One thing we love about being full-time house and pet sitters is travelling to new places we might never have seen otherwise! Living the 9-5 city life for so many years, we missed out on exploring the gorgeous towns on our doorstep. We certainly make up for it now, having zig-zagged all over the U.K. in search of the most interesting and beautiful places to spend our days! While pet sitting Norfolk Terrier Cody on the outskirts of Henley-on-Thames, we enjoyed exploring all the town has to offer. Here’s what you need to know:

Getting here and getting around

Henley-on-Thames train station is easily reachable by London where, depending on which station you depart from, your journey could take as little as and hour and fifteen minutes! The train station in Henley is just a five minute walk from the centre, and the River Thames.

Henley isn’t a large town, and it’s possible to walk from one side to the other in just over half an hour. The town is a well-connected maze of paved streets – perfect for little paws to enjoy a comfortable walk too, as Cody happily trotted along beside us! You won’t need to use public transport once you get here, though if you prefer to rest your feet or need to transport shopping bags, the Henley Hopper provides three separate bus routes for easily getting around town. It’s worth mentioning that these services are limited, and dogs are allowed on the bus at the discretion of the driver.

While we were fortunate enough to have accommodation in Henley via house sitting (one of the many perks of our job!) we’d recommend skipping the high-priced hotels in town if you’re looking to stay – check out one of the many rowing-themed Airbnbs in the area for something a little more unique. (Alternatively, see if house sitting could be for you!)


Though we could have reached the centre of Henley with a short twenty-five minute walk from our house sit, we often chose to take the long way round via public footpaths during our time with Cody. This meant we could stroll along the River Thames on the Thames path, and admire all the sights along the water. We often stopped to watch canal boats passing through locks, and once even saw the Royal Barge – the Gloriana – along the way!

There are beautiful houses lining the river as you get closer to the centre of Henley, some with boat-launching pads and beautiful gardens at the water’s edge. Be on the look out for a small plaque on the riverbank as you arrive in town, marking the official finish line for the Olympic rowing events in 1908. Henley-on-Thames is famous for its annual Royal Regatta – a boating event first established in 1839. The riverbanks are set up perfectly for spectators, and there are sprinkles of royalty throughout the town, with gold embellishments touching everything from lines on lampposts to crowns on rubbish bins! For those looking to learn more about the history of rowing in Henley, the River and Rowing Museum is a must-visit, with events and exhibitions all year round.

If you take the time to explore the side alleys in town, you’ll be rewarded with picturesque cobbled streets and rows of pastel-coloured houses, each with their own characterful name. We spent some time admiring ‘Spring Cottage’, with its wisteria twisting around the front door, and stopped to snap pictures of two side-by-side houses, one with a yellow door and the other with a pink one. These houses are like something from a sweet shop! Especially in the Spring when the cherry blossom trees around town are in full bloom.

Speaking of pretty floral colours, the main streets in Henley are absolutely bursting with flowers. Large planters next to benches provide Instagram-worthy photo spots, and baskets hanging from each lamppost are a beautiful pop of colour in the sunshine.

If you’re looking for places to explore outside the town centre, the nearby National Trust property Greys Court is hands down one of the most gorgeous NT places we’ve ever visited – and we’ve been to a lot!! The gardens are at their most beautiful in the Spring, with its jaw-droopingly stunning wisteria jungle, blooming magnolia trees, lemons as big as your fist in the greenhouses and beds of every colour hyacinth imaginable. The house itself may look familiar to Downton Abbey fans, as it featured in season three! Inside this Tudor property, it’s a snapshot in time – with 16th century stained glass windows, family portraits from 1959, and an elegant classical drawing room. A real gem – we spent quite a few hours here and highly recommend a visit! (We do LOVE a National Trust place).

Cafes and shopping

Harris + Hoole is our favourite cafe to visit for a spot of lunch in Henley, as they serve delicious chai lattes and smoothies too! The cafe is situated on the corner on a main road, and the decor inside is modern and cosy – we love to plot up at one of the sofas by the window to enjoy some people-watching. The cafe is dog-friendly too, meaning Cody could come in with us and give us serious puppy eyes while we ate our lunch.

If you prefer to eat at an independent cafe, try Geo cafe for their wide range of pastries! Berries Coffee, on the next street over, stocks treats from local sellers and has outdoor seating – a definitely plus as the cafe is situated inside a beautiful historic-looking building. Inside it’s just as characterful, with black wooden beams lining the ceiling.

You’ll find all the usual high-end chain shops that are typical of an upper-class English town (think Crew Clothing and Mint Velvet). Though what makes Henley-on-Thames so special for shopping is the independent and quirky places where you can find some real treasures. We spent a while admiring all the beautiful floral bouquets and displays at The Henley Florist and Flower School – we might have to return to take one of their classes! We could have got lost for hours in The Vintage Look, as we spent some time pondering over the many, many trinkets inside. The aptly-named Temptation Gifts has… Everything! Just, everything you could possibly want to gift to your loved ones – definitely worth taking a look!

Walks in and around Henley

The Thames Path is a National Trail that spans roughly 298km, from the River’s source near Kemble in Gloucestershire, all the way to the Woolwich foot tunnel in South East London. This path winds around the River Thames through Henley, and this well-paved route is how we chose to get into the town for most of our visits. Hearing that the entire Thames Path is walkable, we’re seriously considering taking it on as our next walking challenge (after our successful hike along Hadrian’s Wall last year)! If you’re not up to quite so much walking, why not try the 97km route from Henley-on-Thames to the River’s source in the Cotswolds for a lovely multi-day walk. Or the much more manageable 36km route from Henley-on-Thames to Windsor. No matter which direction you choose to walk these parts of the Path, you’ll be rewarded with stunning quintessential British towns at the beginning and end.

The estate at Culham Court is another of our favourite places for walkies in Henley. We keep little Cody on-lead to follow the footpath here, as not only is it private land with a public footpath carved through, but the Park is also home to dozens of fallow and white deer. There are many interesting sights to see as you cross the estate – the beaming white Culham Chapel, the unusual sculptures by the Court, and the fairytale-esque roundhouse cottage nestled at the foot of a slope. As you near the River, the footpath joins up to the Thames Path for easy access into Henley.

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