In 2017 Bracknell became the first post-war New Town to be redeveloped into a cutting edge, vibrant 21st century centre for shopping and leisure – The Lexicon is the stunning destination at the heart of a project which has made Bracknell one of the most interesting and modern places to visit in the Thames Valley. And with the perfect pines of Swinley Forest to the south and the excitement of Ascot racecourse just 10 minutes away, it’s a thriving base to explore this fascinating part of Berkshire.
A transformed Bracknell station is right at the heart of the town, the railway being the reason for the New Town’s location in the first place. You can easily buy rail tickets from the late-opening ticket office if you want to go further afield, there’s a handy taxi rank right outside, and the bus station is just a minute’s walk away – book a convenient PlusBus pass for onward travel. On top of that, there are 50 spaces for bikes and 200 car parking spaces.
The Lexicon is all set to become Bracknell’s biggest pull, with a host of new restaurants, shops and a 12-screen cinema in jaw-dropping surroundings giving the town a real sense of renewal. Outside the centre, though, there’s plenty to keep the kids happy. Like the rest of Bracknell, Coral Reef Water World is also undergoing a multimillion-pound transformation, with state-of-the-art water flume rides – “from the serene to the extreme” – as well as refurbished pool and sauna areas.
Slightly drier but no less thrilling is Go Ape Bracknell, the tree-top adventure centre with zip-wires, Tarzan swings and rope ladders to excite the whole family, plus a Forest Segway ride for the more sedate. Kids’ grey matter can also get a workout at the Look Out Discovery Centre next door, a hands-on science park packed with fun activities.
Both Go Ape and Look Out are in Swinley Forest, Bracknell’s beautiful green lung owned by the Crown Estate. Take a leisurely stroll through the pines that were famously a location for Harry Potter, or ride a mountain bike – the trails here are among the best in the south of England.
Bracknell locals, meanwhile, are rightly proud of South Hill Park, an 18th century mansion house in Bracknell boasting 2 theatres, a dance studio, creative spaces and a cinema. Check their website regularly for their amazing programme of events and festivals.
The Lexicon has changed everything for Bracknell. Even the adjacent Princess Square shopping centre, with its own range of high street stores, has been refurbished and remodelled in preparation, but The Lexicon’s impressive mix of clothes shops, jewellers, cosmetics outlets and department stores should make the Berkshire town a real retail destination.
Bracknell is just 15 minutes away from Sir Michael Parkinson’s famous Michelin-starred gastropub in Paley Street, The Royal Oak. Championing simple British produce and dishes, it’s a must – and must-book – if you’re in the area. The Cricketers is slightly closer, a country pub just north of Bracknell with wonderfully rustic dining rooms and accomplished food. And in Bracknell itself, The Lexicon will undoubtedly improve the town’s food offer, with the new Eagle Lane offering al fresco dining from the likes of Carluccio’s, Bill’s and Zizzi.
Want to be right at the heart of the new Bracknell? The Grange is a welcoming 4-star hotel just a short walk from the station and also offers Legoland deals – the theme park is less than 20 minutes away. An easy 6 minute cab ride away is the comfortable Hilton Bracknell, boasting a swimming pool, health and beauty room and restaurant. The same hotel chain also run St Anne’s Manor, a relaxing country house retreat in 25 acres of grounds and yet still only 7 minutes from the station.