Weekends Away: Marlow
Weekends Away: Marlow
Why we were charmed by this Buckinghamshire town by the Thames
Given it’s just a short jaunt along the M4, the well-to-do town of Marlow promises to be the perfect weekend escape, and it ticks a lot of boxes: there’s pretty countryside on the doorstep, boutique stores line the elegant high street and it has a vast selection of restaurants… Tom Kerridge has put it well and truly on the foodie map with his two-Michelin starred pub, The Hand And Flowers, he has two more hotspots in the town, and top Indian chef Atul Kochhar has opened two restaurants here. Marlow even has its own brewery (and posh adjoining deli, of course).
But it’s not just food its famous for. Tourists have long been turning up at this fashionable riverside Georgian town to wander along this stunning stretch of riverside. There’s a tiny museum, which displays various artefacts that tell of the town’s history, including as a centre for lace-making. There are blue plaques relating to famous past residents, which have included Jerome K. Jerome, T.S. Eliot and the poet Shelley and his wife Mary who completed Frankenstein whilst living in Marlow. And there’s a statue in Higginson Park of Sir Steve Redgrave, who was part of the rowing club here.
The town is also well-known for its suspension bridge, which is small but perfectly formed, and if you see a picture of Marlow, that’s the postcard shot. The bridge is perhaps less admired by local drivers who have to give way on either side in order to pass. But the graceful structure, linking Buckinghamshire with Berkshire, was built in 1832 before cars arrived so hardly the bridge’s fault.
And if you think getting your car over is a squeeze, that’s nothing: try flying a Spitfire under it as Flight Lieutenant Bill Marshall did in 1943 when he was late for a date to meet his girlfriend at the adjacent hotel, The Compleat Angler. If you know the bridge, you’ll understand what a maniacal act this is. But it would have been impressive. The best place to admire the bridge is from the hotel and as this was to be our base for the night, we parked up, ordered a G&T and sat in the late afternoon sun on the idyllic terrace watching the boats bob past along the Thames.
We couldn’t tarry too long as our dinner was booked at a new opening down the other end of the town, so we checked in, dropped our bags in the rather lovely room, and headed down to Lavvin. Unlike the rather genteel high street, this new Mediterranean restaurant is not discreet. It’s a lively spot and looks more posh Balearics than Buckinghamshire. There’s moody lighting, dark walls and leather banquettes. A vast window runs along one side where you can see the chefs at work in the kitchen, turning out a beautiful selection of kebabs, steaks and speciality fish dishes. Our mixed grills were perfectly cooked and the meats beautifully marinated.
Local friends told us there is a late-night bar nearby but instead we headed back to the hotel, gazing through estate agents windows (it’s a sport in-itself – you think south west London properties are pricey?) and stopping for selfies on the bridge with the illuminated church on one side and the prettily lit hotel on the other.
Our bedroom was up a few flights of stairs and offered fabulous views over the Thames. While not bang up-to-date in terms of décor, we found it utterly charming. The bathroom is vast, and the four-poster comfy.
We skipped breakfast at the hotel (we didn’t have time to linger so the extra £30 each wouldn’t have been worthwhile) and opted for coffee and croissants at a deli as we had a date for the morning at Keeeps Pottery. Having not done pottery since school (I still recoil at my attempts at a coil pot) I was a tad nervous. But the lovely Emma made us feel at ease. It’s a delightful spot for a class – a light bright space and a chilled playlist on in the background. Emma went through some of the basics and was on hand to help with our efforts at slab pots. We looked on at the results and we were rather chuffed. Next up was to try thrown pots on the wheel – huge fun, though not resulting in huge pots – we could use them for tapas dishes, it was kindly suggested. But what a fun morning it was – there’s something so mindful and relaxing about it all.
Next up was a browse around the boutiques before lunch. We couldn’t resist a scarf from Scamp & Dude, which has an incredible ethos – for every scarf sold, one is donated to a woman with cancer. The Ivy Marlow Garden is pretty much a shopping bag-sized pace away and offers a good value regularly changing set lunch. The restaurant interior is stunning with leaf motifs and greenery everywhere. My choice of a pea and nettle soup was a good one, my husband’s was less successful with a thin spread of crab and dill cream on a hefty slice of watermelon. My main of pasta with wild mushrooms was nice if rather liquidy. Hubby’s chicken breast with roasted artichoke was a good option.
Afterwards, we stuffed ourselves and our shopping bags into our car and squeezed our way across the bridge, vowing to return soon. It’s an easy weekend away, both location wise and in terms of what’s on offer. On sunny days you can stroll through the riverside park or hire a boat, when the weather is less kind, go shopping, try pottery or stop for a pint at the local brewery. There’s an Everyman Cinema set to open soon, too.
We got a call the other day from the pottery to say our pots were ready – they offered to post them to us, but we’re thinking it’s a perfect excuse to head back there.