Most capital cities are vibrant and exciting, but there is perhaps no city in the world quite like London. England’s epicentre, London has an iconic cultural identity, so it’s no surprise that the city is inhabited and visited by so many. But while the London area is filled with interesting historical attractions, expertly designed buildings and instantly recognisable landmarks — this previous post proves Shoreditch in itself is jam-packed with things to see and do — you may find that venturing outside of London can be just as exciting.
The grand waterway that bisects London, the River Thames, is the longest river in England and stretches all the way from the Thames Estuary (where the river connects to the North Sea), to Kemble in Gloucestershire. You’ll be surprised by how many different things you can experience simply by working your way along the River Thames. Here are five different attractions that may pique your interest when travelling outside of London.
© Philip Halling – licence
Situated in the picturesque village of Goring-on-Thames, Goring Lock is a lock and weir that has been in operation since the 18th century. The lock features a sophisticated mechanism that prevents dangerous changes in water levels, often caused by passing ships and ferries. The hydraulic-powered mechanism is just one indication of how heavily Britain once relied on travelling and shipping by water.
This is just one of the many lock and weirs on the Thames, which stretches a huge 215 miles across England. You’re going to need more than a day if you want to explore the outskirts of London, and it may be easier and more practical if you used mobile accommodation. The Thames Cruise from The River Cruise Line would offer you the perfect opportunity to visit the must-see destinations along the River Thames, but with accommodation on a cruise ship each night to allow you to spend more time sightseeing and less time waiting to travel.
© Andrew Smith – licence
Described by writer Jerome K Jerome in his book Three Men in a Boat as “the most fairy-like little nook on the whole river”, Sonning is famed for its quaint architecture and traditional aesthetic. The quintessential village pub can be found in Sonning, with ivy growing up the exterior walls and a picture of the Queen behind the bar. The town also plays host to a number of celebrities, with George Clooney recently moving into the area, as well as Jimmy Page and Glenn Hoddle. This would be a great village for a quiet escape from the city.
© Matthew Bristow – licence
Renowned for its annual boat race, the Henley Royal Regatta, this town is situated around seven miles from Reading. The town is bisected by the River Thames, with a five-arched bridge allowing cars and pedestrians to cross the waterway. This bridge was built in 1786 and is a Grade I listed building — a great opportunity for both a photograph of the bridge, and a photograph of the Thames from the bridge.
© Roger Templeman – licence
One of the more charming little towns as you journey along the Thames is Wallingford, which has the aesthetic and feel of an old market town, complete with an open town square, war memorial, and medieval stone bridge. If you’ve experienced the hustle and bustle of London and are looking for somewhere a little more tranquil, Wallingford is perfect for you.
© Dave Price – licence
Located near Abingdon in Oxfordshire, Newbridge is a bridge that was built in the 14th century but is still used today. The bridge is a vital part of the river in that it carries the A415 road over the River Thames, making transport far easier. Continual structural damage has caused the bridge’s weight limit to be reduced, and the bridge is now a Grade I and Grade II listed building, so visit Newbridge and capture all its rich history while you still can.
However you choose to visit some of outer-London’s most interesting attractions, be sure to choose your destinations based on season, as riverside villages and towns can be susceptible to flooding. Hopefully you’ll have learned that there are plenty of things to do outside of London, some of which offer the perfect opportunity for a quiet day away from the city spent with friends, family or loved ones.