Chic shops and river hops
Published: 20 Feb 2012 14:25
TUCKED away in leafy south Oxfordshire, beautiful Henley-on-Thames is best known as a base for its regattas and riverside walks.
However, to the seasoned shopper, unique boutiques and stores of great character make this quaint town ideal to visit any day of the week. It is also a perfect place for a weekend break.
While Berkshire towns such as Reading and Bracknell have a myriad of large and small shops with plenty of choice, venturing a bit further afield to Henley offers a sprinkle of something a little more distinctive for shopping, exploring, leisure and culture.
Far away from built-up office blocks and multi-storey car parks, this vibrant town not only provides a bevy of familiar chains such as Monsoon and Laura Ashley, it is also home to the sassy and upmarket shops like The Henley Boutique and Little Nellie's Sweet Shop. Antique stores, vintage bookshops and galleries dotted throughout the town help culture lovers inhale a bit of sophistication too, providing variety within a mid-price range.
All year-round, streets which are decorated with quintessentially British bunting also play host to frequent farmers' and continental markets outside the historic town hall.
In terms of leisure, the River And Rowing Museum hosts a variety of permanent and special exhibitions devoted to Henley and the international sport of rowing.
The fixed Wind In The Willows exhibition is a family favourite, bringing the classic story to life with tales of Mr Toad, Ratty, Badger and Mole.
For a gentle weekend break, a range of plush B&Bs offer a comfy place for visitors to rest their tired toes, while chic hotels such as Hotel Du Vin serve up pure luxury.
Most importantly, hidden cafés and vintage inns allow for shoppers to take a break from the streets and have a coffee or relaxing pub lunch while overlooking the river.
Many towns boast both distinct and rare features, but shopping in Henley gives so much more than the usual high street experience. Going there is a full day trip where visitors can not only hit their favourite shops but can explore new ones, have a stroll by the river and discover a town that is both trendy and olde-worlde.
This historic, cultural gem is synonymous with picturesque and pretty views, which can be seen in the title Henley-on-Thames, Then and Now by John Pilling and Laurence Waters - a photo book available from www.thehistorypress.co.uk which offers some of the most stunning images of Henley and its surrounds.
Just 10 miles from Reading and with reasonably-priced parking, a visit to Henley can put an undeniably unique gloss on the average shopping experience.