THAMES VALLEY – WHY GO?
Postcard-perfect boating towns, grand palaces and famous historic cities – the Thames Valley area that stretches between Reading and Oxford is just over an hour from London and is surrounded by the gorgeous Chiltern countryside linked by the gently meandering River Thames.
MUST SEE, MUST DO
Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire
Famous for its annual summer Royal Regatta, Henley on Thames is the quintessential English boating destination. Stroll a few minutes from the river to reach the historic church and market square, or wander into one of the pubs. Rent a boat, enjoy a pleasure cruise or stay on dry land and see the statues of Olympians Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent at the River and Rowing Museum.
Surrounded by the rolling green Chiltern Hills, historic riverside Marlow is one of the area's prettiest small towns. Visit the lock for views of the pretty church and bridge – look out for rowers practising for the regatta, which has been running since 1855.
Put aside a day to explore this fascinating country estate, which was once the scene of glittering social events when it was home to Waldorf and Nancy Astor. Cliveden became famous in the ‘60s as the place where minister John Profumo met Christine Keeler to embark on a scandalous affair that ruined his political career. Located on the banks of the Thames, Cliveden’s beautiful gardens include colourful plants and a collection of ancient sculptures.
Academia is alive throughout this gorgeous city – rent a bicycle or punt to see the historic sights at a leisurely pace. There’s the Ashmolean Museum stuffed full of art and archaeology, the gothic splendour of the Bodleian Library and the romantic Bridge of Sighs. Christ Church College, with its cathedral, choir and pretty meadow, is one of the most popular sights, as is the deer park at Magdalen College. Just eight miles away is magnificent Blenheim Palace, where Churchill was born.
Windsor Castle has been a royal residence since the time of William the Conqueror. Visitors can visit the palace and see the massive dungeon, majestic St. George’s Chapel and also take a peek inside the royal apartments. Windsor Great Park makes a beautiful setting.
MAKE A DATE
Sunday Times Literary Festival. Favourite authors and up-and-coming writers descend on the academic city for events, workshops and lectures.
Oxford Jazz Festival and Oxford Folk Festival. Music-lovers flock here in April for a range of events at venues around the city.
Marlow International Regatta and Henley’s Women’s Regatta – it’s all nautical but nice in the riverside towns of Henley and Marlow in mid-June.
Henley Regatta Week. Late June/early July sees the famous boat races coming to Henley on Thames, followed closely by the jazz festival.
THAMES VALLEY ROMANCE
Rent a boat and row your loved one to a secluded spot on the riverbank for a romantic picnic – don’t forget the strawberries and champagne!