While it may be synonymous with the Regatta, it is possible that rowing may not be your thing. While it is hard to escape the river delights, with a little planning having a good time in Henley will rarely hinge on your appreciation of being a coxswain or an understanding of sculling.
1. Live Music
Bigger names might find themselves on the bill at the Henley Festival, but check out the live acts performing at Magoos on Hart Steet. Further afield should give mention to the music nights at the Crooked Billet in Stoke Row and the well-acclaimed Nettlebed Folk Club on Monday nights at the village club.
2. Fine Dining
There is a whole host of dining experiences in Henley ranging from pubs and chain restaurants through to independent establishments and fine dining. Of note has to be the Bull on Bell Street, Giggling Squid and Cau on Hart Street, the Spice Merchant and Villa Marina on Thameside through to the fabulous Shaun Dickens at the Boathouse.
3. Craft Beer and Breweries
Check out the craft beer at Lovibonds Brewery with a range of its own beers ready to be sampled in the tasting room. A little bit further down the road in Hambledon is the Chiltern Valley Winery and Brewery with it vineyard, winery, brewery and liqueur-making facilities with a variety of tour and tasting events available to book. You can also opt for the Breakspear Henley Ale Trail, visiting the 10 Breakspear pubs in the town – The Bell Street Brewery can be viewed from the restaurant in the Bull on Bell Street.
4. Explore independent shops
No visit to Henley should be complete without browsing and shopping in its eclectic range of independent shops, many found on Bell Street, Hart Street, Friday Street and New Street. While you will also find many well-known chains in town, you will also find home interiors, jewellers, antiques, books, toys and teddy bears, boutiques, shoes and accessories, vinyl, cards and gifts. If you are looking for a first edition or other rare books, make time to visit Jonkers on Hart Street.
Search out Dusty Springfield’s grave at St Mary’s Church, or head to the Fair Mile to see Jimmy’s grave: apparently a marmoset belonging to a nursing sister of World War 1, Miss Jekyl. You can view the Porter’s House of George Harrison’s estate just up from the market place. The golden postbox on Hart Street is to honour over 100 Olympic medal-winning rowers that have trained at Leander Club.
6. River and Rowing Museum
Ok, you may not escape the rowing at this museum, and why would you want to, but there is so much more to see including visiting exhibitions, as well as being able to make friends with Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger in the Wind in the Willows exhibition. The excellent Quince Tree now runs the restaurant there, with fabulous food to sample.
The Old Fire Station Gallery on West Street is a hidden gem showcasing local artists; the Lemongrove Gallery on Duke Street showcases contemporary original paintings and limited editions; while British fine art is portrayed at the Bohun Gallery on Reading Road.
8. Take a Walk
Take a stroll along the river past the River and Rowing Museum, through Mill Meadows to Marsh Lock or cross over the bridge and follow the route of the Regatta course on the other side of the river past Leander Club, towards Temple Island above Hambledon Lock.
9. Swiss Farm
A first class experience in camping, caravanning and motor homes, Swiss Farm is right on Henley’s doorstep. The perfect place to stay, it offers a lovely outdoor swimming pool, small children’s play area with delicious cakes, pastries and coffee available from the coffee shop, and coarse fishing on offer!
Ok, I have to mention it, because taking a boat out on the beautiful surroundings on Henley has to be a highlight. Charter a boat or take a cruise from Hobbs of Henley, for a visually stunning experience, and a relaxing and fun way to view the Thames. Alternatively try out canoeing or kayaking from Henley Canoe Hire and spend a lazy hour or two paddling about.