- Neoclassical pile-with-a-past
- Bucolic Berkshire riverbank
- Grand, glamorous country seat
- Pukka polo parkland
- Decorative opulence
- Grand civic redbrick
- Inn-keeping with tradition
- Thames riverside village
- His ’n’ hers luxury leisure
- Top-hole Bucks golf course
- Rolling hills and canalside strolls
- Country life
- Pageantry and perfect pubs
For fine eateries, picturesque countryside and fascinating heritage, the Royal County of Berkshire is hard to beat.
Bordering the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Wiltshire and Hampshire, it’s both a convenient base to see much of southern England and a splendid county in its own right. From the quiet beauty of Windsor Great Park to the stylish bars and shopping possibilities of Reading, it’s an area with much to offer the weekend visitor. Threading its way through the whole region, the Thames unites the soft landscape of gentle hills and warm valleys like a slow-flow highway to the heart of England.
With the Thames dominating the landscape, this is the perfect place for messing about on the river. It’s possible to hire boats by the day at Caversham Boat Services in Reading (www.cavershamboatservices.co.uk).
- Some of the smaller towns have limited taxi services. Your best bet is to get your hotel to sort out there-and-back drop-offs and pick-ups.
- Tipping culture
- A service charge is normally added to restaurant bills; if not, then ten to fifteen per cent is appreciated.
- Packing tips
- Maps, for exploring on foot and in the car. Although stout boots and waterproofs are useful if you fancy a hike along the local nature trails, it’s also worth ensuring that you’re suitably smartly togged if you plan to dine fine in one of the larger towns' surprisingly swish bars and restaurants.
- Recommended reads
- Although he hardly enjoyed his experience of Berkshire, Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol is an ironic, and yet captivating, choice. In Jerome K Jerome’s entertaining Three Men in a Boat, the titular trio travel the Thames; Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows encapsulates the English dream of riverside life.
- From fine dining in fashionable surroundings to trencherman lunches in oak-beamed pubs, this part of the world is a hive of culinary activity. The village of Bray in particular has amassed more than its fair share of Michelin accolades, with a brace of three-star eateries. Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant, the Fat Duck (01628 580333), is on the High Street – or try his Tudor gastropub, the Hinds Head (+44 (0)1628 626151), across the road. Beside the river on Bray’s Ferry Street, Alain Roux heads up the Waterside Inn (+44 (0)1628 620691), which also enjoys treble-star status. However, this is a part of the world where traditional Sunday lunches of roast beef still hold sway; venture into a cosy pub to sample the best.
- Regional specialities
- Eton Mess, a haphazard but tasty mash-up of strawberries, cream and meringue, is the Berkshire school’s most famous export after Conservative party leader David Cameron, and dour-sounding yet delicious Brown Windsor soup is a steak-and-stock Victorian favourite.
- Pound sterling.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for the UK: 44.
- Do go/don't go
- June, July and August are the best months for British weather but, frankly, we’ve often found that a fresh spring morning or a crisp, cold autumn or winter’s day is the best way to enjoy southern England’s countryside delights.
Don't go home without...
A flutter on the thoroughbreds at Ascot (www.ascot.co.uk).