The High Street is on a pre-Roman route known by its Saxon name, Akeman Street. The earliest written reference to Berkhamsted was in 970. The settlement was recorded as an ancient borough in the Domesday Book in 1086. The most notable event in the town's history occurred in December 1066. After William the Conqueror defeated King Harold's Anglo-Saxon army at the Battle of Hastings, the Anglo-Saxon leadership surrendered to the Norman encampment at Berkhamsted. The event was recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. From 1066 to 1495, Berkhamsted Castle was a favoured residence of royalty and notable historical figures, including Henry II, Edward, the Black Prince, Thomas Becket and Geoffrey Chaucer. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the town was a wool trading town, with a thriving local market. The oldest known extant jettied timber-framed building in Great Britain, built between 1277 and 1297, survives as a shop on the town's high street.
After the castle was abandoned in 1495, the town went into decline, losing its borough status in the second half of the 17th century. Modern Berkhamsted began to expand after the canal and the railway were built in the 19th century. In the 21st century, Berkhamsted has evolved into an affluent commuter town.
Trains from London Euston station to Milton Keynes stop at Berkhamsted, and run every 15 minutes. Journey time from London is usually 30–40 minutes. Less frequent trains run directly to Northampton, Birmingham and Croydon via Shepherd's Bush.
Arriva run a frequent bus (the 500) between Watford and Aylesbury via Berkhamsted. There are also other buses going to local towns around the area.
Berkhamsted is a popular stopping-off point on the Chilterns Cycleway and is about 30 minutes' ride from the Hemel Hempstead end of the National Cycle Route 57 (the Nickey Line).
The Grand Union Canal runs through the centre of the town and there are a number of moorings for narrowboats close to all the local amenities.
Most sights in the town are within walking distance. Local bus service and rail information is available from the Hertfordshire Intalink transport information service - tel, 0300 123 4050.
Choice Cars taxi office is next to the railway station ☏.
- 1 Berkhamsted Castle (next to the railway station). open daily, shuts at dusk. The stone motte-and-bailey ruins seen today date from around 1155, although the castle was established as a stronghold by William the Conqueror in 1066. The castle has been home to Thomas Becket, Edward, the Black Prince and Geoffrey Chaucer. The castle today is managed by English Heritage. entry is free.
- 2 The Grand Junction Canal. (1805) offers pleasant walks along the tow-path with canal-side pubs, wildfowl and many interesting barges, many of which are boat houses. Orientation plaques along the canal tow-path provide historical information and describe points of interest along the way.
- 3 St Peter's Great Berkhamsted (on the high street in the town centre). open daily. The 13th-century parish church. The interior, which has undergone restoration in the 19th century, contains many historical features and decorations such as tombs and memorials spanning 700 years, some 14th-century stained glass, and a number of 16-century brass memorials.
- 4 Rex Cinema (at the southern end of the High Street). Matinee & evening screenings. a fine Art Deco picture house. It was designed by the architect David Evelyn Nye and opened in 1938, and features a luxurious, decorated interior. It has been restored and re-opened and offers a wide programme of movie shows. The entrance is at the side of the building, the former foyer and dining room having been converted into a bar and restaurant.
- 5 Bridgewater Monument, Café & Visitor Centre, near Ringshall, Ashridge Estate. Neoclassical stone monument built in 1832 in memory of the third Duke of Bridgewater who built the Bridgewater Canal and once lived in Ashridge House. Climb 172 steps to the top for stunning views across the landscape. The popular outdoor café offers an excellent range of breakfasts, lunches and home-baked cakes. Dogs & cycles welcome, extensive free parking. National Trust shop sells an excellent range of gifts, books, maps and local produce. Opening hours vary seasonally. £2.50 (£1.00 child, NT members free).
- 6 Ashridge House, Ashridge, HP4 1NS (from Berkhamsted High Street, turn up Ravens Lane and continue up the hill until a 3-way fork in the road; take the left fork and drive 10 minutes through dense woodland), ☏ . Specific days only. A fine example of early Victorian Gothic Revival by the architect James Wyattville. The stately home is now in use as a management college and is not normally open to the public except on special days, listed on their website.
- 7 Pitstone Windmill, Ivinghoe, Leighton Buzzard LU7 9ER. Only open bank holidays in summer. A restored, fully-working 17th-century windmill owned by the National Trust. Limited opening days, but offers beautiful landmark on a rural public footpath £2.50; £1.00 children; NT members free.
Berkhamsted Town Council offer information about historical walks around the town and a guide leaflet can be downloaded from the Council website. The Berkhamsted Local History and Museum Society have a regular programme of visits to places of historical significance in and around the town.
Many properties in Berkhamsted participate in the annual Heritage Open Days in mid-September, operated by English Heritage, which allow visitors to enter historical buildings not normally open to the public.
Berkhamsted has an active arts scene and there are many musical concerts and theatrical performances around the town. Posters and leaflets are displayed on the noticeboard on the High Street and in the parish church. The Berkhamsted Trust also provides a regular Arts Diary for up-to-date listings.
The Chilterns Cycleway is a circular cycle route which runs through parts of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. It passes through Berkhamsted along the Grand Junction canal and is popular for cycle touring. An official map and guide book can be ordered from the Chiltern Society.
- Graham Greene International Festival, Held at various locations around the town. annual event. The writer Graham Greene, author of books such as Brighton Rock and The Third Man, was born in Berkhamsted in 1904. The Graham Greene Birthplace Trust organises a four-day Graham Greene International Festival in Berkhamsted every year. It consists of a series of lectures, films, discussions and social events centred on the life and works of the author.
There are a number of country walks outside Berkhamsted. Maps of local walks can be ordered from the Chiltern Society (map #17 - Chesham and Berkhamsted), and Berkhamsted is crossed by the Chilterns Cycleway. Of particular interest is the extensive Ashridge Estate woodland, a National trust property (free entry).
Shopping in Berkhamsted is predominantly ladies' fashions, although there are a couple of small gift shops and popular antique shops. Other than these, the High Street is mostly given over to nail bars, hairdressers, beauty salons and estate agents. A market is held every Wednesday and Saturday on the High Street which offers local food produce.
- 1 The Complete Outdoors, Bourne End Ln, Bourne End, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire HP1 2RS (5 minutes' drive south along the A4251 towards Hemel; 5 minutes' walk from canal/Winkwell locks), ☏ . Extensive range of outdoor equipment, clothing & maps, including hiking, camping & mountaineering.
- 2 Heritage Antiques, 24 Castle St, Berkhamsted HP4 2DW. Daily 9AM-5PM. A large range of reasonably priced antiques, bric-a-brac and garden statues in a rambling set of intriguing rooms and outhouses
- 3 Home & Colonial Antiques, 134 High St, Berkhamsted HP4 3AT, ☏ . Daily 9:30AM-5PM. A large, popular antiques centre on four floors with a large range of furniture, vintage clothing, homewares and home decorations. Higher prices ranges in general; specialises in antique clocks and designer furnishings. Café on top floor, antiquarian books in basement.
- 4 Lovelo Cycle Works, Unit 7 Dwight's Yard, 167 High Street, Berkhamsted HP4 3HB (in a yard behind the High Street, enter via the passageway next to Bill's restaurant), ☏ . Independent cycle shop, sells a large range of cycling accessories & clothing and offers a bike repair service.
- 5 Number Twenty, 20 Lower Kings Rd, Berkhamsted HP4 2AB. M-F 9AM-5PM, Su 11AM-4PM. Attractive boutique gift shop selling greetings cards, candles, ornaments and designer homewares
- 6 Oxfam Books & Music, 232 High St, Berkhamsted HP4 1AG, ☏ . Extensive range of antiquarian books, old maps and vinyl records, good for local history books, and classical & vintage rock records.
- 7 Waterstones, 168 High Street, Berkhamsted. Book shop holding a range of local guides & maps as well as fiction and non-fiction titles.
- 8 [dead link] Frithsden Vineyard, Frithsden, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire HP1 3DD (from Berkhamsted High St, turn up Ravens Lane and continue straight up the hill on Nettleden Road; watch out for the sign to Frithsden on a bend in the road; turn left and then turn right after the pub up a small lane), ☏ . W-Su 11AM-5PM. An independent English vineyard and winery. Three artisan wine varieties are grown, pressed and bottled on-site and sold in the small vineyard shop, which also sells gifts & local food produce. Opening hours can vary, but owners are happy to open up the shop if you phone ahead. Special tasting and food events are held throughout the year.
- 1 Martins Pond, The Green, Potten End, HP4 2QQ, ☏ . Daily noon-2:30PM then 6-9PM. Family-run freehouse serving fresh pub food.
- 2 The Old Mill, London Road, HP4 2NB (Located at south-east end of town beyond the Rex on the road to Hemel), ☏ . Former Victorian mill building refurbished and converted into comfortable bar-restaurant. Wide ranging gastro-pub menu with many organic items and a large British tapas-style starter menu. The beer garden includes a pleasant seating area next to the waterfall where the old water wheel once turned.
- 3 Carluccio's, 96 High Street, HP4 3BA (In the old Town Hall on the High Street), ☏ . M-Sa 8AM-11PM; Su 9AM-10:30PM. Contemporary Italian cuisine; open for breakfast lunch and dinner; includes Italian delicatessen shop. £30-50 a head.
- 4 The Highwayman, 262 High Street, HP4 1AQ (approaching from the railway station, turn right along the High Street), ☏ . Daily 8:30AM-11PM. Popular bar & restaurant serving British pub food & French dishes £40/ppn.
- 5 Thai Cottage, 149 High Street, HP4 3HH (on the main High Street opposite Tesco), ☏ . Authentic and varied Thai menu, hugely popular with locals
- 6 Kings Arms, 147 High Street, HP4 3HL, ☏ . Daily 9AM-midnight (1AM at weekends). Refurbished local pub with modern gastro-pub menu in historic 18th-century building. Real Ales, fine wines, wood-fired pizzas. Large log fire in bar area. £40/ppn.
- 7 The Alford Arms, Frithsden, Hertfordshire HP1 3DD (from Berkhamsted High St, turn up Ravens Lane and continue straight up the hill on Nettleden Road; watch out for the sign to Frithsden on a bend in the road; turn left up the lane, pub car park immediately on right), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su noon-10:30PM. Popular restaurant & gastro-pub hidden up a country lane. Serves real ales & fine wines, lunch & dinner sittings offer British & European cuisine. Booking essential.
- 1 The Rising Sun, No1, Canalside, George Street, HP4 2EG (30 seconds walk east along the canal towpath from the Ravens Lane bridge), ☏ . M-W noon-11PM; Th 3PM-midnight, F Sa noon-midnight, Su noon-11PM. Quiet canalside pub specialising in large selection of traditional real ales, traditional ciders, malt whiskies, port, Belgian beers etc. Beer garden and seating by canal lock. Friendly and knowledgeable staff.
- 2 The Gatsby, 97 High Street, HP4 2DG (South end of the high street under the Rex Cinema), ☏ . M-Th 10:30AM-11PM, F Sa 10:30AM-12:30PM, Su noon-10:30PM. Stylish cocktail bar and restaurant in the former dining rooms of the Rex Cinema. Diners sit in opulent 1938 art deco interiors.
- Kings Arms Hotel, 147 High Street, HP4 3HL, ☏ . Daily 9AM-midnight (1AM at weekends). Refurbished local pub in historic 18th-century building. Real ales, fine wines. Large log fire in bar area. Also extensive restaurant. £40/ppn.
- 1 The Pennyfarthing Hotel, 296-298 High St, ☏ .
- 2 Town Farm Campsite, Town Farm, Ivinghoe, Leighton Buzzard LU7 9EL (on the B489 road near Ivinghoe, on the far side of the Ashridges Estate), ☏ (mobile). Rural camping on a working, family-run farm at the foot of the Chiltern Hills with stunning views over the Vale of Aylesbury and Ivinghoe Beacon. In summer, visitors can pick their own fruit and vegetables. tent £10 per person per night; caravans £20 per night.
- 3 Norcott Campsite (Camping In The Orchard), Dudswell lane, Berkhamsted HP4 1LE (drive along High Street towards Tring; about 600 metres after Northchurch, bear right onto Dudswell Lane, cross the canal and the camping is 2nd on the left), ☏ (mobile). A small campsite set in an orchard, close to the Grand Junction Canal and a 20-minute walk from Berkhamsted. £5 per person per night.
A number of local restaurants and cafés offer free wi-fi to customers; enquire with staff for details. Mobile phone signals are generally good but can vary in quality, depending on network.
Berkhamsted Library on King's Road offers computer internet access.
- Tring, noted for the Natural History Museum
- Bletchley, noted for the National Computing Museum and Bletchley Park Museum
- Hemel Hempstead
|Routes through Berkhamsted|
|Aylesbury ← Tring ←||NW SE||→ Hemel Hempstead → Watford|