Berkshire is one of England’s nine Home Counties that surround the capital city of London. It has one of the strongest links with British royalty, who have lived here since Windsor Castle was built in the early 12th century. As well as the royal association, there are several picturesque villages, usually on the banks of gently flowing rivers and wide green meadows.
One of the most peaceful ways to see Berkshire is by taking a barge ride on its canals. Some visitors prefer to come on a day trip from London though, which is hardly a surprise. Outside of London, Windsor and its castle is one of the most visited attractions in the United Kingdom. In this post, we’ll take a look at Windsor and two more fascinating castles in Berkshire.
3 Castles to Visit in Berkshire
1. Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is not only the oldest occupied Royal Palace in Europe, having been a residence for the British Royal Family since Henry I’s reign in the 12th century, but the largest occupied castle in the world. The Queen usually stays at the castle during Easter and invites guests to ‘dine and sleep’.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t include the general public – it’s more likely to be politicians and public figures! Her majesty also stays here for a week in June for the Royal Ascot race meeting. There are a number of day trips from London that enable travelers to visit this magnificent castle.
When: 11th century
Open for visit: Usually open daily but closures can happen at short notice – Check the website ahead of time for exact opening times.
2. Highclere Castle
Strictly not in Berkshire, Highclere Castle is just a short journey across the border with Hampshire. From real royalty to TV royalty, it’s a star of the British TV drama Downtown Abbey. Guests can enjoy themed tours of the show’s film sets at the castle, as well as walks around the 5,000-acre estate surrounding the main building.
The castle you can see now is one of the best examples of 17th-century Jacobethan architecture in the United Kingdom, but the first written records of the site date back to 749AD. The Bishops of Winchester were granted the estate by an Anglo Saxon King, where they built a huge medieval palace.
When: 17th century
Open for visit: Yes, selected dates only – See the website for details.
3. Donnington Castle
The ruins of Donnington Castle do not have any of the pomp or grandiosity of the other castles in Hampshire on this list, but they are still charming.
Located just two miles from the town of Newbury, all that is left is a twin-towered gatehouse and an outline of where the castle once stood. In its heyday, it is thought to have hosted both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Visits to the castle are free of charge and dogs are welcome on leads.
Where: Donnington, Newbury
When: 14th century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.