Henley, the international home of rowing, enjoys a scenic setting on a broad and beautiful stretch of the River Thames.
What to see
The River Thames sets the stage for a series of high-profile events that make Henley-on-Thames a popular visitor destination. Henley Royal Regatta kicks off the calendar with five days of top-notch rowing and hospitality in late June and early July.
This is closely followed in July by the Henley Festival of Music and Arts, which attracts some of the world’s most famous entertainers to perform on a floating stage, with food, fireworks, art and sculpture all part of the festivities. Also in July, the Henley Fringe Festival celebrates all things theatre, drama and comedy. In August, Henley hosts the Rewind Festival, bursting with 80s music. Then, 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. Walk from George Harrison’s former residence to Dusty Springfield’s grave in St Mary’s Churchyard. Rowing is woven into the very fabric of Henley-on-Thames, so follow the trail along the River Thames. Bed and breakfast at the prestigious, members-only Leander Rowing Club, the training ground of Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent and other Olympic heroes. Or sample Lovibonds craft beers at the famous Henley Rowing Club, with the bar open to both the general public and members from May 2022.
Follow the story of rowing and the River Thames at the River & Rowing Museum. Special exhibitions include a focus on Kenneth Grahame’s book, The Wind in the Willows – a family favourite – and the Piper Gallery, displaying works by one of Britain’s most prolific artists, John Piper.
There are lots of ways to discover Henley’s unique relationship with the river, but one of the best is to take to the water itself. Hobbs of Henley offer boat hire and public cruises, among other services. Travel the 1 mile 550 yards of the Regatta Course, continuing downstream to the pretty Hambleden Lock.
Looking for refreshments? Henley-based brewer and pub operator, Brakspear, has produced the Henley Ale Trail, which takes you through historic side streets to seek out ancient inns. Or, after a hard day’s boating, pop into the Chocolate Café Henley just down the road from the boat hire.
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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, a gentle trail provides wonderful views of the river as it winds through lush, green meadows.
For cyclists, the Chilterns Cycleway passes through Henley, making it a popular stop-off on long trips, or a great starting point for shorter trips along the 170-mile circular cycle route.
Film and TV locations
Henley-on-Thames has featured in numerous episodes of the popular TV series, Midsomer Murders. Take a walking tour to see the real-life locations of Gabriel Machin’s butcher shop, Tudor House Antiques and The Argyll pub.
Just three miles from Henley lies the pretty Hambleden Valley. Villages of brick-and-flint cottages, medieval churches and old coaching inns, nestled in rolling hills, make this the perfect setting for numerous film and TV productions, including Midsomer Murders.
The idyllic Hambleden Village is in the heart of the valley and has been the backdrop for famous films like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and 101 Dalmatians. Reach it on foot from Henley via the Chilterns Country Thames and Chilterns Walk, which follows the sparkling Hambleden Brook while red kites soar overhead.
Where to stay
Choices in and around Henley-on-Thames include:
To find more places to stay, visit Henley Tourist Information Centre
Heading further afield
Greys Court – 3 miles away
Greys Court. This intimate and picturesque 16th-century mansion lies on a site with 900 years of history to reveal. Tranquil walled gardens and medieval ruins can be found around its grounds.
Stonor Park and Gardens
Stonor Park and Gardens. Home to the Stonor family for more than 850 years, Stonor Park is one of the oldest family homes still lived in today. In the house, discover art and treasures collected from across the globe. In the grounds, visit the café or take a walk or bike ride around the Park’s many paths. Little ones will love Tumblestone Hollow – the Park’s fantastical adventure playground.
Chiltern Valley Winery and Brewery – 6 miles away
Chiltern Valley Winery and Brewery. With vineyards, Luxters Brewery, liqueur-making facilities and a cellar shop, this is a one-stop shop for local produce. Buy online or pop up along to browse, enjoy tours and tastings, and even stay in the farmhouse B&B.
Getting here by train
Great Western Railway run a service to Henley from London Paddington, changing at Twyford. Journey time is less than an hour.
Getting here by road
Henley-on-Thames is 37 miles from London via the M4 or M40, followed by the A404 and A4310.