Berkshire

The Best Things to Do in Newbury, Berkshire

The market town of Newbury is surrounded by idyllic countryside on the edge of the Berkshire Downs. Steeped in history and home to a wide array of historical and natural attractions, it has a unique atmosphere and feel that make it universally appealing. Inside the town itself, the streets are peppered with old buildings – the market square alone is home to a rare Medieval Cloth Hall, 15th Century church and many buildings dating from the 17th and 18th Centuries. Meanwhile, surrounding Newbury is some of the most stunning countryside in the UK, crisscrossed with walking paths, cycling trails and waterways. 

 

St Nicolas Church in the market town of Newbury in Berkshire

However you’d like to write the pages of your holiday in Berkshire, you’ll find plenty to keep you and the family entertained during your stay. With an abundance of shops, restaurants, markets, arts venues, historical attractions and outdoor activities in and around the town, Newbury invites all generations to unwind and explore. To get you started, we’ve picked out some of the best things to do in Newbury, including the top attractions and activities to see and do nearby.

The Top 15 Things to Do in Newbury 

Kennet & Avon Canal

A view of the Kennet and Avon Canal that runs through Newbury

Set along the banks of the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon Canal, Newbury has some truly beautiful walking and cycling trails. Of these, the 96-mile Kennet & Avon Canal walk runs through Newbury on its journey between Bristol and Reading and is one of the best trails for leisurely walks or sprightly tours. Best of all, the path (which can be broken up into smaller sections) mainly follows towpaths along the banks of the canal, providing a mostly smooth and level surface all the way.

Newbury Theatres

Newbury is lucky enough to be home to two great theatres. The larger of the two, the Grade II-listed Corn Exchange first opened as a corn exchange in 1861 before becoming a community venue in the 20th Century. Today, it features a 400-seat auditorium, 40-seat independent cinema and a Kitchen & Bar. The equally as popular Watermill Theatre has a 220-seat auditorium and Riverside Restaurant and Bar, and invites all to be inspired by live performance and music.

Highclere Castle 

Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame) and its Capability Brown-designed gardens lie 5 miles to the south of Newbury in Hampshire, just beyond the Berkshire border. Originally dating back to 749AD, the Grade I mansion you see today was rebuilt in 1679 and is home to nearly 300 rooms – some of which can be seen during guided tours. An easy way to pass the hours, you can explore the castle, its Egyptian exhibition and the surrounding 5,000-acre estate.

The Berkshire Downs 

Far-reaching views of the Berkshire Downs - part of the North Wessex Downs AONB

Newbury is located at the foot of the Berkshire Downs, a range of chalk downland hills that make up part of the North Wessex Downs AONB. Made accessible by a huge number of cycle paths, bridleways and walking trails (including the ancient Ridgeway Trail), the area is perfect for wanderers looking to branch out from the town and explore the countryside. Remember to pack your walking boots and pick up at map from Newbury’s Tourist Information Centre at the Town Hall.

Newbury Racecourse

Holding its first race in September 1905, Newbury Racecourse has been welcoming royalty, celebrities and the equine elite ever since. One of the UK's most famous racing venues, it hosts around 30 race days every year including both jump and flat events. For wining and dining while you’re there, there are also two restaurants onsite: the Hennessy and the Racegoers Restaurant.

Shaw House

Shaw House in Newbury is one of the best-preserved Elizabethan houses in the country and has undertaken a variety of rolls throughout its life, from hosting royalty to housing soldiers during World War II to accommodating children as a local school. Open to the public on select days throughout the year, the house’s gardens make for a welcome place to picnic and play during the summer. There’s also an in-house café which beckons with refreshments when the house is open.

The Living Rainforest

A trip to the Living Rainforest in Thatcham provides a rare opportunity to see over 850 different types of rainforest plants and animals across three different indoor zones, including a two-toed sloth, six-banded armadillo, pygmy marmosets, Goeldi's monkeys and blue poison dart frogs. Less than 10 miles from Newbury, this small but fascinating attraction is well worth a visit if you’re a nature-lover and is especially popular with children.

Donnington Castle

Just north of Newbury are the striking remains of Donnington Castle, a 14th Century castle overlooking the Lambourn Valley. Today, all that’s left of the castle is its twin-towered gatehouse which, though in ruins, still hints at the luxury that was once enjoyed there. Making it all the more intriguing, the castle has links with Edward the Black Prince and Geoffrey Chaucer, and is believed to have hosted both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. 

Victoria Park

The emerald jewel in the town’s crown, the award-winning Victoria Park in Newbury is a favourite space amongst locals and visitors for sports and recreation. Amongst its superb family-friendly attractions, it includes a mini golf course, children’s water park and play areas, tennis courts, a boating pond, outdoor gym equipment, a café and more. Brass and silver bands also play there throughout the summer on the park’s bandstand.

West Berkshire Museum

West Berkshire Museum in Newbury has both special one-off and permanent exhibitions detailing the story of the county and its inhabitants. Spend a few hours there and learn all about the county, from the area’s physical landscapes to early settlers to well-known local figures like Jack of Newbury (a leading English clothier who mass-produced clothes and influenced laws on woollen cloth). Entry is free to West Berkshire Museum, although donations are gratefully received.

Snelsmore Common Country Park

Snelsmore Common Country Park is a 240-acre country park and Site of Special Scientific Interest near Newbury. Containing a variety of habitats including heathland, wet mires and woodland, it provides the perfect space for wildlife-watchers, dog walkers and families to get back to nature and breathe in the country air. A café is located at the park entrance too, so you can grab a cup of tea or bite to eat to fuel or reward your adventures.

Gin Tours 

Examples of some of the types of gin and tonic you can try during a gin tasting tour in Newbury, either at 137 Gin Distillery or Bombay Sapphire Distillery

An award-winning independent distillery, 137 Gin Distillery on Bartholomew Street in Newbury is a must-visit for any spirit fan. Head over to have a go at making your own drinks and sample the delicious vodka and gin designed and produced at the distillery. To further your exploration, the famous Bombay Sapphire distillery is also within 15 miles of Newbury, located in the 200-year-old Laverstoke Mill on the River Test in Laverstoke.

4 Kingdoms Adventure Park & Family Farm

Just a stone’s throw from Newbury is 4 Kingdoms Adventure Park and Family Farm, a family-friendly attraction set within 28 acres of Hampshire/Berkshire countryside. Ideal for families with children of all ages, the site boasts 21 play zones, with a laser tag arena, go karts, pedal boats, climbing frames, giant slides, a petting barn and four different train rides to name but a few. Special events are also held there throughout the year.

The Nature Discovery Centre

The Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham near Newbury offers a range of interactive wildlife and natural history displays. Tucked within a large wetland nature reserve, the centre is at the middle of a network of footpaths, from short family-friendly walks to longer trails for the more energetic. Facilities include a café, adventure playgrounds, a gift shop and more, so you can find everything you need for a relaxing day out. 

Bucklebury Farm Park

Less than 10 miles from Newbury is Bucklebury Farm, a 70-acre deer and safari park set within the luscious Pang valley. Offering a great family day out, the farm can be explored on foot or by tractor ride and there are lots of places to catch a glimpse of the resident animals. As well as the red, sika, fallow and axis deer who live there, the farm is also home to Berkshire pigs, pygmy goats, alpacas, Shetland ponies and more.

 A bridge crossing over the Kennet and Avon Canal in Newbury with old houses in the background

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