A quintessentially British town on the Thames, Marlow is steeped in history. Set along the river between Windsor and Henley, it forms part of the Chiltern Hills, an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Marlow is one of the oldest towns in Buckinghamshire, dating back to Norman times, and was largely developed during the early 19th century. When the famous suspension bridge was rebuilt in 1832, it quickly became an affluent market town. Today, the streets are lined with listed buildings, quaint cafés and independent shops. During the summer months – the best time to visit – it's buzzing with outdoor events like the Town Regatta, Marlow Carnival and the Swan Upping, a royal ceremony in which cygnets are marked and signed under the protection of The Queen.
Where To Shop
Home Barn is a small family run business specialising in rustic furniture and modern homeware. Housed in a 17th-century barn, it’s a treasure trove for antique pieces that have been carefully restored or reupholstered, including woven rugs, French country furniture and decorative accessories like lampshades and vases. Home Barn might be the only place in the UK where you’ll find reclaimed wooden dining tables – and there’s something for every décor.
You can also find great vintage homeware at Sara Hughes Antiques, which restores pre-loved items in a workshop at the back of the store. At the front, you’ll find other antiques, retro curios, modern furniture and colourful lampshades handmade by Sara. The store also has an extensive collection of Autentico paints in over 100 colours for vintage furniture, plus 18th-century champagne coupes in a range of designs.
The Marlow Bookshop is an award-winning independent store. There are over 30,000 fiction and non-fiction books to browse, as well as gifts and magazines. You could easily spend a couple of hours here sat on one of the chairs with a book in hand.
Susie Watson Designs has one of its biggest showrooms in Marlow. At the end of the high street, the store used to be a home but has been turned into a shop with a tiled country kitchen, bathroom with hand-painted tiles, two double bedrooms, and a fabric room with a consulting area. We love the brand’s hand-carved bedroom furniture which includes beds, side tables, stools and wardrobes upholstered in printed fabrics.
The Biggie Best is an independent seller split into two sections: home accessories and womenswear. In the latter, the brand has a range of linen shirts and dresses, nightwear, cotton tunics and kaftans, and hand-made jewellery. Those looking for an interior update should browse the selection of pretty tablecloths and napkins, crystal glassware, and bedding – we love the brand’s quilted cushion covers and scalloped bedspreads.
Where To Eat & Drink
On arrival in Marlow, if you want to stop for brunch or a takeaway coffee, Café Globe is a lovely family-run spot just a short walk from the station. Expect the likes of eggs benedict, kedgeree and bircher muesli pots, before it switches to a pizza menu for lunch and dinner. If it’s sunny, make a beeline for the outdoor terrace.
Book ahead to secure a table at Tom Kerridge’s flagship restaurant The Hand & Flowers, the only pub in the UK to hold two Michelin stars. Find a spot on the terrace or enjoy cocktails at the bar before moving to the dining room with its period beams and pillars. Pub classics are elevated to new heights with bold flavours and beautiful presentation, and all the food is made with produce from independent butchers, fishmongers and vegetable suppliers. Current menu highlights include duck liver parfait with orange chutney and toasted brioche; chicken, mushroom and pistachio ‘pie’ with girolles, broad beans and sauce vin jaune; fish du jour cooked in lobster oil with dill and artichoke tart; and strawberry and salted biscuit soufflé with crème fraîche ice-cream and strawberry and lemon thyme syrup.
Dating back to 1727, The Two Brewers is Marlow’s oldest pub. It serves hearty classics and Sunday roasts at reasonable prices, and has an extensive wine list to choose from. Sit in the garden or main dining room to enjoy crowd-pleasing dishes like ham and eggs, beer-battered fish and chips, steak and ale pie, and crispy whitebait with lime mayo. For a quick pitstop, order a slice of cake and a hot drink from the café menu.
Tom Kerridge’s The Coach has one Michelin star and feels a little more relaxed than its bigger sister down the road. Headed up by chef Sarah Hayward, the menu is split into three categories: meat, no meat, and sweet. Dishes are starter sized so it’s worth ordering a couple to try plates like deep fried cod with tartare sauce; beetroot with melon, burrata and hazelnuts; and raspberry jam roly-poly with vanilla custard and ice-cream. You can sit at the bar to watch the chefs at work or eat in the main dining room with its leather seats and bottle green tiles.
Kerridge isn’t the only celebrity chef with an award-winning restaurant in town. Sindhu by Atul Kochhar celebrates his Indian heritage and food from his childhood. Named after one of the longest rivers in the world, the restaurant is beside a weir with lovely views across town. Expect modern South Indian dishes like Kerala curry with rice string hopper, tandoor-smoked chicken and kachumber salad, seabass with potato masala, and crispy aubergine with tomato and onion.
Tom Kerridge’s The Butcher’s Tap & Grill is all about quality British meat at an affordable price. Diners choose meat from the butcher’s counter before it’s cooked on an open grill – think 28-day aged grass-fed Aberdeen Angus beef, Suffolk lamb or Blythburgh pork chops. It’s served with a choice of flavoured butter, a sauce (béarnaise, peppercorn or truffle) and salad. Sides include French fries and tomato salad.
The Oarsman specialises in classic British pub food with the occasional Mediterranean or Scottish influence. This stylish spot has nautical influences throughout, including boat parts weaved into the interiors and design. Diners can enjoy small plates and drinks on the terrace or main meals in the spacious dining room. Menu highlights include smoked salmon rillette with cucumber and lemon, courgette and pomegranate salad, and salmon with roasted almond and ‘nduja mayo. With an impressive wine list, there are over 300 bottles to choose from, plus nautical-inspired cocktails.
Where To Walk
For a long walk that stops by cafés and pubs, the Marlow Circular route starts at the station and follows the Thames before heading deeper in the Chiltern Hills. Covering 13 miles, it takes about four hours to complete, passing the river, meadows and old manor houses. Just over halfway round, you can stop off at The Stag & Huntsman in Hambleden for a pub lunch and glass of wine, or head for The Chocolate Café in Henley which serves sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks.
If you’re short on time, visit Marlow Bottom Woods instead, a five-minute drive from the town centre. If you have grandchildren in tow, little ones can swing from ropes in the trees and look out for woodland creatures, while adults appreciate the peace and quiet.
Just a ten-minute walk from the station and just off the high street, Higginson Park is where Tom Kerridge hosts his annual Pub in the Park food festival. Outside of the four-day event in May, the park straddles the Thames – you can sit on a bench by the water and watch the yachts and riverboats pass by. There’s a children’s playground, plus a statue of Olympic rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave.
Where To Visit
Marlow Lock is a weir on the Thames where you can begin a boat trip. Salters Steamers runs private and group trips, while The Little Green Boat Company runs smaller boats from Higginson Park during the summer months. You can also hire rowing boats and motor boats by the hour to explore the surrounding locks.
All Saints Church is a beautiful Grade II-listed building by the suspension bridge. Head inside to see its impressive stained-glass windows and original tiled floor. If you don’t venture in, you’ll be able to spot its spire while walking through the town.
Cliveden House is a 15-minute drive from the centre of town. This grand National Trust property has far-reaching views of the Thames, beautiful landscaped gardens and 376 acres of parkland. Dating back to 1666, the Grade I-listed stately home is now a luxury hotel where you can enjoy afternoon tea and book guided tours of the garden.
Where To Stay
The Hand & Flowers has 15 rooms spread across four cottages. Limousin is the smartest room at Flower Cottage with vaulted ceilings, dressed skylights and a spacious en-suite with a roll-top copper bath. Elsewhere, Rudyard at Sunset Cottage has cosy country interiors with a small living area and an en-suite with a freestanding bath. The best part? Cooked breakfast at the hotel in the morning.
The Chequers is a pub with rooms on Marlow’s high street. Its eight en-suite rooms are full of character and have all the extras you’d expect at a hotel, like fluffy towels and luxury toiletries. Double rooms are light and bright with fun pops of colour, and are complete with modern bathrooms with rainfall showers.
How To Get There
London Marylebone to High Wycombe takes approximately 30 minutes direct by train, followed by a ten-minute taxi. By car, it takes around 1 hour from west London.
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