Reading Car Hire

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The market town of Reading in South Berkshire, England used to be known for the three B’s – beer, biscuits and bulbs (the flowering kind). Nowadays, Reading is a major commercial centre for information technology and insurance, and despite its proximity to London Reading has net inward commuter flow. It’s ranked the UK's top economic area for economic success and wellbeing, defined by factors such as employment, health, income and skills. Reading is 70 miles (110 km) east of Bristol, 25 miles (40 km) south of Oxford and 40 miles (64 km) west of London. It has a university and every year hosts the massive Reading Festival, one of the UK’s largest music festivals and the world’s longest-running. Prices for hiring a car in Reading start at just £18.46 (€20.19) a day off-season for a mini-size, nippy Fiat 500 when you pre-book online. An economy car like a Vauxhall/Opel Corsa costs just £19.68 (€221.53) per day, while a compact car like a Fiat Tipo – spacious enough for a family of five ̶ is only £23.67 (€25.89) per day. Alternatively, if your group is larger, hiring a people-carrier-type vehicle can also be economical by splitting the cost ̶ a 7-seater Volkswagen Sharan costs only £83.74 (€91.59) per day, superb value for money given its capacity. Enjoy partners with a growing family of trusted and established car hire providers like Europcar and Keddy in Reading, so you can explore this historic market town and the beautiful surrounding Berkshire countryside, stress-free and independently.

Guide to Reading

Reading has always punched above its weight in terms of culture and history, despite (or perhaps because of) its proximity to big hitters like Oxford. Jane Austen famously attended boarding school here, and Oscar Wilde was imprisoned in Reading Gaol, even penning an ode to his experience in The Ballad of Reading Gaol. The only major military battle in the ‘glorious’ revolution of 1688 was on Reading’s streets, and the town was also seriously impacted by the English Civil War (1642—1651). Its population of 230,000 is ethnically diverse, with an estimated 150 languages spoken here. It’s also within easy reach of some of England’s loveliest countryside and therefore perfect for exploring by car.

Early history

There is evidence of limited Roman occupation of the area but signs of the first major settlements here date back to the 8th century AD and Danish Vikings briefly occupied the town in 870 AD (probably due to the position of the town as a river port). Reading Abbey was founded in 1121 AD by King Henry I, who is buried there. Like the rest of England, the town was badly affected by the Black Death (bubonic plague) that swept across Europe – to the extent that nearby Henley lost some 60% of its population. The Abbey was largely destroyed by Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries (the abbey’s last abbot was hung, drawn and quartered in front of the church). Reading suffered great losses during the English Civil War and it’s said that its economy didn’t actually recover fully until the 20th century! The 18th century saw the growth of ironworks and brewing, and the town benefitted from being on the turnpike roads from London to Oxford and the West Country (around Bristol). It thrived as a manufacturing centre from the 19th century and the Great Western Railway arrived here in 1841.

Landmarks in Reading

Naturally, a city with Reading’s history and strategic importance has culture and art in many forms, but it also has a number of historical landmarks and works of public art which are free for everyone to enjoy without payment of a fee. The Maiwand Lion (with its unusually chiselled physique) in Forbury Gardens commemorates the deaths of Reading officers in the Battle of Maiwand of 1880 and The Blade is a 14-storey office building, the tallest in Reading, which was completed in 2009 and dominates the city skyline. Reading has six Grade-I listed buildings, like the Abbey, 22 Grade-II listed buildings and 853 Grade-III listed buildings. The town has over 100 playgrounds and parks and even five local nature reserves! No description of Reading would be complete without mentioning some breweries, of which there are many. Breweries such as the Loddon Brewery, Double-Barrelled Brewery, or Zerodegrees Microbrewery have sit-in, take-away and tour options, and no trip to the town is complete without visiting a brewery and sampling some sumptuous beers.

Sports and pastimes

Sports fans have lots to enjoy in Reading. Reading F.C., nicknamed ‘The Royals’ have competed three times in the English Premiership in recent years. Reading is also known for rugby, with London Irish resident at the Madjeski Stadium and another three senior semi-professional rugby clubs in residence. Rowing is strongly represented here too, but there’s also basketball, American Football, Aussie rules football, hockey, speedway racing (sadly now inactive) and athletics in Reading. In addition, the Reading Half Marathon is held annually and the British Triathlon Association was founded here in 1982.

Things to do in Reading

Reading was named one of 2019’s best places in the UK to live and work, therefore it has diversions aplenty for any visitor. From punting on the Kennet & Avon canal to exploring the area’s vineyards (no, really), visiting furry friends at a wildlife park or exploring Silchester Roman ruins, you’ll never be bored!

Escape to retail and spa therapy

Since opening in 1999, the Oracle shopping centre has become Reading’s go-to retail area. The canal runs through the retail park, which has more than 80 shops and restaurants/cafés. The riverside also hosts seasonal events and catering vans, including a tiki bar in summer and a cosy alpine lodge in winter. After your shopping, how about a trip to a spa? Nirvana Spa is set in a beautiful building which houses a number of swimming pools, relaxation suites and spa facilities in palatial surroundings. You can choose to pamper yourself from a selection of packages ̶ from massages and beauty treatments to facials and meditative time in the floatation pool. Escape Rooms have boomed in recent years, and there are plenty of escape rooms to try in Reading, including an Alice in Wonderland-themed room at Escape Hunt to a Great Fire of London-themed room at TimeTrap Escape Rooms.

For the kids

Reading has ample activities for kids of all ages. Just to the north of the city is Beale Park, a wildlife park set in 30 acres of land along the River Thames. Let the young ones loose in the playground, take a trip on the mini railway, visit animal enclosures holding lemurs, emus, deer and monkeys, as well as numerous exotic birds and reptiles ̶ this is an excursion guaranteed to keep young minds enthralled. Wellington Country Park is a bit of a drive from Reading – it’s technically in Hampshire – but there are a lot of things to do there which make it worth the drive (and it’s a lovely scenic journey). You can play mini-golf, pet animals in the petting barn, take a stroll around the huge lake, let the kids loose in the playgrounds and enjoy barbecues in pretty picnic areas. Alternatively, Dinton Pastures Country Park is a peaceful area of meadow and woodland in east Reading with is a huge lake in the centre and plenty of walkways and forest trails to tree bathe in, which makes it popular spot with local dog walkers and joggers. You’ll also see families going for a stroll and enjoying the country park’s facilities, including the play park, mini-golf and boat hire in the lake, not to mention food vans and the Dragonfly Café.

Step back in time

Reading Abbey recently reopened after closing for a decade for extensive investment. It’s the burial place of King Henry I of England, (although only crumbling remnants of the Abbey’s walls remain) and the grounds are free to explore at your leisure. Especially interesting are the display boards dotted throughout the site which show how the abbey would have looked in the 12th century and how it has changed since. Reading Museum is located in the Town Hall, which is an impressive building in itself which houses artefacts from Reading’s industrial times, when it was famous for biscuits, beer and seeds, and there’s even a replica of the Bayeux Tapestry for history buffs, which depicts the events leading to the Norman conquest of 1066 along its 230-feet (70 m) length ̶ including the famous arrow-in-the-eye demise of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings!

Rainy days

The great British weather is sure to make you change your plans at least once, but luckily Reading has indoors entertainment for all ages. The Mad Hatters Pottery Café in Tilehurst is a real gem ̶ kids can pick a piece of pottery, paint it and then have it fired in a kiln oven ready to take home. Reading used to have an aviation industry, and you can explore it by visiting the excellent Museum of Berkshire Aviation in Woodley ̶ there are planes which have survived real-life battles, plus examples of aircraft engineering through the ages. Finally, Coral Reef Waterworld in Bracknell has recently been refurbished and features slides, spa areas and more.

Eating out in Reading

Whether you fancy pub food, fine dining or exclusive romantic locations, the town has it all. Here are a few choice suggestions for eating out in Reading.

Michelin-starred eats

Here at Enjoy Travel we pride ourselves on our restaurant recommendations and often feature Michelin-starred fine dining. In Reading, L’Ortolan in Shinfield is Reading's top Michelin-starred restaurant, where Head chef James Greatorex aims to produce a ‘mouthful of complementary flavours’ with every dish he cooks. Alternatively, The Woodspeen Restaurant & Cookery School is a ‘Michelin star restaurant and cookery school, set in a lovingly restored 19th century farmhouse, nestling in the West Berkshire countryside’ which offers seasonal dishes inspired by home-grown ingredients, an award-winning wine list and a relaxed dining atmosphere. It’s also situated in a Grade II-listed building surrounded by perfectly landscaped gardens.

Tastes of Asia

Indian food has long been a favourite of British diners and Rajmoni Cuisine is a fine dining Indian restaurant located in Maiden Lane Centre which serves exceptional dishes using fresh-quality ingredients with subtly spiced flavours. The fragrant Indian and Bangladeshi dishes produce truly mouth-watering food in an elegant, sophisticated and downright romantic setting and there are lunchtime options, and vegetarian and Halal options. Meanwhile, Thai Corner serves sensuous dishes prepared by authentic Thai chefs and they specialise in vegetarian and reduced-spice dishes at very reasonable prices indeed.

Kid-friendly

There’s a good selection of child-friendly eateries in Reading. Peacock Farm in Bracknell has a great- value menu with tons of variety, including favourites like mini pie and mash, kids’ mezze, chicken and bacon burgers and tomato pasta tubes. There’s also an outside play area which is excellent.

Transport in Reading

Airport

The nearest airport to Reading is London Heathrow Airport (LHR), just 25 miles (40 km) from the city. Enjoy partners with established and reliable car hire providers at LHR like Europcar and Keddy by Europcar. The selection of makes and models at Enjoy is amazing ̶ whatever your preference, you’ll get a great deal when you pre-book online with Enjoy.

Buses and Park & Ride

Reading Buses provide frequent local services and other services are run by First, Arriva South East and Thames Travel.

Reading also has a Park & Ride bus service providing a quick, easy way for visitors and out-of-town shoppers to get to Reading city centre without paying for city-centre parking, which can be expensive.

Reading is a major hub on the National Rail network with strong rail links to London and many other large cities in England and Wales.

Driving

You should always drive on the left-hand side of the road in Reading, as is the case everywhere across the UK. Speed limits are: 70 mph (120 km/h) on motorways, 60 mph (100 km/h) on non-motorway main roads and 30 mph (50 km/h) or 20 mph (40 km/h) if you’re in busy built-up areas, or close to buildings such as schools.

Seatbelts are compulsory for the driver and all passengers, drink driving is strictly illegal, and mobile phone use is prohibited (unless the system is truly hands-free and doesn’t distract the driver).

There’s some stunning countryside around Reading and the lovely Berkshire countryside. Here are a couple of selected road trips from Reading:

Henley-on-Thames is a lovely historic market town just 9 miles (14 km) from Reading. It’s principally known for the Henley Royal Regatta, a rowing event which started in 1839. There are a number of guided walking tours to start your trip, including ghost walks, murder tours, historic building & bridges tours, and even pub tours (which you’ll have to take teetotal unless you have a designated driver) The independent shops here are excellent, as is the number of pubs (once the highest per capita in the south east!)

The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of the most popular tourist spots in all of England, and it’s easy to see why ̶ verdant, rolling grassland hills are peppered with churches, fine stately homes like Blenheim Palace and thatched mediaeval cottages. It’s the third-largest AONB in England at 800 square miles (2100 km2) and covers six of England’s most picturesque counties.

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FAQs about car hire in Reading

Most frequently asked questions about hiring a car in Reading

A mini-size car like a Toyota Aygo costs just £15.59 (€16.68) a day, while a Ford Focus (compact) costs only £16.40 (€18) per day.
You can hire a Toyota Aygo in the off-peak season for just £15.59 (€16.68) a day.
The minimum age for hiring a car in the UK is 21.
Not usually. Excess-free packages are standard with most car hire companies, and car hire typically includes road-side assistance, theft protection and a collision damage waiver.
This is usually fine, provided they hold a valid license and an additional daily fee is paid.
This depends on your plans and the requirements of your party, but a Ford Focus (compact) costs only £16.40 (€18) per day and is spacious enough for a family of five.
Tell your rental firm immediately if you have an accident. In the unlikely event you have a serious accident in Reading, please call 999 immediately for emergency services.