A Winter Weekend in Marlow
A Winter Weekend in Marlow
An insider’s Guide
Marlow Bridge in the Winter
Marlow sits on a loop of the Thames on the Buckinghamshire/Berkshire border between Henley and Cookham. From Winter Hill you can easily see the iconic spire of All Saints church, and driving in over the magnificent Georgian bridge from Bisham leads you straight into the heart of this charming, charismatic and vibrant town. As a lucky local, I often visit Marlow, sometimes just for breakfast, or to browse the chic independent boutiques, or just to relax and eat ice-cream by the river in summer.
This little town has heaps of personality, and every season brings something different to love.
Lots of riverside towns are wonderful to explore in the heady days of spring and summer, but winter brings its own delights, and cold, crisp days are perfect for exploring what Marlow has to offer, from cosy log fires to invigorating walks along the river.
Marlow from Winter Hill
So, I’ve put together ideas for a weekend stuffed with things to do, places to eat and sights to see - all within walking distance.
It’s Friday, and you’ve arrived in Marlow!
Whether you’re on a romantic break or with your friends, you can’t go wrong staying at the stunningly gorgeous Bisham Abbey which sits on the other side of the riverbank, parts of which date back to 1260! It’s a perfect base for a special weekend. Old stone fireplaces, a majestic Great Hall, picturesque lawns and luxurious rooms make this an unforgettable place. And just to add a mysterious twist, Bisham Abbey is said to have its very own ghost.
We don’t really believe in ghosts - do we?
Watch out for those mysterious mists rolling along the Thames in the pearly light of a winter’s morning, and look out for the Tudor lady who is said to be seen riding a ghostly horse across the lawns at dusk…
If you’d like to be a bit closer to the town, then book in at the dog-friendly Compleat Angler and you’ll just have to stroll over the bridge into the town. You’ll be close to the dramatic Marlow Weir, and from the terrace looking over the sweep of the lawn you will see one of one of the nicest stretches of river.
When I visit Marlow, the place I love to go for dinner has to be The Ivy Marlow Garden. This is a really beautiful place to relax with friends or enjoy a romantic evening - I love the glamour of the art-deco interior, the ‘show-stopping’ onyx bar and the ornamental banquettes. It’s a glorious, vibrant, luxurious and fun environment with top-class food and great service. I can also recommend trying out the incredible cocktail menu or just go all-out vintage with a classic martini. (This is my favourite…or you can really take the plunge and it’s a daring dirty martini with blue cheese olives. Try it…)
If you’re with a group of friends ask for table 11 - a lovely round table in the corner, with heavenly cushions on the seats and a great view of the rest of the restaurant! When I’m with friends, it’s our favourite spot for people-watching…
The Ivy Marlow Garden has a relaxed, smart-casual dress code - I’ve got a lovely light knitted green dress that I’ve had for ages, and now would be a great time to pop on the Sennowe champagne croc belt and style with the new Champagne croc leather Finsbury. A girl can dream… A fab restaurant needs a fab outfit!
Good morning! It’s Saturday - and shopping!
But first, of course, is breakfast.
The best breakfast in Marlow has to be Tom Kerridge’s The Coach in West Street - just a stone’s throw from the Fairfax & Favor store.
I hugely recommend it for great food as well as all the fun and theatre of an open kitchen - so you even can chat with the chefs as they whip up your omelettes in front of your eyes. The pub has a Michelin star, and you’ll see why! Breakfast is until 10.30 at the weekends and - oh my gosh - the waffle with truffle honey is just glorious. They describe the food as ‘modern British with a contemporary twist’. I just say it is delicious and unmissable. You don’t need to book for breakfast - just walk in! Your Saturday will be off to a great start.
My top pick for shopping has to be a tote bag, and the Windsor tote does the job perfectly. I even have a cute little Navy croc hand mirror inside for a fun accessory - well, you never know! I absolutely love the high shine navy range and this bag is my go-to favourite. It would look stunning with the Frances trench (which is next on my wish list…) If you’re planning on doing a bit of sightseeing, then the classic Regina is great for comfort and style. These boots are one of my first-ever purchases from Fairfax & Favor, and I love them still!
OK so down to the shopping! Marlow has more than its fair share of fab independent boutiques, full of individual pieces just waiting to be found. Wander down the High Street and go through the archway to Liston Court, the cutest little shopping centre that’s a charming jumble of craft shops and tea rooms – look out for The Mixing Jug, a new coffee and juice bar if you fancy a pit stop. There’s even a bridal boutique if you’re on the hunt for something really special…
There’s so much to choose from in Marlow that I don’t think I could list my favourite shops, so take your time and enjoy the experience! Of course, a real must is the new Fairfax & Favor store in Market Square, just around the corner from the top of the High Street.
On your way back down to the bridge, break up your afternoon with a visit to Burger’s artisan bakery and tea shop which is just opposite the entrance to Higginson Park. It’s been there for 70 years, and everything is freshly baked on the premises every day. Their Swiss continental pastries are my personal favourite!
There are plenty of choices for dinner in Marlow. If like me you love Indian food, back at the Compleat Angler you can enjoy a Michelin star feast at Sindhu by Atul Kochhar, or if it’s a really special occasion you could go all-out for two stars at The Hand and Flowers (another Tom Kerridge pub). I also recommend The Botanist on the High Street. It’s a gastro-pub vibe with a wonderful atmosphere, striking decor and delicious food.
The Hand & Flowers
It’s Sunday already - time for some exercise ‘Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide’
You’ve got plenty of options, but I love a walk by the Thames on a winter Sunday, especially on a quiet morning when the sun gradually lifts the river mists. The Thames Path National Trail runs through Marlow, so shake off the cobwebs with a stroll to Cookham Village. Look for the signage to the path in All Saints churchyard beside the bridge. The path will guide you through St Peter Street to Marlow Lock. If you stop here and look back, you will be able to take glorious pictures of the weir and the bridge.
Marlow Lock & Weir
The walk to Cookham is 5.5 miles - long enough to work up a bit of an appetite. You’ll pass Bourne End Marina, and for sure there’ll be rowing teams from Cookham and Marlow out practising. The path continues over the rail bridge and through meadows (dogs on a lead here) to Cookham Village which has SIX pubs, and they’re all dog friendly. The Bel and the Dragon is one of the oldest coaching inns in England - mind your head on the beams! If you’re lucky you can bag a seat by the huge fire.
If you don’t fancy a walk back, and you check out the timetable, you can get a ride back on the train (known by locals as the Marlow Donkey) which takes 16 minutes. This little branch line starts at Cookham and ends in Marlow - so you can’t miss it!
If you just fancy a short walk, start at Higginson Park (check out Steve Redgrave’s statue) and turn right, you can stroll to Hurley which is just 2 miles. You’ll pass Hurley Lock – but sadly no tea shop in the winter! Hurley itself is a beautiful little village and is well worth the effort.
For long walks, I absolutely swear by my trusty Boudica boots. I’ve had them for years, and to say I adore them is an understatement. However, I loved the look of the Anglesey combat boots so much that I splashed out on a pair a few weeks ago. They are perfect! I wear them with a gilet, and a chunky jumper I found in a charity shop in Marlow. (I also couldn’t resist Fairfax & Favor’s hip flask for a cheeky pick-me-up on my walk…it fits nicely in the Fitzwilliam bag along with a little tin of dog treats (and the poo bags of course.)
That’s what I call a great weekend! We hope you enjoy exploring Marlow. Time your visit to see the Christmas lights for an extra special treat and for that festive cheer.