London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

Day Trips From London - Henley-on-Thames

26/05/2002, By Michael Tebbutt

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 24903 votes

For many Henley conjures up romantic visions of lazy afternoons on the river, Pimms taken in the shade of some convenient tree, straw hats (or aptly-named ‘boaters’) and swans displaying an overt interest in your hamper of delicacies.

It is all these things and much more besides. Described as the jewel in Oxfordshire’s crown, John Betjeman predictably had something to say about it::

In mud and elder-scented shade
A reach away the breach is made
By dive and shout
That circles out
To Henley tower and town
And “Boats for hire” the rafters ring
And pink on white the roses cling
And red the bright geraniums swing
In baskets dangling down

Every July since 1839 the Royal Regatta has been held, it is now a major international sporting event, but still essentially a large, overgrown Edwardian garden party staged over a straight mile of the River Thames.

At other times of the year Henley retains all the old-world charm for which it has become noted. There is a crowded social and sporting programme the year round. William Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons from 1629-1640 lived here. The Red Lion, an old coaching inn, played host to Charles I, (to whose death warrant Lenthall was a co-signatory), Boswell and George III.

In 1998 HM The Queen opened The River and Rowing Museum, a state-of-the-art presentation consisting of three galleries and supporting services. The Rowing Gallery concentrates on the quest for speed by means of the humble oar. The River Gallery tells the story of the River Thames from the small spring that is its source to its final joining with the sea 211 miles downstream.

The Henley Gallery presents the history of the town, originally a shipping port for transport of local produce and materials to the rapidly growing London. Even this is placed in perspective by the 250,000 year-old axe head found on a local farm in 1976.

Brakspear’s Brewery Tour offers a taste of England’s brewing heritage and the Bohun and Century Galleries offer changing displays of art. Nearby are Cliveden, formerly an Astor family home now a luxury hotel, and Stonor House and Park, home of Lord and Lady Camoys. Greys Court is a scenic three-mile stroll along to river bank.

The journey by Thames Link trains from Paddington is just over the hour and ticket holders qualify for concessions at the River and Rowing Museum, Greys Court and river boat trips run by Salters. Contact for full details.

The town is rich in specialist shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs. A day in this delightful town will pass all too quickly.

Link to Trips out of London:

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