From medieval ruins to sprawling country parks and modern football stadiums, we’ve got the best places to visit in Reading covered.
Attractions in Reading
A town steeped in history, there’s nowhere better to start than the evocative Reading Abbey Ruins, just a short walk from the Museum and Town Hall. Dating back to 1121, the ruins are currently being restored as part of an extensive £3 million project called Reading Abbey Revealed, and are expected to finish in June 2018. The grounds are home to the abbey church, the abbey gateway – which connects Forbury Gardens – and Reading’s crown court and hospitium, the largest of the remaining buildings. The grounds were also home to the Reading Abbey Girls’ School in the 18th century with novelist Jane Austen being one of their most famous former pupils.
Reading Minster, or the Minster Church of St. Mary the Virgin to give it its full title, is the oldest church building in Reading. It dates as far back as the 7th century, with the main body of the minster built in the 11th century. The church is still very active, with daily sermons and regular organ recitals.
Further afield in Forbury Gardens is the Maiwand Lion, a war memorial from the Second Anglo-Afghan war in 1878–1880 when 329 soldiers from the 66th Berkshire regiment were killed. One of the world’s largest cast iron statues, the 16-tonne lion took two years to design and create while – Sherlock Holmes fact alert – Conan Doyle based his Dr Watson character on the regiment’s surgeon who was injured in the battle.
Several miles to the north-west of Reading is Mapledurham House, a 12th century farmhouse that offers pre-booked tours covering St. Margaret’s Church, the water mill and the Archimedes screw turbine used to grind flour. Stop off at the Coach House Tea Room to sample some freshly baked scones made using their own flour.
The oldest historical site in the area is the Silchester Roman City Walls and Amphitheatre, a 25-minute drive from our Reading South hotel. The settlement dates back to the late 1st century BC, with the Roman empire extending the village into Calleva Atrebatum, a prominent Roman site, and – crucially – one that was never built on top of, resulting in some amazing ruins including the best-preserved town defences in England.
With stunning views of Reading, Pincents Hill is a well-maintained folly or pigeon coop built around the 18th century. Now a ruin, the simple stone tower is the perfect place to pause while taking advantage of the excellent walking or cycling trails in the area.
The green jewel in Reading’s parks crown, Wellington Country Parkcould keep the whole family entertained for weeks. With an animal farm, mini golf course and summer splash zone, it’s a great place to visit if you have small children – and big kids – with you on your trip.
If you like your parks to tick most of your lifestyle boxes including sport, play areas, tennis courts and an onsite restaurant, then make a beeline for Prospect Park. One of the most significant park in town and less than a mile to the west, it also comes with a Harvester pub on the northern edge, dishing up a decent range of food and drinks.
Previously mentioned as the home of the Maiwand Lion, Forbury Gardens is a lovely, relaxing park with a popular café that borders the Abbey Ruins. Grab a latte on a sunny morning and take a stroll around the park, one of Reading’s quieter pleasures. It’s also home to the Blue Collar Feastival held every summer, featuring live music, bars and some of the region’s best food stalls.
A short walk away over the River Thames you’ll find the peaceful and quiet Caversham Court Gardens. Grab a drink from their kiosk, take a book and settle on a bench overlooking the Thames. Film buffs meanwhile should keep an eye out for their summer film screenings, with rows of deck chairs set up facing a big screen as the sun sets.
The most basic of all Reading’s parks, King’s Meadow runs parallel to the River Thames and is a 12-acre stretch of grassland, perfect for summer picnics and games, while it also hosts the annual Reading Beer Festival.
If you’re keen to sample some of what Reading’s sporting scene has to offer, head over to the Madejski Stadium. Home to Reading Football Club and London Irish rugby union, you can catch a match – depending on your sport of choice – and grab a quick bite to eat at one of the food and drink outlets in the nearby retail park.