Thames and town combine to clinch Henley's holiday credentials.
The river sets the stage for a series of high profile events. Henley Royal Regatta kicks off the calendar with five days of top-notch rowing and hospitality in early July. The Henley Festival of Music and Arts and the Henley Fringe Festival of theatre, drama and comedy then follow the Regatta in July. The Festival of Music and Arts attracts some of the world's most famous entertainers to perform on a floating stage in front of a dinner-jacketed audience, with food, fireworks, art and sculpture all part of the festivities. Held in September, Henley’s Literary Festival makes the most of the Thames with on-the-move River Readings of poetry and prose.
Henley's historic centre, with its church, town hall and market square, is just a few strides away from the river frontage, George Harrison's former residence to Dusty Springfield's grave, and stop in at Lovibonds Brewery shop at the rear of 19-21 Market Place to sample and buy local craft beers. Just over Henley Bridge is the Pink Hippo Shop in the Leander Rowing Club, the training ground of Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent and many other Olympic heroes.
What to see in Henley
The River & Rowing Museum – Follows the story of rowing and the River Thames from Olympic heights to the minutiae of life on the river banks. Special exhibitions include The Wind in the Willows exhibition, a family favourite and now open, the Piper Gallery, in which are displayed some of the works of one the Britain's most prolific and popular artists, John Piper.
Hobbs of Henley – Passenger boats cruise the 1 mile 550 yards of the Regatta Course from its finishing point by the bridge in the town centre to the starting point at Temple Island, continuing downstream to turn at pretty Hambleden Lock. Rowing boats and launches can also be hired from Hobbs of Henley's boathouse in Station Road. The Henley Tea Rooms, just yards from the boathouse, will make up a picnic.
The Kenton Theatre – One of the oldest performing theatres in the country.
Henley-based brewer and pub operator Brakspear has produced a Henley Ale Trail featuring 10 pubs in the town centre, taking you down the historic side streets to seek out those ancient inns. There is another Country Ale Trail in the area north of Henley to encourage walkers and cyclists to explore the beautiful Hambleden Valley area which includes some really lovely, off the beaten track pubs.
Into the countryside
The Thames Path National Trail runs through Henley, tempting walkers of all abilities out into beautiful countryside. Heading downstream from Henley, the Path follows the Regatta course to Hambleden Lock with refreshment at The Flower Pot at Aston. Heading upstream, there are wonderful views of the river as it winds through green meadows on a gentle 2½ mile walk along the Thames Path from Henley to Lower Shiplake.
The Chilterns Cycleway also passes through Henley, making this a popular stop-off for cyclists.
Hambleden – 3 miles from Henley in the beautiful Hamble Valley. This pretty village of brick and flint cottages, medieval church and Stag & Huntsman inn has provided the location for numerous period film and TV productions. Reach it on foot from Henley via the Chilterns Country Thames and Chilterns Walk, following the Hambleden Brook with red kites soaring overhead.
Chiltern Valley Winery and Brewery – 5 miles from Henley. Award-winning wines, ales and liqueurs are produced here on the Chiltern slopes, high above the Hamble Valley. The Duke of Edinburgh’s patronage of the microbrewery has earned a Royal Warrant. There are tastings, tours of the vineyard and brewery and a shop.
Greys Court, National Trust – 5 miles from Henley: an intimate and picturesque 16th-century mansion, with homely living rooms. Tranquil gardens include a series of walled gardens and medieval ruins such as the Tudor donkey wheel used to draw water for the house.
Home to the Stonor family for over 850 years, Stonor Park is one of the oldest family homes still lived in today - but it’s no museum. As the oldest member of the Stonor family, the house has a thousand stories to tell. As well as being architecturally fascinating each room contains a lifetime of experience and anecdote. Discover art and treasures collected from across the globe and view historic maps and documents that reveal generations of service to the country.