim for its molecular gastronomy since opening in 1995.
Although it doesn’t get a lot of credit for its looks, Reading is a large and thriving urban centre with a high-ranking university and all the shopping you can handle.
Being close to London it became a manufacturing town in the 1800s and was endowed with perfect transport links, where the Kennet and Avon Canal joins the Thames.
You’re also just a couple of miles east of the North Wessex Downs, with their lush green hills and crystal-clear chalk streams should you crave the countryside.
In the town, poke around the ruins of Reading Abbey and drop by at attractions like the Museum of Zoology, Museum of Berkshire Aviation and the Museum of English Rural Life.
In Tudor times Wokingham was a centre for silk spinning, and small hints of this industry remain.
Have a stroll along Rose Street, where the half-timbered houses with taller bottom floors would have contained looms.
The Victorian Gothic revival town hall in the middle of Market Place is still at the heart of the community, with a stylish cafe in its courtyard, and the historic buildings around it house a mix of locally-owned shops and high street brands.
There are a few walks you can begin right in the town, like the path up to Fichampstead Ridges, clad with woodland and heather.
Close to Wiltshire in the North Wessex Downs, Hungerford is a little way from Walbury Hill, which at almost 300 metres is the highest point in the Southeast.
The Kennet and Avon Canal curves past the northern side of the town and in the 19th century transported coal and stone quarried from Somerset up towards Reading on the Thames.
Hungerford Wharf is achingly pretty and a wonderful place to see the narrowboats gliding up and down the canal on a sunny day.
Cross the bridge in the town for a taste of southern rural England on the high street, with lots of 17th and 18th century properties, including the Hungerford Arcade, an antiques centre with more than 100 dealers under one roof.
Opposite Windsor on the north bank of the Thames is the town of Eton, synonymous with Eton College.
This is the most famous and prestigious of all of England’s Public Schools, founded by Henry VI and with 19 former British Prime Ministers among its alumni.
If you’re in any doubt about how posh this place is the school has its own Natural History Museum, open on Sundays, but you can arrange a visit at other times.
Eton’s high street has rows of historic brick and half-timbered buildings housing upmarket shops like a delicatessen and antique bookshops, and to stretch your legs there’s lovely green space at the Brocas and South Meadow next to the Thames.
Anybody who recalls the children’s book the “Wind in the Willows” will be interested to learn that its author Kenneth Grahame retired in Pangbourne in the 1920s.
The village is full of handsome old houses with one-off shops, and made all the more picturesque by the Thames.
On the banks are large green water meadows owned by Pangbourne and where the village fete takes place every June.
For the rest of the summer they’re a dreamy spot for a picnic in the shade of the willow trees.
If you’re travelling with little ones they’ll have a fun time at Beale Park, a gentle attraction with farm animals and more exotic species like meerkats, lemurs and mongooses.
The three villages that make up the town of Ascot are very well-heeled and are mostly geared towards Ascot Racecourse, which is surely the most prestigious in the country.
So for visitors who show up for the 26 days of racing each year in need of accommodation there are plenty of hotels and restaurants.
The course has close links to the royal family, having been established by Queen Anne in 1711 and is situated just a few miles from Windsor.
Royal Ascot Week in June remains wildly popular, packing in 300,000 spectators and attended without fail by Queen Elizabeth.
Since the 18th century this event has been a mainstay of the “London Season” for the country’s social elite.
At an ancient crossing on the Thames, Streatley is a stunning village right next to the larger town of Goring, across the county line in South Oxfordshire.
The landscape is one of steep wooded hills that are outcrops of the Chiltern Range on the eastern cusp of the North Wessex downs.
A lot of the surrounding countryside is owned by the National Trust so you’re free to walk up and admire of the views of the river and village, while Ridgeway National Trail crosses the Thames at Goring and Streatley on its way east.
In this very upmarket spot you have a fine selection of pubs and restaurants, and there’s also a golf club open to visitors and running since 1895.
The large town of Maidenhead is just across the river from Buckinghamshire, and links to the neighbouring village of Taplow via the Maidenhead Bridge.
This structure gives us one of the loveliest sights in the town, and was built in the 1770s with seven arches and wrought iron lanterns.
You could walk a small stretch of the Thames Path up to Boulter’s Lock, which is also from the 1700s and is a wonderful spot to sit and ponder the river and its weir, or watch the barges go by.
And between Boulter’s Lock and Bray Lock is the Maidenhead Railway Bridge, designed by the revered Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1839. The Maidenhead Heritage Centre can clue you in on the town’s connection to the Air Transport Auxiliary, which was based near the town in the Second World War and helped move vital RAF machinery around the country.
One of Britain’s most acclaimed 20th-century painters, Stanley Spencer was born in this Thameside village where he also spent a great deal of his life.
Now in the Wesleyan Chapel that he attended when he was growing up there’s a museum with more than 100 of Spencer’s paintings and drawings.
Give yourself time to see a bit more of the village and its common, where there a blend of timber-framed houses and adorable cottages with flint walls.
You’ll be looking at some of the most expensive property per square-metre in England, in what is often described as the richest village in the country.
In the green rolling hills of the North Wessex Downs, the small waterside village of Kintbury polls among the best villages in the country.
You won’t be blown away by any amazing sights, but can see rural England at its primmest in one of the most coveted addresses around.
On the high street the older part of the village looks much as it did a century ago, with delightful brick cottages and a rustic medieval church.
Stop at the 18th-century Dundas Arms next to the Kennet and Avon Canal for a pub lunch with a gentrified twist.
Another understated pick for an excursion, Sulhamstead does have one high-profile visitor attraction in the Thames Valley Police Museum.
You can just show up on a Wednesday, and on other days of the week you’ll need to phone ahead.
But if you’re fascinated by one of 20th century Britain’s most notorious heist’s, this museum in a beautiful neoclassical mansion has artefacts relating to the Great Train Robbery in 1963. On the Kennet and Avon Canal is the endearing Tyle Mill, which was originally for flour and later became a sawmill, loading and shipping timber with the help of the wharf.
Just up from Eton and Windsor, this workmanlike town doesn’t have the same reputation for history and architecture; rather it’s a place of business and industry that complements the more genteel places nearby.
The bricks for Eton College were baked in Slough, and the Industrial Estate remains a hive of activity and a base for international companies like LEGO and McAfee.
People head to the centre for the Observatory Shopping Mall, which has 120 stores, and Slough is right by the Colne Valley Regional Park, a large, mostly undeveloped space that acts as a green buffer around the M25.