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The Thames and Kennet rivers meet in Reading, a Berkshire community located 24 miles south of Oxford and 36 miles west of London. The community has become an important rail and road junction for London commuter traffic. Reading is easily walkable, but private vehicles are the simplest way to travel to the thatched cottages and green rolling hills of the surrounding countryside. Visitors can explore Reading's famous abbey ruins and Forbury Gardens, before heading out to the Berkshire countryside to visit Caversham, Basildon Park Mansion, Mapledurham House and Watermill and Silchester
Who to Book With
Reading lies less than an hour and a half’s drive from four major London airports, where many visitors decide to secure their rented vehicles. Most of Reading's own car hire companies lie either north or south of the town centre. The most worthwhile deals are usually found by online booking, whether you choose independent companies like Arrow Self Drive, or international chains such as Thrifty or Europcar.
Best Time to go
Rainfall is moderate and temperature variations are fairly limited throughout the year in Reading, while summer nonetheless brings the community's greatest numbers of tourists and the highest prices for hotels and vehicle rental. Winter brings both the greatest bargains and the coldest weather of the year.
Need to Know Essentials
Here is a list of documents needed when picking up car rental:
- A valid driving license from the United Kingdom or an International Driving Permit
- Another form of photo identification like a passport
- Rental confirmation printouts
- A credit card
Reading's traffic may not be as bad as Oxford or London, but the town is nonetheless prone to rush hour traffic jams. Oracle Riverside, open 24 hours a day, is the biggest of Reading's three main car parks. The other two car parks, Broad Street Mall and Oracle Holy Brook, are open for more limited periods of time. The M4 motorway connects Reading with Bristol, London and South Wales. The Madejski stadium complex contains the park-and-ride site where motorists can park their vehicles before boarding a dedicated express bus to the town centre.
Visitors can easily walk to most central Reading attractions from the main rail station, but several surrounding villages can only be reached by car. Reading also contains ample taxi and bus services. An express bus runs about every 20 minutes between Reading's rail station and Heathrow Airport, 40 minutes away along the M4. Luton, Gatwick and Stansted airports are all under a 90-minute drive from Reading.
First Great Western manages Reading's rail station, the first stop of many trains departing from London Paddington station. Some trains take just half an hour to travel from London Paddington to Reading, while others take up to an hour to reach the latter station. The journey between London Waterloo and Reading lasts nearly an hour and a half. The National Rail Planner contains more detailed rail schedules.
Abbey Cars, whose taxis are divided into official black cabs (London-style taxi vehicles) and private hire cars with Reading Borough Council plates, is among the most reputable taxi companies in Reading. Black cabs are always metered and usually parked at the rank outside Reading rail station, while private hire cars are not metered and must be reserved by telephone. Passengers should agree on the fare before entering a private hire car.
Reading Buses travel as far as five miles outside the town and charge around £1.80 for daytime single fares. Busabout tickets costing £4 each give passengers unlimited travel throughout Reading, anytime of the day or night. Group tickets valid for up to four people are also available. Bus drivers do not give change in Reading. Thames Travel buses serve some of Reading's surrounding rural regions, while advanced ticketing is required before boarding the National Express buses that travel across the United Kingdom from the small Reading Coachway bus stop.
After touring Reading's famous abbey ruins and recently restored Forbury Gardens, many visitors decide to take road trips around the surrounding Berkshire countryside. Some of the earliest evidence of human settlement in the United Kingdom has been discovered in Caversham, just across the Thames River from Reading. The stately Basildon Park Mansion, Mapledurham House and Watermill, and ancient Roman settlement of Silchester all lie less than 10 miles from Reading.
Mapledurham - The watermill in Mapledurham, four miles west of Reading, is the only one that still operates on the Thames River. Traditional millstones still grind all of the wheat used to make the flour sold here. The stately Mapledurham Elizabethan mansion and even older Mapledurham Gurney manor are merely the most famous of this village's many historic homes.
Basildon Park - The 18th century Basildon Park mansion stands seven miles west of Reading, but was never completed during its initial construction. The National Trust now owns this lovingly restored Georgian estate, surrounded by scenic parkland trails and picnic grounds. The kitchen, on the other hand, takes visitors back to the much more recent 1950s.
Silchester - The ancient Romans first founded present-day Silchester, which sits eight miles southeast of Reading, as Calleva Atrebatum, thousands of years ago. Only ruins have remained since the community was abandoned after the fall of the Roman Empire. A small medieval church, an amphitheatre and complete city walls are this isolated area's most impressive sights.