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Best places to live in Berkshire

Published Jul 29, 2021 – 9 mins read

For those considering moving to Berkshire, we’ve put together a list of the best places to live in Berkshire.

The Royal County of Berkshire has everything – beautiful, sprawling countryside, quaint villages and breath-taking scenery.

Not to mention great shopping, a leading University, an easy commute into London, and two airports within a reasonable distance.

Windsor

Windsor

Key facts:

  • Education: Castleview Primary School is rated Outstanding by Ofsted. At secondary level in the public sector, both Windsor Girls’ School (ages 13 to 18) and St Bernard’s Grammar School (ages 11 to 18) are rated Outstanding by Ofsted. Probably the most famous of all English schools in the independent sector, Eton College, is nearby;
  • Transport links: Windsor lies on the south bank of the River Thames and just to the south of the principal east-west route from London to the west of the country, the M4 motorway. To the west, the M4 then joins London’s orbital M25 motorway some 8 miles (13 km) away. Central London is just 24.5 miles (40 km) away – a drive of around an hour and 10 minutes;
  • Trains: the mainline railway station is Windsor and Eton Central, with trains both to Waterloo and Paddington taking around an hour.

Why live in Windsor?

It is called Royal Windsor thanks to the town hosting one of the Queen’s favourite residences, Windsor Castle.

A historic and affluent place, Windsor retains its character as a well-established market town with stylish restaurants, various upmarket shopping experiences, and a lively nightlife. 

Some of the country’s outstanding schools are on its doorstep.

All this within easy driving or commuting distance of central London – and with Heathrow Airport just 11 miles (17.7 km) away.

Maidenhead

Maidenhead


Key facts:

  • Education: no fewer than five of Maidenhead’s primary schools are rated Outstanding by Ofsted. At secondary level in the public sector, Newlands Girls’ School is also rated Outstanding by Ofsted. The leading co-educational, day and boarding, independent school for students aged 13 to 18, Wellington College, is some 16 miles (26 km) away;
  • Transport links: Maidenhead is in the Thames Valley, on the west bank of the river and only a mile or two north of the main east-west route, the M4 motorway. Along the M4, Bristol lies 92.5 miles (149 km) to the west and central London 30 miles (48 km) to the east – the latter a drive of about an hour and 10 minutes. Heathrow Airport is approximately 15 miles (24 km) away;
  • Trains: the mainline railway station at Maidenhead is currently being improved for fast services – running every five minutes – to central London via Crossrail when it opens in early 2022. Trains currently travel to London Paddington in a little over half an hour.

Why live in Maidenhead?

Thanks to the M4 motorway, Maidenhead has excellent road transport links to London and the whole of the UK. 

Its good rail links to the capital – very soon to become even better thanks to the Crossrail project – make the town ideal for regular London commuters.

The proximity of outstanding schools in the state sector and leading independent schools add to Maidenhead’s appeal as a place in which to settle down with your family.

Bray

Key facts:

  • Education: the village of Bray is served by primary schools in nearly Maidenhead, where no fewer than five are rated Outstanding by Ofsted. The other side of the M4 motorway in Holyport – two miles (3 km) away – the public sector’s secondary level Holyport College is also rated Outstanding.
  • Transport links: Bray is a village on the outskirts of Maidenhead, just north of the main east-west M4 motorway. The towns of Windsor and Slough lie on either side of the motorway just a mile or two the east and central London is 29 miles (47 km) away – a drive of around an hour and 10 minutes. Heathrow Airport is even nearer – around 14 miles (23 km);
  • Trains: the nearest mainline railway station is at Maidenhead, where trains to London Paddington currently take a little more than half an hour. That station is currently under extension and refurbishment works preceding the opening of fast services to London via Crossrail.

Why live in Bray?

Bray is a scenically beautiful village set on the banks of the River Thames located just a short drive or train ride from the centre of London – with all the work, business, and shopping opportunities the capital has to offer.

The village of Bray seems to have perfected the art and style of fine living since no fewer than three of the UK’s best, Michelin-starred restaurants can be found here.

With outstanding schools aplenty for your children’s education, what’s not to like about moving to Bray?

Cookham

Cookham

Key facts:

  • Education: Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School, in Cookham, is rated Outstanding by Ofsted, as are several other primary schools in the immediate neighbourhood. The public sector Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School in nearby Marlow – four miles (7 km) away – is also rated Outstanding by Ofsted. St Piran’s is an independent, co-educational preparatory school in nearby Maidenhead;
  • Transport links: Cookham lies in a broad sweep of the River Thames between Marlow to the northwest and Maidenhead to the southwest. Cookham is approximately midway between two strategic motorways – the M4, which runs west towards Bristol, and the M40 which leads north to Oxford, with both motorways providing alternative routes into London.
  • Trains: services from the mainline station at Cookham bring London Paddington to within around an hour’s train ride away.

Why live in Cookham?

In January 2021, we featured Cookham among the 20 best places to live in the South East – and there has been nothing moving us to alter that conclusion.

But don’t just take our word for it. The renowned 20th-century artist Sir Stanley Spencer called the place “a village in heaven”. 

Nestled along the banks of the River Thames, with all the charming characteristics of the typical English village, it is easy to see why Cookham earns that description of the divine.

Twyford and Wargrave

Key facts:

  • Education: Polehampton Church of England Junior School – a primary level Academy for children aged 7 to 11 – is rated Outstanding by Ofsted. In Wargrave, the secondary level public sector Academy, The Piggott School, is rated Good by Ofsted. The highly-rated, independent Reading Blue Coat School – is in the nearby village of Sonning three miles (5 km) away;
  • Transport links: Twyford is less than 10 miles to the east of the City of Reading and 10 miles to the north of the main east-west motorway, the M4. That connects both Twyford and Wargrave to the national motorway network – all the way to Bristol and South Wales to the west and London to the east. The capital is around 40 miles (65 km) away – a drive of approximately an hour and 10 minutes;
  • Trains: trains from the mainline station at Twyford reach London Paddington in around three-quarters of an hour.

Why live in Twyford or Wargrave?

The villages of Twyford and Wargrave are both in the Thames Valley, just to the south of Henley-on-Thames –  with its famous annual regatta on the river – are within easy driving distance of Reading, Maidenhead, and London.

The relaxed, countryside living, with a strong sense of village community, makes Twyford and Wargrave ideal settings to raise a family – within easy and fast commuting distance of London.

Sunningdale and Ascot

Sunningdale and Ascot

Key facts:

  • Education: two primary schools in Ascot are rated Outstanding by Ofsted, as is the secondary level Academy (for public sector students aged 11 to 18), Charters School in Sunningdale. The independent, co-educational day and boarding school, LVS Ascot for students aged 4 to 18 is on the outskirts of Ascot;
  • Transport links: both Ascot and Sunningdale are on old roads into London – which the M3 motorway has now superseded as the principal route into the capital. Sunningdale, for instance, is just 26.7 miles (43 km) into central London – a drive of a little over an hour. Heathrow Airport is only nine miles (15 km) away;
  • Trains: there are mainline stations in both Sunningdale and Ascot. Trains from the former to London Waterloo take around an hour while services from Ascot also take around an hour – to London Waterloo (direct) or London Paddington (one change).

Why move to Sunningdale or Ascot?

Ascot and Sunningdale are barely three miles (5km) apart, and both epitomise commuter-belt living in semi-rural surroundings – with fast and easy access by road and rail into central London.

Both are on the fringes of Windsor Great Park – and the wide-open verdant spaces offered by the park – together with other parcels of Crown land.

Sunningdale is home to one of the country’s best golf clubs.

Wokingham

Key facts:

  • Education: there are no fewer than six primary schools within Wokingham’s catchment area, all of which are rated Outstanding by Ofsted, as is the public sector secondary school for girls, The Holt School, which also has a co-educational sixth-form. The co-educational independent Reddam House takes pupils from their early years until the age of 18 and is accommodated in the nearby mansion of Bearwood and its 125 acres of parkland;
  • Transport links: Wokingham lies a few miles to the west of Bracknell and a similar distance to the south of the main east-west M4 motorway – which runs westwards to Bristol and through to South Wales and eastwards to London. The capital is approximately 40 miles (64.5 km) away – a drive of around an hour and 10 minutes;
  • Trains: direct services from the mainline station at Wokingham to London Waterloo take a little over one hour.

Is Wokingham a nice place to live?

Wokingham is a historic town with a distinctive family feel, thanks to the leisure facilities, parks, and shopping opportunities. 

The outstanding quality and performance of local schools is regularly confirmed through Ofsted inspections.

Not only is the town set in a scenically attractive part of Royal Berkshire, but it is also well connected both by the road and rail networks.

Reading

Reading

Key facts:

  • Education: at least three primary schools (for pupils up to the age of 11) in the Reading catchment area are rated Outstanding by Ofsted. At secondary level in the public sector, both Reading School and Kendrick School (for students aged 11 to 18) are also rated Outstanding by Ofsted. The Abbey is a highly regarded independent school for girls from the earliest years until the age of 18. The University of Reading offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses;
  • Transport links: Reading is ideally situated as a local hub for the road network of southeast England. It lies alongside the M4 motorway (from South Wales to central London) and is 40 miles (64 km) east of Swindon, 25 miles (40 km) south of Oxford, 40 miles (64 km) west of London, 15 miles (24 km) north of Basingstoke, 13 miles (21 km) southwest of Maidenhead and 15 miles (24 km) east of Newbury;
  • Trains: services from the mainline station at Reading travel to London (both Waterloo and Paddington) in a little more than an hour. Reading is also the terminus of the new Elizabeth line of the Crossrail project for fast and frequent services by rail into central London.

Why live in Reading?

As the county town, Reading lies at the heart of what happens in this part of the world. 

In recent years it has developed a reputation for its IT and telecommunications industries; these, in turn, have attracted the support of multinational enterprises in finance, insurance, and accounting.

There are many green and open spaces in the town – especially along the banks of the River Thames and its confluence with the River Kennett.

Commuting into central London – by road or rail – can be fast and painless while there are also outstanding schools and the University in the area.

Pangbourne

Pangbourne

Key facts:

  • Education: there are at least three primary schools rated as Outstanding by Ofsted close by on the outskirts of Reading – 6.5 miles (10 km) away. At secondary level in the public sector, both Reading School and Kendrick School (for students aged 11 to 18) are also rated Outstanding by Ofsted. The independent school for girls (aged 4 to 18), The Abbey, is a highly-rated institution in Reading;
  • Transport links: Pangbourne is at the southern edge of the so-called Goring Gap between the Chiltern Hills to the northeast and the North Wessex Downs to the southwest on the road between Reading and Oxford. It is only a mile or two north of the M4 motorway (from central London to South Wales). The capital is approximately 50 miles (80 km) to the east – a drive of around an hour and a quarter;
  • Trains: trains from the mainline station in Pangbourne arrive in London Paddington in around one hour.

Why move to Pangbourne?

For anyone looking to move out of London, aiming to live near a city without being in the very thick of it, Pangbourne is a well positioned, desirable village.

Nestled in the Thames’ riverside gap, Pangbourne has some outstanding schools in the neighbourhood, its very own cosy pub, and is still just an hour or so from the centre of London – by car or by train. 

Hungerford

Key facts:

  • Education: the two primary schools in the catchment area for Hungerford are rated Good by Ofsted, as is the public sector’s secondary level Academy, John O’Gaunt School. St Gabriel’s is an independent, co-educational day school for pupils of kindergarten age through to 18 in nearby Newbury – 10 miles (16 km) away;
  • Transport links: Hungerford is on the North Wessex Downs, in the centre of a triangle formed by Basingstoke, Reading, and Swindon. The town lies just 3.5 miles (5.7 km) south of the main east-west corridor of the M4 motorway. The capital is around 67 miles (108 km) to the east and takes around an hour and 45 minutes to drive;
  • Trains: services from the mainline station in Hungerford reach London Paddington in just over an hour.

Why live in Hungerford?

Hungerford and the surrounding villages of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are some of the most remote communities in the whole of Berkshire.

Life here is indeed likely to reflect the slower and more tranquil pace of the countryside, yet Hungerford is not so very cut off from the rest of the county – or indeed the rest of England. 

The M4 motorway provides immediate access to the national road network, and rail services from the mainline station bring the capital to just an hour or so.

Newbury area (Highclere, Burghclere and Bucklebury)

Newbury area

Key facts:

  • Education: St Thomas’ Church of England Infant School, in nearby Woolton Hill – 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from Highclere – is rated Outstanding by Ofsted. Three of the public sector secondary schools in Newbury – 5.2 miles (8.4 km) – are rated Good by Ofsted. The independent, co-educational St Gabriel’s school is housed in Sandleford Priory on the outskirts of Newbury;
  • Transport links: the villages of Highclere, Burghclere, and Bucklebury form a crescent around Newbury, immediately to the south of the main east-west corridor, the M4 motorway. This brings central London around 65 miles (105 km)n from the three villages – a drive of approximately an hour and a half;
  • Trains: trains from the nearest mainline station at Newbury reach London Paddington in just over an hour.

Is the Newbury area a nice place to live?

Highclere, Burghclere, and Bucklebury all lie along the sweeping expanse of chalk downland that makes up the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and straddles the borders of North Hampshire and South Berkshire.

The most well-known and historically important of the three villages is Highclere – more specifically, Highclere Park and its country mansion, which served as the setting for UK television’s popular series Downton Abbey.

The three villages provide that perfect combination of living in the lush, peaceful countryside of Berkshire yet still within easy striking distance of Basingstoke, Newbury, and London.

Best places to live in Berkshire

As property finders, we often assist clients in deciding where to live based on their preferences and situation.

If you need a local perspective, and would like to discuss your requirements for a property in Berkshire, then please do contact Garrington.