The Top Things to Do in Berkshire
Feel right at home at Windsor Castle and Eton College.
If it’s good enough for Her Majesty, then you can surely deign to pay a visit to the regal surroundings that make up the West London suburb and county of Berkshire. It’s here that you’ll find the mighty Reading, the football club, as well as the town famous (or accountable, depending on your views) for giving birth to British comedian Ricky Gervais. Anyway, away from Gervais and his humble beginnings, and on we go to the royal castle of Windsor, which makes for quite a sight, and will prepare you for the majesty and pomp of Eton College, a school at the pinnacle of old-English private boarding schools. Threaten to leave your kids there as a punishment (one that’ll burn a hole in the pockets of every pair of trousers you own or set eyes on for the rest of your life). But hey, you never know, this trip to Eton and Windsor may be just the thing your little ones need to prepare them for a life of aspiration and ceremony (or bitter disappointment).
Outside of all that grandiosity lies a bucolic countryside, the county's leafy parks straddling the banks of the River Thames, which makes for a far prettier waterway once no longer in central London. Ready to explore this perfect combination of cultural landmarks and gorgeous terrain? Here’s our Plum Guide pick of things to do in Berkshire.
Visit Windsor Castle
It might be known as one of the must-see royal sites in London, but Windsor Castle is technically in Berkshire. You’ll know when you’re there, because the immense turrets and towers of this historic landmark dating back to the 11th century will begin to dominate the approaching horizon. If your knees are up to it, amble along the slightly sloped paved path of the Long Walk, vast bushy trees flanking your sides. Note that the structure was founded by William the Conqueror, and has been renovated and updated multiple times of the centuries. Now, the State Apartments and Semi-State Rooms are stacked with majestic décor, their chandeliers hanging from golden ceilings worth more in monetary (and sentimental and historic) value than your life. Bring the kids to check out the Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and marvel at the intricate detail of these models.
Embark on the Precincts Tour for a lengthy historic overview from a docent, and view the traditional Changing of the Guard Ceremony, featuring big black hats and guns. Other highlights include the St. George’s Chapel and the various corridors showcasing works of art. Stop in for tea at the Undercroft Café and purchase souvenirs from the Royal Collection shop. One of the most popular things to do in Berkshire, you could spend a whole day exploring Windsor Castle.
Tour Eton College
If you've recently been on a trip to Oxford and dreamt of your kids graduating from its prestigious university, your dreams might just come true if you cough up the cash and send them to Eton first. Given the list of alumni reads like a Who’s Who of prime ministers and famous faces, perhaps a bit of the Eton College magic will rub off on you during the tour. Whether its princes Harry and William (who quite possibly would have ‘made it’ regardless of their schooling) or one of England’s greatest writers in the form of George Orwell, students here will have a lot to aspire to.
Stroll along the Eton High Street, stopping in at the exclusive shops and stopping to chat to the various students, wondering if you’re talking to the future leader of the country. At just a 15-minute walk from the Windsor Castle, it makes for an excellent foil, and organised tours even allow us normal people a glimpse of the school.
Watch the football
If things are all getting a little haughty, bring your family back down to earth with a bang, with a trip to watch Berkshire's biggest football team in action. Reading FC play their games at the Madejski Stadium, named for the team’s former chairman. Chat to the fans around you and learn about the history of the club in this 24,000-seater stadium, which was constructed atop a former household waste dump. Rival fans might claim not much has changed since.
That said, traditionally, Reading’s fiercest rivals have been the lowly clubs of Aldershot, Oxford United and Swindon Town, so you’re unlikely to stumble upon a big derby game. But you should still be able to catch a big match; who knows, maybe Man United or Tottenham will be in town for a cup game.
As you can imagine, given it’s the home of Windsor Castle and Eton College, Berkshire is lined with fine-dining gems. Go for dinner in the exclusive Henry & Joe’s or try Woodspeen or Dew Pond Restaurant.
Place your bets
Berkshire is also home to Ascot, known for the Royal Ascot horse-racing event. The Queen is often in attendance, so maybe you can get some tips from her, before betting your mortgage on a horse just because its name sounded funny to you.
Now you know the best things to do in Berkshire. When all's said and done, head back to one of our Plum Guide homes. All of our lodgings are vetted by our professional home critics, so whether you're after a modern apartment such as Pewter Town or a rustic farmhouse like Flint House, you know you're in for a great night's sleep in a Plum Guide home.