10 Places Outside of London to visit on the River Thames

Hotel barge Magna Carta cruising on the River Thames behind Cliveden House

What do you think of when you hear ‘Britain’? Some of the top things on your list might be royalty, stately homes, London, and the River Thames. It’s fair to say that these features are the main visitor attractions in the UK, and that a vacation in England wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one or two of these places.

A cruise along the Thames River will take you to many of these attractions. With some of the most iconic locations based outside of London, a Thames River sightseeing cruise can reveal some off-the-beaten track gems. Think, grand palaces, castles, and universities with many years of history, just waiting to be discovered.

Here’s our pick of 10 Places outside of London to visit on a River Thames cruise.

1. Windsor

A royal stronghold in Britain for almost 1000 years, Windsor is a historic market town situated amidst many hectares of Royal Parks. This green, leafy location is best known for being home to Windsor Castle, which was the late Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite residence. Towering on a hilltop, the castle’s Round Tower can be seen for many miles around, especially from the River Thames below. Its atop the Round Tower that the Royal Standard flag will fly if King Charles III is in residence.

A tour within this spectacular castle will reveal State Apartments displayed with paintings and ornate furniture, St George’s Chapel, which is the resting place of many royals, and the impressive St Mary’s Doll’s House, which is the most extraordinary miniature palace you will ever see. Explore the castle with a guide and experience the atmosphere at the late Queen’s final resting place.

2. Oxford

The extraordinary University city of Oxford is a destination not to be missed on a Thames River sightseeing tour. Located under 60 miles from London, this extravagant city has been a settlement since Anglo Saxon times. The streets of Oxford are absolutely beautiful and are filled with quirky shops, excellent cafés, and historic breweries!

Oxford University was founded at the end of the 12th century. Its yellowed limestone buildings dominate the city’s skyline and large stretches of the river Thames. With each college of the University having its own domain and buildings within the city, Oxford is an eccentric and exciting place to explore, full of history, culture, and photo opportunities. Not to be missed is the impressive Christ Church college, which has links to Henry VIII.

Aerial view of Oxford College
Aerial view of Oxford College

3. Cliveden

Based in the Royal county of Berkshire, the National Trust’s Cliveden estate is home to an elegant 17th century country house that was owned by the Astor family. Situated on the River Thames, its stunning grounds boast parterre gardens, woodland, and sculptures. Having played host to numerous film crews, Cliveden has featured in films like ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Cinderella’.

Visitors to Cliveden on a Magna Carta River Thames cruise can learn about the shocking scandal that centred on a party held at Cliveden in the 1960s. The Profumo Affair shook Britain and resulted in a loss of confidence in the government, that would change politics forever. Don’t miss an opportunity to tour its grounds with our onboard guide, to make sure you hear all the shocking details!

Tulips outside Clivden House
Tulips outside Clivden House

4. Magna Carta Memorial in Runnymede

Have you ever wondered what the most monumental moment was in British royal history? Well, Runnymede’s Magna Carta Memorial has a story to tell you. The Magna Carta was a historic document signed under King John in 1215, and it defined the extent of royal power over the people living in the Kingdoms of England and Wales. Broadly considered to be the very beginnings of law and democracy in Britain, the Magna Carta was signed by nobles and Barons in Runnymede.

Occupying land next to the River Thames, the Magna Carta Memorial immortalises the events that took place in this picturesque location. Guests aboard hotel barge Magna Carta have an opportunity to enjoy a unique perspective of this historic area on a Thames cruise, observing the area from the comfort of the boat.

Magna Carta Memorial at Runnymede
Magna Carta Memorial at Runnymede

5. Hampton Court Palace

A favourite residence of King Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace is an example of royal extravagance. Cruise past its stunning gardens and banqueting house on the River Thames and experience the palace in a way that most visitors never do.

A tour around Hampton Court Palace will reveal Henry VIII’s Great Hall and Royal Chapel, William III and Mary II’s State Apartments, complete with throne room and bed chambers, and the Tudor kitchens, which still contain a working fireplace. Wandering around the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, you can expect to see the spectacular Baroque façade and gardens, The Great Vine, and famous maze. Legend has it, if you keep your right hand on the maze wall at all times, you’ll be able to reach the centre, and the exit with great ease!

6. Cookham Village

The picturesque village of Cookham on the River Thames is known for its pretty scenery and historic buildings. Once home to the quirky twentieth century artist, Stanley Spencer, the village is popular with art and history lovers.

Described by Stanley Spencer as ‘Heaven on Earth’, Cookham has been home to the Stanley Spencer Gallery since 1959. With a fantastic array of almost one hundred paintings and drawings in its collection, the gallery displays artworks throughout the year and holds unique exhibitions for visitors.

Stanley Spencer Gallery

7. Henley-on-Thames

Situated just outside of the city of Oxford, Henley-on-Thames was previously voted one of the best places to live in the English countryside. With its location alongside a stunning stretch of the River Thames, this medieval market town has plenty of attractions for culture, nature and history buffs.

Made famous by its participation in the Henley Royal Regatta, Henley-on-Thames is well known for its boating and rowing. Visitors to this historic town shouldn’t miss an opportunity to find out more about the history of the River Thames at the River & Rowing Museum. A visit to this spectacular modern gallery will reveal some of the collection’s 35,000 items and take you on a journey back in time on the Thames.

Rowing boat at Henley-on-Thames
Rowing boat at Henley-on-Thames

8. Hurley

The historic village of Hurley was built around the River Thames and heavily relied on the water to support its infrastructure. Originally founded by Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1086, Hurley church is an unusual example of a Christian building because it has neither aisles, nor a tower. The church incorporates Norman features from an earlier building and contains the tombs of the Barons of Lovelace, who assumed the local manor after the dissolution of Hurley’s monastery in the sixteenth century.

Arguably the most famous building in Hurley, The Olde Bell Inn dates to 1135 and was originally built as a guest house for visitors to the monastery. Those cruising on hotel barge Magna Carta will have an opportunity to visit this impressive historic pub, see the treasured trinkets on display, and enjoy a very English pint of beer!

The Olde Bell Hotel Hurley
The Olde Bell Hotel Hurley

9. Marlow

You may have never heard of the Buckinghamshire town of Marlow, but you’ll certainly be left wondering why you haven’t, after a visit. This calming town on the River Thames has everything you need to enjoy a leisurely stroll, a quintessentially British cup of tea, or some retail therapy. Having been home to many famous writers like T.S. Eliot, Mary Shelley and Enid Blyton, Marlow and the surrounding area has proven to be inspirational to creatives.

Cruise under Marlow’s suspension bridge which joins the riverbanks of the Thames between Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. Or perhaps enjoy a walk or bike ride along the Thames Path if you borrow a bike from hotel barge Magna Carta. Pass along the picturesque riverbanks from the extensive green space at Higginson Park to either Hurley in one direction, or Cookham in the other.

Marlow suspension bridge
Marlow suspension bridge

10. Eton

Situated directly opposite Windsor on the banks of the River Thames, Eton was once on the main road from London to Windsor. Now best known for the exclusive public school of Eton College, the small town is a popular tourist destination. Connected to the neighbouring royal town by Windsor Bridge, the old London Road across the river is now only passable on foot or bike, and makes for some spectacular views.

Eton College was founded by Henry VI in 1440 and has seen many famous boys through its doors. Many of Britain’s Prime Ministers were schooled at Eton and Princes William and Harry also attended the private school. Visitors shouldn’t miss an opportunity to explore this historic town and enquire about the stories of Eton’s school-boys.

Eton College, Berkshire
Eton College

Explore the sights of the River Thames aboard Magna Carta

You’ll get to experience all of the above sites and so much more on a luxury cruise aboard Magna Carta. Accommodating up to eight passengers, this luxury takes guests on a week-long all inclusive luxury cruise between Hampton Court Palace and Henley-on-Thames. To find out more about this cruise along the royal River Thames, why not order a free copy of our brochure or speak to one of our friendly cruise team.

River Thames Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the River Thames?

The River Thames is 346 kilometres long, making it England’s longest river and the second longest river in the UK, behind the Severn.

How deep is the River Thames?

The River Thames is relatively shallow for a river, measuring only 20 metres at London Bridge, which is the point of the river where the tides are measured. However, the average depth of the river is around 4 metres.

Where does the River Thames start?

The source of the river Thames is located near the village of Kemble in the Cotswolds. The river begins in Gloucestershire, flowing from the southwest of England to the southeast.

Where is the Thames River?

The Thames River is located in the South of England and passes through a multitude of English towns and cities including London, Windsor and Oxford.

Where is the Thames River?

The Thames River is located in the South of England and passes through a multitude of English towns and cities including London, Windsor and Oxford.

Where does the River Thames end?

The Thames flows all the way from Gloucestershire to the Thames Estuary between the counties of Kent and Essex. The Thames enters the North Sea at Southend-on-Sea.

What is the River Thames used for?

The River Thames was historically used to transport people, food, and materials across England. It was also a source of water and fishing, as well as in industry, turning waterwheels in mills, and activating other machinery. Many towns and cities along the River Thames depended on the river for trade and sustenance.

How wide is the River Thames?

The River Thames varies in width along its course, measuring about 76 metres wide at Teddington, on the western suburbs of London, and as much as 229-metres-wide at London Bridge.

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