From the departure base: Hobbs of Henley

For boaters, the historic town of Henley-on-Thames is located at an ideal distance from the main tourist attractions of Oxford and Windsor.

Henley is famous for its annual regattas and music festivals. The thoroughly English market town provides excellent shops and restaurants and is the perfect departure point for a voyage of discovery to unlock the secrets of the Thames. The Thames is a metaphor for the region through which the historic river flows. Whether it’s historic royal residences such as Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace or fantastic theme parks, the Thames has a lot of attractions for the whole family.

The County of Oxfordshire, together with Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, provided the backdrop for the world-famous detective series “Midsomer Murders” featuring the fictional Inspector Barnaby.

If you are sitting in one of the quintessentially English pubs in which scenes from the series were shot, sipping on a whisky, you will feel as if you are Barnaby
 Many picturesque Midsomer locations await your visit during your Linssen cruise on the Thames.

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Boating holidays in the UK From capital to countryside

Boating holidays in the UK From capital to countryside

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Thames boating holidays; through the English shires

Between the historic towns, the picturesque course of the river – which was the source of inspiration for the novels “The Wind in the Willows” and ”Three Men in a Boat” – provides the perfect opportunity to switch off and relax. The famous towns and villages on the Thames – Henley, Sonning, Wallingford, Bray, Marlow and Windsor – hold out the promise of culinary delights in their riverside restaurants.

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Canal boat hire in England River Thames boating holidays

Thames boat hire from Henley onwards

With England’s most famous river running from the Gloucestershire countryside to the estuary and the North Sea beyond, there is arguably no other river more aptly placed to show an outsider the best of both the English countryside and the inner English town than the River Thames. The town of Henley-on-Thames is perfectly situated on the county border of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, giving visitors an authentic taste of the English countryside while still being a stone’s throw away from many larger towns.

Rent a boat on the Thames here, and your route is open to travel northwards towards the countryside and the river’s source or south towards the UK capital. Choosing to secure your canal boat hire in England here will ensure you get a reliable service and a Locaboat affiliated company.

There is arguably no better English location in which to begin a boating holiday of the country than Henley-on-Thames. Famous for its cultured history of boating, the town plays host to the Henley Royal Regatta and numerous other boat-based events.

Before setting out on one of your own River Thames boating holidays, exploring the town itself can be a rewarding way to spend your first day; the town’s attractions include the River and Rowing Museum, telling the story of the town’s link with boating. The epic Victorian Friar Park Mansion is also a fantastic sight to see in the town and gives a taste of the many historical sites that stand along the Thames River.

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Take your River Thames boat hire down into Berkshire

River Thames and canal boating holidays in the UK can go either south-east towards the capital or follow the river north-west and into the countryside. This being said, the direction of the river at first flows south, and it is this here that you will first get a taste of the River Thames,

From Henley-on-Thames, your boating holidays will first move from the town and into the Berkshire countryside. This stretch of countryside lasts only a few miles before entering one of the most significant settlements along this side of the river, the town of Reading. Although you have not long secured your Thames cruiser hire a stop off in the town of Reading is a great way to immerse yourself in the Berkshire area and enjoy the sights and sounds of this English town.

As the Thames runs directly through the northern part of the town, mooring and visiting Reading’s top sights is a simple undertaking. Directly alongside the Thames is View Island, a former dockyard that has been reborn into a beautiful nature reserve. Little finds like this are what make boat hire holidays in the UK all the more worth it.

Head into the town itself and see epic sights such as Reading Abbey. This 11th century Abbey was bequeathed by William the Conqueror’s son Henry I and saw hundreds of years of use until its dissolution during Henry VIII’s reign. Although the abbey was once one of the largest royal monasteries in all Europe, it now stands in elegant ruin.

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Travelling north with your self-drive boat hire

Setting back out from the town of Reading, the River Thames now meanders northwards, out of the suburbs and back into the countryside. The numerous riverside villages that call the Thames’ banks home create the picture-perfect English landscapes, which holidays canal cruising in England are all about. The first of these villages is Pangbourne, which sits a few miles northwest of Reading. The village’s most popular attraction is the riverside Mapledurham Watermill. This 15th-century watermill is the last working corn and grist mill on the River Thames and is a sight of both historic significance and countryside beauty.

Moving on, boaters will take their canal boat hire through the UK’s Berkshire – Oxfordshire county border and to the sight of the Beale Wildlife Park.

Those who are fans of wildlife will enjoy the park’s many attractions. These include small exotic animals such as Carpathian lynxes, meerkats, squirrel monkeys and more. Alongside these exotic animals there collections of birds and farm animals, creating an animal-centric day out for all.

The next major stop on your northerly Thames adventure is the historic market town of Wallingford. At the crossroads of much of England’s history, this now sleepy town is a taste of quintessential England like no other. Although a relatively small town, Wallingford once had fourteen churches and is now home to three ancient ones. As well as visiting these ancient religious buildings, you can also catch sight of the once-grand Wallingford castle that stood upon the town’s hill.

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Barge holidays in the UK, soak up the Oxfordshire landscape

As your River Thames boat hire holiday draws ever closer to the city of Oxford, you will turn on a course that takes you north. Just before arriving at this iconic English city, you pass through the town of Abingdon-on-Thames. Among the town’s more charming attractions is the location of Abingdon Abbey and its remaining Trendell’s Folly. Built during the 7th century, the abbey has remained a key figure in the town’s history and links perfectly to the idyllic English market town that Abingdon is. The town is an ideal rest bite before you boat a few miles north to the county capital of Oxford.

The short journey up to the city of Oxford allows boaters to appreciate the stunning beauty of the Oxfordshire riverbanks.

To alleviate any misunderstandings, it is important to remember that the River Thames is often known as the River Isis in Oxford. This is a play on the river’s ancient name of Tamesis and may often be seen on this part of the river. The iconic city of Oxford is the quintessential English-looking city and quite often the images they have of the country.

From its ancient university campuses, buildings and gardens to the Radcliffe Camera and Oxford Botanical gardens, there is so much to see and do here. For fans of English literature, a visit to the Eagle and Child pub in the city’s centre is a must. Once the drinking hole of authors JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, the pub still has an air of early 20th-century charm that screams Englishness.

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Canal boat hire towards London’s greater edges

Taking Thames river boats east from Henley

Aside from boating westwards towards the shires and streets of Oxford, the Thames route famously flows east towards the UK’s capital, London, and beyond. Before the River Thames flows iconically under Tower Bridge, it flows unrestrained through the counties of Berkshire and Surrey. This course creates a fantastic route for canal barge holidays in the UK and is one filled with must-see stops and unforgettable English attractions. After cutting through the rolling green countryside east of Henley, boaters will arrive at the town of Marlow.

Among Marlows attractions is its famous Marlow Lock. A form of lock was constructed here during the 14th century and has sustained Thames River travel here for hundreds of years. Another iconic stop off in Marlow is the Hand and Flowers Pub, the first gastropub to be awarded two Michelin stars.

With the River Thames bending further south, there are few must-stop locations on this section of the river, before you reach more built-up towns.

The first of these is the historical village of Cookham. Made famous by the artist Stanley Spencer, Cookham is home to the Stanley Spencer Gallery. Other artistic and literary links include the fact Kenneth Grahame was inspired by the Thames at Cookham to write The Wind in the Willows. Once you have soaked in all that Cookham has to offer, it is a small float along the river to Cliveden House. Once owned by the Astor family and many earls, dukes and countesses before them, this is a fine example of a historic English country manor and estate.

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Navigating your Thames barge hire through the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

Passing on from the idyllic countryside villages and manors, you will quickly find yourself cutting through English suburbia once more. This time, the River Thames runs through the eastern edges of the Berkshire market town of Maidenhead. Similar to Reading, Maidenhead is one of the biggest settlements on this stretch of the River Thames and is a great stop-off opportunity to take on board supplies and get a taste of a more established English town. Once you have soaked up the atmosphere of this town, it is time to set off and see some traditional English institutions. The first of these is the famous English town of Eton. The town is most famous for Eton College, the prestigious boarding school that has educated many of the nation’s most successful people.

Aside from the school, the town also has an array of little quaint shops, including antique stores, book shops, and more. Once you have explored this small town, it is a simple walk back over the river to the town of Windsor.

There are few towns more representative of Englishness than the town of Windsor, even the Royal Family have adopted it as their family name. The town’s most famous and iconic structure is Windsor Castle, home to the English Royal Family for just under a thousand years. Although the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II spends most of her free weekends here, it is also open up for visits from the public.

Taking a tour of Windsor Castle means you can see the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Windsor boat hire also allows you to see this monument from the comfort of your boat.

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Boating holidays on the Thames UK ; approaching greater London

Moving on from the Windsor area, you will pass from the Berkshire countryside and into Surrey. The first site to look out for when passing this section of the RIver Thames is the Runnymede Memorials. Runnymede is a famous site in English history, being where the Magna Carta was signed during the early 13th century.

To celebrate this, a memorial designed by famous architect Sir Edward Maufe was erected on this site and creates a quiet and idyllic setting for a riverside walk. Alongside the Magna Carta Memorial, there also a number of other memorials here, including one’s dedicated to the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and another to the 35th president of the USA, JFK.

As you take your UK boat rental further down the Thames, you will edge closer to the town of Staines-upon-Thames. Staines-upon-Thames is one of the last built-up towns before reaching the end of the line. It is also a great place to stretch your legs after a winding boating trip towards the capital. A few miles further south of Staines is the theme park, Thorpe Park. Thorpe Park is one of the country’s most popular theme parks and makes a welcome dose of thrill and excitement to the otherwise relaxed atmosphere of a
weekend boat hire on the Thames.

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Coming to the end of your Thames boat hire holiday

Much like Canal boat hire in France or Shannon cruises in Ireland, you are restricted by certain routes and regulations when travelling the nation’s waterways. This being said, private boat hire on the Thames is restricted up to the town of Kingston-upon-Thames, meaning in the inner city capital is off-limits.

Though you will be unable to travel through London via a canal boat, there are plenty of must-see sights before you enter the capital. Boating from the Thorpe Park area of Surrey, you and your holidaymakers will come past the town of Weybridge. Weybridge is a great stop off for those who are fans of automobiles and transport, being home to the Brooklands Museum and Mercedes-Benz World.

Once you have got your automobile fix, taking your boat further down the Thames will, again, immerse you and your holidaymakers in the world of English history and culture. This history and culture take the form of Hampton Court Palace, one of the nation’s most iconic buildings. Built in the early 16th century for Cardinal Wolsey, the palace soon became the favourite residence of King Henry VIII. Taking a tour of the exquisite Tudor building brings English history to life. The palace garden and maze are also fun additions to the day out and are extra special on a warm summer’s day.

Finally arriving in the town of Kingston upon Thames, your Thames canal boat hire holiday comes to a final end. This town itself is a warming finish to a long journey and is only ten miles from the centre of London.

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Don’t let the lack of water end your English exploration

A short journey from Kingston upon Thames to the capital

While your River Thames canal boat journey can’t continue past its easterly destination of Kingston upon Thames, there is little stopping your holiday continuing into the British capital. With the city of London’s centre only a few miles east of the town, making your way into one of Europe’s most iconic cities couldn’t be easier. Once you are in the big smoke, as it is humorously known, there is no end to must-see sights, many of which are famed on a global level. By using London’s famous transport network, you can easily see many of its iconic landmarks in no time at all.

Top of this list of must-see sights has to be one of the UK’s most famous places, Westminster.

Home to the nation’s political heart, visitors can see the Houses of Parliament, home to the famous Big Ben bell, which really does chime on the hour every hour. A visit to Westminster Abbey will take you down the long road of English history, with an endless list of famous figures buried within the Abbey, including Edward the Confessor, Elizabeth I, Charles Darwin, Isac Newton, Charles Dickins and many more.

As one of the biggest cities in Europe, there is so much to see and do here that one visit alone is simply not enough. Yet, with your Thames holiday ending so close to the city, a chance to visit London should not be overlooked.

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Head a little further west to one of England’s most beautiful regions, the Cotswolds

Boats for hire in the UK may limit your westerly exploration to the city of Oxford, but there is little stopping you from travelling those few extra miles to the Cotswolds by road. The Cotswolds is legally classed as an area of outstanding natural beauty or ANOB. This title perseveres the entire area and keeps it from being altered or damaged by ‘so-called’ modern progress. Home to an array of chocolate-box villages and rolling green hills, the Cotswolds is a picture-perfect image of quintessential England, unchanged by time and industry.

A short journey from Oxford will bring you to this area of stunning beauty and provide endless joy from its many rural walks, country pubs and idyllic villages. By visiting here, London and the meandering Thames in between, you can confidently say you have experienced the very essence of Englishness.

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Why choose Locaboat?

Locaboat Holidays has been the industry specialist for boating holidays and waterways cruises since 1977. Inventor of the PĂ©nichetteÂź, Locaboat is as famous for the friendliness and quality of its customer service as for the comfort and easy handling of its boats. When you rent a boat from Locaboat, you’ll benefit from the advice of local experts who are passionate about boating and will do their utmost to make sure you enjoy a wonderful holiday.

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