THE ROYAL RIVER THAMES — Hampton Court to Henley-on-Thames
Sunday, Day 1Hampton Court Palace
Cruise route map
(Click to enlarge)
Guests are met at at the Stafford Hotel
in London for afternoon English Cream Tea, before being transferred at 4pm to the Magna Carta.
Champagne reception and welcome moored outside Hampton Court, former Tudor Palace of Henry VIII, where we remain overnight. Dinner on board.
Monday, Day 2Hampton Court Palace to Runnymede
This morning we have ample time to really explore Hampton Court Palace, the most fabulous Tudor home of Henry VIII, though used as a Royal home until Victorian times.
We walk through Henry’s great hall and haunted gallery and see his chapel, still used for worship today and with the finest Tudor ceiling in existence. There is much more to see including the stunning privy gardens, the world’s oldest growing grape vine and the famous maze! After lunch we enjoy our first cruise, up through Molesey Lock and following the meandering path of the river through Sunbury, Chertsey, and Shepperton to our overnight mooring on Bell Weir Lock at Runnymede. Dinner on board.
Tuesday, Day 3Runnymede to Windsor
After breakfast we have the option to use the spa facilities of the newly refurbished Runnymede-on-Thames hotel including pool, sauna and steam room. Beauty therapies, massages and other treatments are available but are best booked in advance.
This morning we cruise to Windsor before enjoying lunch on board. Our river journey takes us through Runnymede where King John faced the barons in 1215 and was forced to put his seal on the Magna Carta, the document which was the very first Bill of Rights and from which our vessel takes its name.
From the hotel barge we see the Magna Carta memorial and Magna Carta Island where the sealing took place. Our afternoon excursion is to Windsor Castle. Built by William the Conqueror in 1066 and lived in for over 900 years by the Royal Family, this is the largest inhabited castle in the world. We explore the State Apartments, see Queen Mary's Dolls House and St George's Chapel and enjoy the far-reaching views from its elevated fortress position. Dinner on board.
Wednesday, Day 4Windsor to Cookham
Leaving Royal Windsor behind us we cruise up to Boveney Lock and take a walk to Dorney Court. This very special home has been owned by the Palmer family for more than 450 years passing from father to son through 13 generations. King Henry VIII has stayed here and the manor is regularly used for filming including “Poirot” and most recently “The Other Boleyn Girl” We are lucky to enjoy a private tour of the house.
Our cruise continues past the fabulous waterside homes of Bray and Maidenhead, Boulters Lock (made famous in Victorian times) and into the spectacular Cliveden Reach where we have special permission to moor at the house itself. Cliveden was once owned by the Astor family, though the original house dates back to 1666. The gardens are simply amazing and include a Parterre, Chinese water garden and topiary. We discuss the political intrigue and scandal for which Cliveden is famous!. A late afternoon cruise takes us to a stunning mooring at Cookham Lock. Artist Sir Stanley Spencer, one of England’s greatest and most eccentric painters, once described Cookham as ‘Heaven on Earth’. Much of his work was painted in and around Cookham. Dinner on board.
Thursday, Day 5Cookham to Hurley
After breakfast we are driven to Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) Highclere Castle is one of England's most beautiful Victorian castles set amidst 1,000 acres of spectacular parkland.
The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679, and the current castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which in turn was built on the foundations of the medieval palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester for some 800 years.
A longstanding friend of the Carnarvon family, Julian Fellowes had Highclere Castle in mind as he wrote "Downton Abbey". He often commented he wanted a house which spectacularly testified to the confidence and soaring optimism of the Edwardian period. After lunch we visit Stanley Spencer’s gallery and take a walk around the village before cruising through Bourne End and Marlow to Hurley. Dinner on board. (Because of filming of Downton Abbey, the visit to Highclere Castle is only available on limited departures. Please ask at time of booking.
Friday, Day 6Hurley to Henley-on-Thames and Oxford
Henley Royal Regatta
This morning we tour Peter Freebody’s boatyard and watch in wonder at the traditional craftsmen at work, building and restoring wooden boats as they have done for generations. We have time to explore the ancient 11th century village including Ye Olde Belle, reputed to be the oldest inn in the country before returning to the barge and cruising through fabulous countryside to our final mooring situated along the famous Henley Regatta Rowing Course.
An earlier lunch is followed by a 40 minute drive to Oxford. A fascinating tour of Christ Church, Oxford’s grandest college, founded twice, once by Cardinal Wolsey and then by King Henry VIII. The magnificent surroundings were where Lewis Carrol wrote Alice in Wonderland. For our final night we enjoy the Captains’ Farewell Dinner on board.
Saturday, Day 7Henley-on-Thames to London
Following breakfast, disembark at 9.30am and return to the Stafford Hotel
or Heathrow airport.
On alternate weeks the cruise will be in the reverse direction. This is a sample itinerary and is subject to change.