1) Shop ’til you drop
Aside from the usual suspects – Mint Velvet, Sweaty Betty, Office, Jigsaw etc – Marlow has some cracking little indie boutiques, including high end fashion at Stocks on Spittal Street, and Un Dimanche a Paris (above), Mooch and Swish Boutique on the High Street. For the VIP approach there’s Plume Boutique, a private shopping showroom, and for littles, Angel and Rocket is a must-visit.
2) Go interiors hunting
As well as boutiques to keep the fash hounds happy, there’s a good amount for interior magpies too. The fab Sara Hughes has upcycled, vintage and new finds that’ll give your house that perfect finishing touch, while a three-storey Georgian building on the High Street is home to Susie Watson‘s gloriously pastel Marlow showroom. Indies India Jane, Biggie Best and Boraca are worth sniffing out too.
Home Barn may be a little outside central Marlow, in Little Marlow, but it’s well worth making the trip – it’s a veritable treasure trove of unique and vintage finds beloved of glossy interiors editors.
3) Set out for a stroll
If it’s a sunny day in Marlow, there’s nothing more glorious than a riverside or park amble (massive shades a must). There are walks aplenty through Higginson Park (catch a game of cricket, visit the wetlands area or let the kids run amok on the giant climbing frames) and along Marlow Lock and around the suspension bridge. OK, so obvs I can’t go more than 100m without a coffee so it’s worth knowing that the M Cafe Marlow at Court Gardens has just opened its outdoor space, with gorgeous views from the terrace, plus it’s dog and kid friendly.
If you’ve got wild ones in tow, the outdoor adventure centre Longridge (above), just over the Marlow bridge, is A-mazing for kids with watersports, giant swing and legendary climbing wall. Drop them off for a morning and go enjoy some quality time for yourself (checking off a few more items on this list, perhaps?).
4) Explore Cliveden
Image credit: Andrew Butler
A mere 5 miles outside central Marlow, Cliveden is a must-see. Wander the beautifully manicured gardens with a coffee from the Conservatory Cafe in hand, peruse the Gift Shop and Plant Centre for goodies to take home or even hop on one of the daily skippered cruises (available April to October, every day except Mondays). Love a spot of forest bathing (or spotting carpets of bluebells when they’re in season)? Park in the woodland car park on the border of the property and set out on their red walking trail beside the river.
5) Get your caffeine fix
Is there anything more relaxing than watching the world go by, latte in hand (and perhaps something pastry-based to nibble on)? Luckily Marlow is home to plenty of chic cafes – Megan’s in Liston Court will make you feel like you’re on holiday in the Med, and Strawberry Grove serves a mean salt beef bagel and homemade cake.
For serious caffeine junkies, indie producer Coopers is tucked away on an industrial estate five minutes from the centre of town, but is worth the trip for a freshly-roasted cup and super-cool interiors that would be at home in Hackney.
5) Fill your belly
Hungry? Thought so. Marlow’s practically groaning with excellent eateries, but we’ll try to whittle it down for you.
The Oarsman on Spittal Street is our pick for a bistro-style lunch with small plates from the charcuterie and larder counter, while not a lot beats an al fresco breakfast at Tuscan gem Satollo in Liston Court. They’re everywhere now but The Ivy Garden Marlow is one of the few to have a gorgeous outside space – really lovely on warm days or balmy nights.
Fancy Michelin-starred fare? Take your chance for a table at The Coach, Tom Kerridge’s bijou drop-in restaurant and bar (his nearby haunt and jewel in Marlow’s culinary crown The Hand and Flowers books up months in advance, so don’t expect a last-minute reservation). If you prefer your pub grub slightly more down-to-earth, the charming Royal Oak just outside town in Bovingdon Green gets top marks from us.
6) Sip a beer…
Marlow’s most famous tipple is, of course, it’s award-winning beer, Rebellion. The Brewery now has its own Tap Room, which while not a sophisticated affair (a marquee in the yard), is a chance to taste its wares and is set to be developed with a kitchen joining the taps and shop. Crafty Taproom is the other option for beer aficionados – it’s a younger vibe and hosts live music and foodie pop-ups among some quirky beer choices.
7) …or something stronger
If you’re more of a heels and martini girl (check!) then it’s to Clayton’s you must totter. It’s allll about the cocktails here (I love the Marlow Negroni – Marlow Gin, Punt y Mes vermouth and Campari) plus small plates, burgers (and beers and wine, natch). If vino’s more your speed, you can’t beat wine merchants and bar Grape Expectations – if you can plan your trip to coincide with one of their famous tastings, you won’t regret it – while sparkling wine specialists and vineyard Harrow & Hope are just a stone’s throw away for tours and tastings.
8) Make a splash
Marlow’s prime location on the banks of the Thames makes for more watersports to try than you can shake a soggy set of bikini bottoms at, but if you’re after something new then paddle-boarding is officially the sport of the summer. You can hire boards from Marlow Open Water Swim for £20 per hour, or if you have your own lying about (let me check the garage) it’ll cost you just £5 an hour.
Prefer to keep your feet dry? From July to September, local boat company Salter’s Steamers (above) schedules a regular service from Marlow to Windsor on Mondays. You’ll float past the historic wharf at Spade Oak, the wooded grounds of Cliveden, the cute Ray Mill Island, an extraordinary railway bridge in Maidenhead designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the majestic pavilions of the Monkey Island Estate. There are also services upriver to Henley on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, taking in picturesque villages and yet more lavish stately homes at Temple Medmenham and Bisham Abbey.
9) Try something new
If a getaway comprised entirely of shopping, eating and walking sounds a little too sedate for you, then there are plenty of workshops and classes to dip into in the area. Keeeps (above) is a fabulous little ceramic store that also has taster sessions for everyone from amateurs to masters, while the gorgeous Foxglove Studio in Liston Court holds private classes throughout the year. Fashion boutique TOAST even holds workshops from time to time – they have a crochet masterclass with knitwear specialist Alex Cox coming up.
10) Go celeb-spotting at The Marlow Bookshop
It might look unassuming, but this chic indie bookseller (and Muddy Award winner, no less) is the celeb hangout in the area. Russell and Laura Brand are fans (in fact, Laura recently launched her new book here) and Ricky Gervais and Chris Evans have both been spotted in attendance. Groucho Club, eat your heart out.
11) Time it right
There are plenty of brilliant events year-round in these parts, but summer is when Marlow really shines. Visit in June and you can catch the Regatta at Dorney Lake (or you might want to hop over to nearby bigger sister Henley Regatta, two weeks later – we’ll be there for the delicious Feast over Flame pop-up) as well as the family-friendly Marlow Moves music festival, while Tom Kerridge’s food festival Pub in the Park kicks off in Higginson Park in May.
12) Rest your head
Phew! After all that fun, we’re exhausted. Book a room at Danesfield House Hotel, above (fun fact: the Clooneys held one of their wedding parties here) or one of the cottages at The Hand and Flowers for a luxe getaway, or Compleat Angler for unbeatable riverside views. After something totally different? Shillingridge is home to two luxury safari lodges in a secluded paddock – perfect for a glamping break.
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