Right on London's doorstep and boasting royal connections, the county of Berkshire rides high in commuters' affections.
Berkshire offers enviable country living close to London. It’s booming towns such as Reading, Newbury and Slough provide all the shops and entertainment while traditional villages such as Littlewick Green have plenty of rural charm.
The county is home to historic Windsor Castle, giving it the Royal County of Berkshire title.
Where is Berkshire?
Berkshire is in the south of England, west of London. The county is criss-crossed by major roads and it’s set to be bolstered by the upcoming Crossrail network too.
The county's proximity to the capital and excellent road and rail links mean that average house prices stand at £422,000, with areas such as Windsor and Maidenhead commanding even higher premiums. Take a look at the latest prices.
Living in Berkshire: what to expect
Berkshire is a county of contrasts. At one end of the spectrum, it boasts sleepy rural villages, including Cookham. And at the other, it is home to large, bustling towns such as Maidenhead and Bracknell, which is receiving millions of pounds in regeneration funds.
The county’s schools mark it out as an area of interest for families. Not only is it home to the famous Eton College but its state schools are also impressive. Hampstead Norreys Chuch of England Primary School and The Westgate School are just two of the schools awarded the top rating by Ofsted.
Surrounding it all is rolling countryside and the North Wessex Downs, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Top places to start your property search
Reading: The conservation area between Kings Road and the University of Reading is one of the most popular in the town. Head to Eldon Square for elegant Regency homes built of Bath stone.
There are large semis and detached Victorian property on streets such as Alexandra Road, and more modest 19th century terraced homes on Prince of Wales Avenue.
For new developments, try Kennet Island, a former waterworks which has been transformed into contemporary one- and two-bedroom flats.
Slough: This town is ideal if you're looking for a comfortable family home that dates back to 1920-40s. London Road, Stoke Poges Lane and Sutton Avenue all have spacious detached homes, many of which come with garages.
And for a mix of post-war houses accompanied by generous gardens, check out Rambler Lane.
The town centre has a mixture of Victorian property, houses built in the 1920-30s and modern purpose-built apartment blocks. Flats in Trent House, Courtlands and The Loftings, for example, offer young professionals desirable, luxury living.
Newbury: This is one of the largest towns in Berkshire, sitting on the banks of the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon Canal.
There is a mix of property in Newbury, including period semis, inter-war properties and contemporary homes.
Windsor: There are a number of stately Georgian and Victorian homes in the centre and on Castle Hill. The most fashionable houses are found within the 'Golden Triangle', an area around St Leonards Hill, Adelaide Square, Kings Road and Bolton Avenue. Adelaide Square has Victorian cottages whereas Kings Road has elegant Georgian homes with ironwork balconies.
Cookham: This area is now a popular Thameside resort that incorporates Cookham Dean, Cookham Rise and Cookham Village.
Cookham Dean is favoured among house-hunters thanks to its scenic location. Opt for a grand home set in large grounds or a quaint Victorian cottage on a winding road, such as Popes Lane.
Waltham St Lawrence: The cattle pound in the heart of this village is surrounded by picture-postcard houses and timber-framed cottages on Halls Lane. The Street also has period properties, some of which have thatched roofs.
Best ways to get around Berkshire
By rail: There are around 13 trains per hour between Reading and London Paddington. They include a fast 30-minute service.
At the end of 2019, the new Crossrail service will stop off at Reading, Maidenhead and Slough. It will run two direct trains to London and beyond every hour.
By car: The M4 runs to the south of Reading and links with the M25, which orbits Greater London.
By air: Heathrow Airport is just a 30-minute drive from Reading. It offers flights to 194 destinations in 82 countries, including New York and Hong Kong.
Alternatively, Gatwick Airport can be reached in an hour via the Gatwick Express train from Reading.
Best things to do in Berkshire
History: Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and has been home to the British monarchy for nearly 1,000 years. You can get a tour, view the state apartments and watch the changing of the guard. Look out for the Royal Standard above the Round Tower to see if the Queen is in residence.
The ruins of Donnington Castle and its impressive earthworks can still be seen just outside Newbury. They include an impressive twin-towered gatehouse, which was built in the 14th century, and large defences erected during the English Civil War.
One of the more eerie historic sites is Combe Gibbet, west of Newbury. It was only used once but has been replaced over the years as a marker of historic punishment.
Cultural: Reading is the host of the Reading Festival, a music festival that draws thousands of people each year. Both international and up-and-coming bands perform here, making it one of the most popular events on the calendar. And if you’re a countryside lover, there’s The Royal County of Berkshire Show.
The Watermill Theatre in Newbury is set in a former watermill. It has just 220 seats but is renowned for its new productions and reimagining of classics, including Shakespeare.
Ascot racecourse attracts more than half a million visitors every year. The most famous meet is Royal Ascot, which is known for its outrageous hats, top horses and royal attendance. There are also racecourses at Newbury and Windsor.
Outdoors: The North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers 668 square miles and incorporates ancient woodland, open land and chalk streams. It's best explored on foot, by bicycle or on horseback and offers plenty of opportunity to spot wild birds and animals.
Enjoy scenic walks, fishing and wildlife-spotting opportunities at the 40-hectare California Country Park near Wokingham.
And visit the animal farm and petting zoo or try the adventure playground and mini golf at Wellington Country Park.
Shopping: Reading is home to The Oracle shopping centre, which boasts more than 80 stores including John Lewis and Debenhams.
The smaller Bristol and West Arcade, the Harris Shopping Arcade and The Walk are also popular and host more specialised stores.
Food and drink: Bray village has established itself as a foodie destination. It is home to the three Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck as well as The Waterside Inn, which is run by Alain Roux, a member of the famous cooking dynasty and specialises in elaborate desserts.
Elsewhere, the Michelin-starred restaurant L'Ortolan, in the village of Shinfield, serves up modern French cuisine.
For something a little more down to earth, visit historic pubs, such as the Bel & the Dragon in Cookham. It's one of England's oldest coaching inns and is thought to date from 1417.
Runnymede is famous as the location of the signing of the Magna Carta treaty in 1215. Today you can see a monument commemorating the pact as well as memorials dedicated to JFK and the RAF.
5 reasons to live in Berkshire
Good commuter transport links, including the upcoming Crossrail service
Home to North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Range of shops
Historic attractions, including Windsor Castle
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