Take a trip back in time with some of Marlow’s historic days out. Between Cliveden, Hughenden and West Wycombe, there are three National Trust properties right there with some of the most stunning houses and grounds in the country. You can also enjoy riverside walks along the Thames, and marvel at a miniature version of one of the world’s great suspension bridges.
Activities in Marlow
Without doubt, one of the best things to do in Marlow is make the short trip down the River Thames to glorious Cliveden, one of the nation’s favourite stately homes. The incredible Italianate Cliveden House is at the heart of the estate, surrounded by stunning parklands and gardens that lead down to the banks of the River Thames. It’s owned by the National Trust and comfortably ranks among their most popular attractions in the UK. Nearly half a million visitors come to Cliveden each year to explore its unique grounds, visit the house, and discover its rich history.
Cliveden House was built by Charles Barry, the selfsame chap who rebuilt the Houses of Parliament, who also gave the world Highclere Castle – where Downton Abbey is filmed – and the Trentham Estate, which was one of the finest in the country, the gardens of which have recently been restored. Cliveden is a joy to explore. The formal gardens are delightfully maintained. The view from the parterre, across the River Thames, of the wider Berkshire countryside, can be truly breathtaking on a clear day.
It’s around a 20-minute drive from our Marlow hotel. So, if you’re planning a visit to Cliveden, be sure to check the website before you leave, as the house is only open on certain days of the week from spring through to autumn. Having said that, it’s still worth making the trip to explore the gardens and see the fountains. The Chapel, or as it’s otherwise known the Octagon Temple, is also not to be missed. From the outside, it’s completely unassuming but inside, it’s a different story – we’ll let you see for yourself.
Another excellent National Trust property in the area is Hughenden. It’s the former home of the Victorian novelist, two-time prime minister of the United Kingdom, and pioneer of one-nation conservatism, Benjamin Disraeli. The Italianate gardens are a joy to behold, with terraces, picture-perfect lawns and pristine flowerbeds. The wider estate stretches for more than 680 acres.
The main event is Hughenden Manor; a red brick Victorian mansion ‘dramatised’ by the visionary architect Edward Buckton Lamb. The National Trust and its volunteers do a fantastic job of bringing the history of Hughenden to life. For example, during WWII, the manor was used by Air Ministry staff to create maps for bombing missions, including the Dambusters’ Raid.
West Wycombe Park
Didn’t think we’d have another National Trust estate up our sleeve, did you? There’s one more we need to tell you about. West Wycombe Park dates back to the 18th century. As you’d probably guessed, it’s in the village of West Wycombe, a 20-minute drive away. It was the pleasure palace of the infamous Chancellor of the Exchequer, founder of the Hellfire Club, and libertine, Sir Francis Dashwood. As you’d expect, there’s a story or two to be told of the shenanigans that took place in this Palladian country palace.
Architecturally speaking, it’s a blend of styles that you won’t find anywhere else in the UK. The house is only open to visitors during the summer months, but if you can, it’s worth exploring this most decadent of houses. The gardens are a delight too. They are some of the finest surviving 18th-century gardens in the country. There’s even a large man-made lake in the shape of a swan, which the English rake used to sail on with his guests, with a cascade that flows to a lower pond.
Higginson Park and Court Garden
If the sun’s shining and you want to stretch your legs, you can’t beat a stroll through Higginson Park and Court Garden. This large public park is just off Marlow High Street and runs along the River Thames. Rowing fans can stop off at the statue of Sir Steve Redgrave. Wildlife lovers can keep a keen eye out for kingfishers, and other wonderful birdlife, while average Joes can simply soak up the views of the gardens. The park also happens to house The Shelley Theatre and hosts Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park, as well as the Marlow Town Regatta and Festival, three of our top recommendations when it comes to Marlow entertainment.
The most iconic landmark in town is Marlow Bridge, which spans the River Thames next to Higginson Park. The Grade-I listed suspension bridge was built in the 19th century. It’s a small scale version of the Szechenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest, which architect William Tierney Clark built shortly after Marlow Bridge. You can walk as well as drive across it. In terms of town centre photo opportunities, it’s right up there.