Historic Berkshire Guide
by Ben Johnson
Facts about Berkshire
Famous for: Lots of historical battles, Ascot Racecourse
Distance from London: 30 mins – 1 hour
Local delicacies: Eton Mess, Brown Windsor Soup
Airports: None (near to Heathrow)
County town: Reading
Nearby Counties: Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Greater London, Surrey, Wiltshire, Hampshire
Welcome to ‘Royal’ Berkshire, so called because Berkshire is home to Windsor Castle, the largest inhabited castle in the world. Built by William the Conqueror, Windsor Castle has been a royal home and fortress for over 900 years. The monarch stays here every June for Royal Ascot and also to attend the service of the Order of the Garter.
Situated to the west of London, this romantic county boasts some lovely countryside. The River Thames meanders through the north of the county; towns and villages such as Pangbourne and Cookham sit prettily on its banks. For walkers, the ancient Ridgeway passes through Berkshire, and the Berkshire Downs offer many opportunities to explore.
Historic attractions in Berkshire include Shaw House and grand Highclere Castle, TV's Downton Abbey. Newbury is at the heart of England's 'Silicon Valley' and is surrounded by pretty villages such as Sonning, which enjoys a beautiful situation on the River Thames. Sonning is described by the author Jerome K. Jerome in Three Men in a Boat as "the most fairy-like little nook on the whole river".
Legoland is a great attraction for children of all ages. Beale Park near Reading is also a great day out for the family, as is the Tropical Rainforest attraction near Newbury. And adults can enjoy a flutter on the horses all year round at Newbury Racecourse.
As for local food and drink, Brown Windsor Soup is a meaty soup which was popular in the Victoria era. It is also one of the starters on the menu at TV's Fawlty Towers!