Why You Should Go To... Slough: Things To Do In This Unsung Town

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 19 months ago

Last Updated 09 September 2022

Why You Should Go To... Slough: Things To Do In This Unsung Town

Slough has a bad reputation. So much so that some of its residents want to change its name. We think this is unfair. After all, there are many things to do in Slough — here's why you should visit this unsung British town.

The train station

The best way to reach Slough is by train (no jokes about making a fast getaway back to London, please). Designed in the French Renaissance style, the station's full of quirky history, and a marvel to behold. A plaque inside is dedicated to its architect, John Danks.

This is actually the fifth station on the site. The original one, opened in 1840, holds a significant piece of royal history. It was the first station that Queen Victoria departed from on the railways, travelling to Bishop's Bridge near Paddington.

Be sure to travel down to platform 5 to meet Station Jim. He's been in Slough since 1894 when he was just three months old. He became a canine collector for the Great Western Railway's Widows' and Orphans' Fund. He died about two years later due to ill health, but in that time managed to collect a whopping £40 (roughly £3,720 in today's money).

After his death, money was raised for Station Jim to remain at Slough by way of taxidermy, where he's remained ever since.

Getting to this wonderful station will become far easier for most Londoners by late 2019 when Crossrail comes to town, but even as things are, it's just a 20 minute train journey from Paddington.

Visit Black Park

On the western edge of Slough is the glorious Black Park. It's a popular dog walking spot, and you might even see a few canines swimming in the park's gorgeous lake. There's also an adventure centre with zip lines strung up in the trees (as if visiting Slough wasn't thrilling enough).

The park is adjacent to Pinewood Studios, where hundreds of major movies have been filmed since the 1930s. So whenever said movies need some woodland, they pop along to Black Park. Captain America, Casino Royale, Batman and scores more have shot scenes in Black Park. On our most recent visit, we saw part of the woods blanketed in fake white snow — an odd sight on a balmy July day.

Poetic connection

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now,
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

Lots of people who diss Slough use John Betjeman to back them up. He was a poet laureate for goodness sake — surely he knows what he's talking about and he hated the place. His scathing poem is about the genesis of Slough Trading Estate, lamenting the destruction of the British countryside.

Damning words indeed, so much so that Betjeman probably regretted them. On the centenary of his birth in 2006, his daughter handed the mayor of Slough a book of her father's poems, in it she had written "We love Slough."

The poetic connection doesn't end there. St Giles Church just north of Slough, has another poetic connection. It's where Thomas Gray conceived the incredibly popular Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Visit today and see if you can find that same comfort Gray did, in the mid-eighteenth century.

Slough Trading Estate. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

It's home to Europe's largest trading estate

That's right, the thing that got John Betjeman so riled up in the first place, is great. Here's why, in three iconic words: Thunderbirds are go. The trading estate is where the original series was written and filmed between 1964 and 1966.

For the 50th anniversary of the show, fans raised over £200,000 to create three new episodes in the original style, filmed on the estate. "Knowing that Thunderbirds will return to the Slough Trading Estate — its spiritual home — fills me with pride," the son of creator Gerry Anderson said.

Even if you're not a Thunderbirds fan — which either makes you worryingly young or incredibly heartless — it's hard to argue with the impressive nature of the sprawling estate. More corporations have their headquarters in Slough than Wales and Scotland put together. Admit it, that's an impressive piece of trivia.

Everyone is welcome

Ricky Gervais has had a lot of fun at the expense of Slough through The Office, and he took another pop in his follow up film — David Brent: Life On The Road — with a "loving" song aimed at the town.

There are a few good jabs in there, we particularly enjoy the softly sung "It's equidistant 'tween London and Reading". One statement stands out high above the others: "It doesn't matter where you're from, you want to work then come along." Slough is built upon immigration.

Indeed, Slough is the most ethnically diverse place in Britain outside of London. So much so, it's where David Cameron decided to launch his doomed Remain campaign; ignore the sniggers when he says "It's great to be here in Slough."

With so many different cultures comes a variety of global cuisines. Places might be a little bit no-frills compared to the eateries of nearby Windsor, but they're also much more reasonably priced. Our pick of the bunch is the modest Meghna, a simple but delicious tandoori curry house.

Slough also has the highest percentage of Sikhs in Britain, 10.6% of the population as of 2011. This means heading down on the holy day Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan is a fantastic experience. There's a colourful procession through the town centre as local Sikhs travel between gurdwaras, handing out free food en route.

See the beautiful Herschel Park

The second fine park on our tour. Named after the astronomer and former Slough resident William Herschel — who discovered Uranus — this park is Slough's oldest. On its fringes are Victorian villas, once filled with members of Queen Victoria's court. This included Matthew and Henrietta Ward, the court painters. Another noteworthy resident was George Murray Smith, founder of the Dictionary of National Biography.

Bus station or spaceship? Photo: Chris Guy

See stunning postmodern structures

A regular criticism of Slough is its drab grey concrete architecture, thanks in no small part to the opening credits of The Office. Nowadays styles have changed and Slough’s caught a taste for postmodernism. Take Slough bus station, or as the locals affectionately call it, the space age slug.

There are accusations that the structure favours form over function, as it provides little cover from the rain, but there's more to the design than first meets the eye. It's inspired by former Slough resident William Herschel's discovery of infa-red waves.

The other unmissable building is Slough's library, The Curve. Not only is it great to see a library take such pride of place in the town centre, it also houses the Slough Museum, which features the MYgration Kiosk — ideal for learning more about the diverse culture.

Photo: synx508

Look out for human bollards

We love a good bollard here at Londonist. Our city has many excellent varieties. But Slough might just have them beat with the above masterpiece.

These bollards are outside the primary school Western House Academy and send a message to drivers to slow down because of nearby children.

Photo: Peter Reed

You can follow the Grand Union Canal

London doesn't have a monopoly on the Grand Union Canal; the waterway stretches as far a Birmingham. Along its western journey from the big smoke there's the Slough Arm (only certified geniuses among you can guess where that goes).

If the rail isn't for you, then this is your route into or out of Slough. Walking might take a little while, so how about a speedy cycle along the tow path. Or maybe you live life at a more glacial pace. As per the photo above, the canal is the perfect place to spend your day catching fish.

We know, we know, we're Londonist and Slough isn't in London. Sometimes we like to show you interesting places to go and things to do that are a little further afield. For more things to do near London, take a look at our day trips from London page.