20 Muddy approved attractions in Berks
From the big-beast tourist destinations to our cool insider alternatives, read on for our pick of 20 unmissable attractions in Berkshire
Whether you live in the county, day tripping or staycaying in the ‘hood, there’s plenty to see and do plus oodles of in-the-know Muddy intelligence to steer you away from the tourist crowds and help you live it up like a local.
Headliner: Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the UK, so it goes without saying, it takes the sightseeing top spot. It’s the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, has been home to 39 monarchs, the Queen spends most weekends here and it’s hosted three royal weddings. Bend into that curtsey, book up and don’t skip St George’s Chapel or the East Terrace Garden which hasn’t been seen by the public for 40 years.
In-the-know intel: Frogmore House
Frogmore House is better known as a party palace for Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding reception º eyes peeled for empty bottles of Bolly in the rose bushes – but it’s also oozing with royal history. Built in 1680, it became a royal residence in 1792 when Queen Charlotte moved in. The interiors are a homage to her passion for botany and the 18th-century flower artist Mary Moser was commissioned to paint murals in the house. The gardens were also extensively landscaped to feature winding lakes, wooded mounds, glades, walks and bridges. It takes a bit of planning to visit though. Three charity days open it up to individuals and pre-booked groups of 15 can visit throughout August.
Headliner: Legoland Windsor
OMG. Protect your credit card, it’s gonna get a hammering. Legoland Windsor is a celebration of the brick on steroids. 2020 saw the opening of Duplo Valley and the world’s first Duplo coaster, joining Lego Ninjago Ride, Haunted House Monster Party, the Jolly Rocker, Viking River Splash, Miniland and more. Basically, it’s a one stop adrenaline rush. Watch out for the gift shop at the end – it’s a killer
In-the-know intel: Liquid Leisure Windsor
Look, I’ll level with you there are no other rollercoasters in Berkshire, but adrenaline (minus the fear of treading on a Lego brick) – that we can do. Liquid Leisure is home to Europe’s largest inflatable obstacle course and is about as much as you can have in the water. Brilliant for all ages there’s a mini course for littlies, the main course is suitable for ages 6+, there’s the Ninja Warrior course for the competitive and the seriously hardcore Aqua Jungle for show offs. Plus banana boat rides, wake boarding and open swimming. It’s a brilliant day out and definitely a place we never tire of as a family.
Headliner: River cruise
What Berkshire lacks in beaches, it makes up for in rivers and we have one of the prettiest stretches. Don’t take my word for it, author Kenneth Grahame loved this neck of the woods (and river) so much so, he wrote a book about it – The Wind In The Willows. You may have heard of it (*wink wink). Thames Rivercruise in Caversham or French Brothers in Windsor offer 45-90 minute meanders for you to mindfully check out and take in the views. Choose wisely and you can add sundowners and cream teas to your cruise. Now you’re talking.
In-the-know intel: Cliveden Flotilla, Taplow
Ditch the other cruisers and feel like you’ve stepped into Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisted. Head to the super-luxe Cliveden House Hotel – a stonking Italianate mansion set in 376 acres of gardens and woodland – and take a special boat trip. There are two beautiful vintage boats – one for 10 guests, the other for four – and you can add a posh picnic lunch, afternoon tea or Champagne to scoff or quaff as you a potter down to Henley. It doesn’t get better than this… unless you can snaffle an overnight stay and keep the boat.
Headliner: The Fat Duck, Bray
After the Queen, the other hot name in the Berkshire ‘hood is Heston Blumenthal. The culinary mad scientist gave the world The Fat Duck – a three Michelin star thriller, found in the quaint village of Bray (and currently celebrating its 25th birthday). From snail porridge to bacon ice cream nothing is ever what it seems when you step into this Willy Wonka gastro world. Trouble is, tables are hard to come by. Book up as far in advance as you can and adopt the brace position when the bill comes.
In-the-know intel: A constellation of Michelin stars
Twelve Michelin stars don’t lie and it makes the royal county one the hottest places in the UK for damn fine food. So where do we start? Still in Bray, don’t miss Alain Roux’s three star Waterside Inn, Heston’s one star gastropub The Hind’s Head is within staggering distance of The Fat Duck, a few miles down the road is The Crown Burchetts Green, Restaurant Coworth Park and L’Ortolan in Reading. Then make a sash to West Berkshire to eat at The Woodspeen and The Blackbird, both near Newbury. All very different, all worth visit. Roomy pants on, get scoffing.
Headliner: Cliveden Spa, Taplow
Strip like a Sixties showgirl and slip into the UK’s only Grade II listed outdoor pool. OK, so you need to book a spa day, but it’ll be worth it. Cliveden’s greatest claim to fame is the part it played in the Profumo Affair. Christine Keeler and Minster for War John Profumo started their liaison right here, following a serious amount of heavy petting in Lord Astor’s outdoor pool. Throw a Russian spy into the mix and you’ve got a political scandal with bells on. Immerse yourself in Cliveden scandal and then sip Champagne on the terrace. It would be rude not to.
In-the-know intel: Thames Lido, Reading
Muddy award-winning spa, Thames Lido, is as quirky as it is unique. Sandwiched between Reading train station and the River Thames, it’s an oasis of escapism and in a town centre location. Built in Edwardian times as a women’s-only swimming bath, the pool was fed by water from the river (er, gross). After decades of neglect it was brought back to life and the results are magnifique. The outdoor infinity pool, steam rooms, restaurant, bar and treatment rooms are the perfect marriage of old meets new with a dollop of Scandinavian simplicity.
TV SERIES SPOTTERS
Headliner: Highclere Castle, Newbury
The biggest star of Downton Abbey? No, Carson it’s not you or the Earl of Grantham’s labradors (they come a close second though) – Highclere Castle takes the crown. It was pretty famous before its TV and film debut, as the ancestral home of Howard Carter (5th Earl of Carnarvon) who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. Now the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon open their home to coach loads of tourists who come to experience a bit of real life of Downton magic. Some may even nod enthusiastically at the “Capability” Brown gardens.
In-the-know intel: Basildon Park, Lower Basildon
Lovingly restored by Lord and Lady Iliffe, Basildon Park is an architectural TV and film star (spot its appearances in Pride & Prejudice, Downton Abbey, Dorian Gray and Marie Antoinette) where kids can safely run free range in its 400 acres. The walks (short and long) showcase the estate’s beautiful location and breathtaking views. The Illuminated Winter Walks are particularly special.
Headliner: Wellington Country Park, Riseley
Sack the digital nanny and head outdoors to the biggest outdoor play in Berkshire. Wellington Country Park opened in 1974 by the eighth Duke and Duchess of Wellington to give families 350 glorious acres of fresh air and freedom, plus it’s a Muddy Award-winning family attraction to boot. There’s a swashbuckling pirates ship, the HMS Duke of Wellington, one of the best adventure play areas round these parts, fun splash zone, a miniature railway, animal farm, mini golf and dinosaurs roaming (ok not roaming) the grounds. If that doesn’t tire them out, reading the list of activities should do it.
In-the-know intel: Bucklebury Farm Park, Bucklebury
Release the children. Bucklebury Farm Park boasts 77 stunning acres in the pretty village of Bucklebury, West Berkshire – Wave to Ma and Pa Middleton, they live opposite. What can you expect? Well, clue’s in the name – animals. And there are plenty to feed, pet and gawp – donkeys, goats, ponies, cows, pigs, rabbits and alpacas, to name a few. The tractor deer safari is always a highlight and then there’s the indoor whizzy slides, bouncy pillow, go karts, zip wire, den building, woodland assault course and more.
Headliner: Go Ape, Bracknell
Aaaaarraaaagh! Tarzan incoming. Time to get high on life at Go Ape Bracknell – a forest adventure for all ages that will test your balance, bravery and dignity. There’s a 1hr Junior Tree Top Adventure (suitable for kids 1m+) with wobbly bridges, intricate crossings and a zip wire finale… Fancy something more challenging, tackle the 2-3hr High Ropes Course (ages 10+ and 1.4m+ tall), that takes you 30m off the ground to endure high speed zips, swings and crossings that’ll make your knees knock. Adrenaline junkies will love it.!
In-the-know intel: Wild Paddle, Newbury
Test your sense of adventure and your balance on a SUP tour of the Kennet & Avon Canal. Wild Paddle Berkshire is sightseeing with a difference. The difference being you’re on a paddle board and there’s a risk of getting wet.. Run by Lara and her expert team, the tours set off from both Newbury and Kintbury locks and are perfect for beginners through to advanced. It’s a unique and tranquil way to see this beautiful part of Berks and Lara’s a dab hand at keeping her groups dry and having fun.
Headliner: Savill Garden, Windsor
Floral fiend? This under-the-radar Berkshire park with its superb seasonal planting and many rare plants from around the world is an absolute belter. Enjoy a fragrant amble around the Queen’s ornamental Savill Garden, before moving onto the ancient woodland found in the Valley Gardens. Be warned car parks can get very busy, so bear that in mind if you are travelling
In-the-know intel: Stanlake Park Wine Estate, Twyford
If you like a walk that comes with plenty of reward, then you’ll hit the jackpot at Stanlake Park Wine Estate. This is a Berkshire hidden gem – Stanlake Park Estate has had a long and colourful history dating back to the Tudor period but in recent times has made a name for itself as seriously good vineyard producing quality English wines. The tours will allow you to waft among the vines, taste the goods (warning: samples are generous… taxiiiiiii), plus there’s a well-stocked cellar shop, wine bar and garden where all the wines are available by the glass with no restaurant mark up. Hic! Basically it’s heaven.
Looking for headline walks? Here’s 11 stomps worthy of front page news.