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Sharing a large portion of the North Wessex Downs AONB in the west and famous for its historic towns, and a certain castle and college in the east, the Royal County of Berkshire in the Thames Valley has plenty on offer to see, explore, and enjoy. Home to its fair share of music, arts, sport, and of course, royalty, Berkshire provides a fantastic day out for everyone.

Days out in Berkshire

For days out in Berkshire, there’s a great choice of activities, attractions, and things to do. Though just one of 12 counties without an official city, the county town of Reading alongside other towns, including Newbury, Maidenhead, Bracknell, Slough, and Windsor, more than makeup for it. And with nowhere more than 9 miles away from the M4 that runs through it, Berkshire’s history, heritage, and excitement are all within easy reach.

Windsor is a great place to explore with plenty to do for all ages. With over 900 years of royal history, and home to the Queen, a visit to Windsor Castle is a must. Explore the staterooms and apartments and catch the daily Changing of the Guard. Plus you can enjoy a walk through the Windsor Great Park with the herds of red deer. And no family trip to Windsor would be complete without a visit to Legoland!

Flat and Jump race days in the historic towns of Ascot and Newbury are not to be missed for horse racing fans. If aviation history captivates you, the Museum of Berkshire Aviation, near Reading, is home to dozens of rebuilt aircraft, showcasing Berkshire’s aviation history. Let the kids go wild at Wellington Country Park, an open-air activity park with loads of attractions and things to do.

From treetop challenges and adventures at Go Ape! to a range of walking routes and bike trails, a trip to The Look Out Discovery Centre near Bracknell is essential. If music is your thing, the famed Reading Festival takes place every year, offering a whole weekend of live bands across two main stages. Or maybe just enjoying the landscape and views of Berkshire’s own corner of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will help recharge the batteries.

Topography, geology, and climate

A beautifully rural county, Berkshire features glorious, hilly countryside, open uplands, and plenty of Thames tributaries. With this diverse landscape, Berkshire features a range of land qualities and soil types of various fertilities.

Western Berkshire is largely made up of mildly acidic loam and clay soils, especially in the north and north-western areas, with inlets of lime-rich soils. This becomes more base-rich in the southern parts with pockets of sand and loam soils of much higher acidity.

The eastern half of the county features a much more mixed variety of soils. Naturally, wet loam features heavily around Reading, spreading eastwards before becoming predominantly wet, slightly acidic, base-rich loam and clay soils. Across the south and southeast, the soil is a mix of sand and loam with high acidity and low fertility.

Like neighbouring southern landlocked counties, Berkshire has a temperate climate throughout the year and rarely experiences any extreme weathers. Temperatures can reach an average high of around 21ºC (70ºF) during the Summer, and average lows of around 5ºC (41ºF) during the winter. Rainfall is relatively low, but annual averages for Berkshire are around 640mm (25”).

Berkshire’s parks and gardens

Fitting in nicely among the North Wessex Downs AONB and open countryside right across the county, Berkshire has a wonderful selection of parks, gardens, and grounds to enjoy. Including notable gardens for horticultural enthusiasts as well as parks and gardens for the whole family to enjoy, Berkshire features something for everyone.

West Berkshire

Highclere Castle, near Newbury, is the location for the TV drama, Downton Abbey. Set in 1,000-acres of stunning Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown designed parkland, the origins of Highclere’s decorative gardens date back to the 13th-century. Nowadays, you can enjoy the White Border Gardens with white roses, peonies, hydrangeas, and agapanthus, alongside the Secret Garden, Rose Arbour, and wonderful wild meadow.

For something different, a visit to The Living Rainforest, near Reading, ticks all the boxes for a great family day out. Among the birds, reptiles, amphibians, and other wildlife, they have some stunning exotic plant collections. Throughout the tropical glasshouses, you’ll discover over 150 species of beautiful orchid, together with rosy periwinkle, Giant Taro, Bromeliads, and the turquoise blooms of the Philippines jade vine.

Englefield House and Gardens, near Reading, is a 12-acre estate featuring over 1,000 different species of plant. These stunning formal gardens are a real hidden gem and a fine display of herbaceous borders provide colour across every season. There’s also the spring snowdrops, daffodils, and camelia, gorgeous rhododendrons, azaleas, and bluebells in the woodland garden, while mighty oaks and maple trees provide beautiful autumnal colour towards the end of the year.

Popular National Trust property, Basildon Park, near Pangbourne, is a beautiful Palladian mansion sitting in 400-acres of historic parkland. Beyond the beautiful beds and borders around the house, and its scented rose garden, the wooded parkland provides plenty of interest and colour all year round. together with spring bluebells, summer buttercups, and stunning autumn colours of the trees, there are views overlooking the surrounding countryside with walking trails and plenty of picnic spots.

East Berkshire

The Savill Gardens, near Windsor, are a collection of beautifully designed gardens created to be enjoyed by everyone to learn, relax, or be inspired. Covering 35-acres, splendid displays evolve and transform to provide stunning and remarkable colour across every season. Featuring rhododendrons, azaleas, and magnolias in the spring, delightful herbaceous borders and an exquisite rose garden in the summer, and hardy trees and plants on display through autumn and winter.

Also near Windsor, The Valley Gardens are a 250-acre wonderland for every visitor. Following a 20-minute path walk, you can explore some of the finest national collections of rhododendron species, azaleas, magnolias, and camellias set in beautiful woodland with many rare trees surrounding the Virginia Water Lake. A perfect place to visit in any season.

The best-kept secret in Berkshire, Waltham Place Gardens in Maidenhead, should be near the top of your list of places to visit. Featuring a working, organic farm and a collection of ornamental and kitchen gardens, and surrounded by woodland, fields, and lakes, this is a quintessentially British place to explore in any season. To get the most out of your visit, book a guided garden tour.

The Harris Gardens, near Reading, offers something a bit different, but just as interesting. Set in the campus grounds of Reading University, this beautiful botanical garden is 12-acres of meadow, surrounded by different formal and informal gardens and a fantastic collection of stunning borders, home to thousands of plants, shrubs, and wildlife.