It’s nice to know that since we moved to the UK, we can’t only discover a very cool city like London, but also the beautiful surroundings of England itself. Definitely now we are in possession of a car, we finally can explore the wide countryside and it’s historic places. London is fantastic, don’t get me wrong. And there are also wonderful parks and neighborhoods, where you can have a walk and relax. But a visit to the countryside at it’s time gives a different kind of experience. Earlier we visited historic Oxford, which also gave us a lovely ride along hills, forests and meadows. This time we decided to stay a bit closer to London and left towards Henley-on-Thames.
This beautiful town, located along the Thames in the area of South Oxfordshire, is about a one hour drive from West London. Henley-on-Thames has a great history in the field of rowing. For example the oldest rowing club in the world, the Leander Club, comes from this place. And the world’s most important rowing competitions, such as the Henley Royal Regatta, are organized here. When this yearly event takes place in the summer, the whole town is taken part of it.
After a beautiful drive through the beautiful Chiltern landscape, we decided to first visit Chiltern Valley Winery and Brewery, which is a bit outside the city. Next to a vineyard you will find an Luxters and liquor brewery, a delicates store and a bed and breakfast. This wine estate lies on top of the hills of Chiltern and can only be reached via a narrow road where you would rather not encounter oncoming traffic. But once you are above, it gives you a beautiful view of the Hambleden valley.
Unfortunately we couldn’t see the vineyard itself, because this is only accessible when you have registered for one of the tours. But fortunately we did have access to the courtyard and its surrounding buildings. In the cellar shop we were friendly assisted and we could even participate in a short tasting of some English wines. Our opinion: special taste, but not superior to the wine we mostly drink from the more southern countries. Nevertheless, we bought some wine and home brewed beer and went back to the car to continue our ride.
Before we entered Henley-on-Thames we passed several campsites, hiking trails and the Henley Greenlands where the Henley Business School is located. It’s the oldest management school in the United Kingdom. We got the advise to park at the parking lot behind the Waitrose supermarket, but keep in mind that you are likely drive at least 10 times around before you can find a place. At least that happened to us. And it wasn’t even summer yet. Luckily, Henley-on-Thames has several parking spaces, so we found a better spot just a few blocks away, which was also free.
After a short walk to the city center, which is a stone’s throw away from the River Thames, we find many Georgian facades with old buildings in the main street. Between the 300 buildings in the city that are designated of particular architectural or historical interest, you will find, among other things, the St. Mary’s Church, the town hall, the marketplace and the 18th-century stone bridge.
At lunchtime, somewhere between 12 to 16pm on Sundays, it’s time for a Sunday Roast. We look for a pleasant pub, and find The Bull on Bell Street, a recently renovated pub, including a beer garden where you can sit in the summer. In the back of the pub you will even find a small brewery behind a big glass wall. We ordered a home brewed beer and a Sunday roast and decided that this roast could now be in our top 3 of best Roasts. But it can change every week.
Time to explore the rest of the city. Henley-on-Thames is a city which is really dedicated for enjoying the river, so we decide to explore the riverside where you can have a lovely walk along the river by following the Thames Path. The environment is beautiful and only gets better with the radiant sun. I can imagine that the adjacent park Mill Meadows, will be the perfect place during summer for a picnic while the boats sail by. If you prefer to go on the water yourself, you can hire a boat or sail with one of the many tour boats.
The Thames Path is a National Trail following the River Thames from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton, south east London. The entire length can be walked, and some parts can be cycled. Earlier we walked the Thames Path in Chiswick and Richmond, this time we followed a part of that same path in Henely-on-Thames. It was cold and the wind along the water felt icy. But the view offered a beautiful, sun-drenched landscape with in the background only the sound of some birds. Very restful.
Henley-on-Thames is a historic city and definitely worth a visit the whole year. I can imagine that it is crowded during the summer, especially when many events take place. But even outside the festivals this town offers more than enough to view and undertake. We will certainly return here more often, hopefully in July when the Royal Henry Regatta takes place. That will surely be a great experience.
Would you like to know more about this riverside town and plan your visit in advance? Then please take a look at the extensive website of Henley-on-Thames.