Henley-on-Thames: famous for its Royal Regatta, leafy riverside walks and as one of the most beautiful towns in England; but less so for its luxury hotels stays – until now. Following a £3m+ refurb, the old Red Lion has been given a fitting face-lift and reopened as the Relais Henley. And what a triumph. The original red brick frontage conceals a complex of interconnecting buildings housing the hotels 40+ bedrooms, the oldest dating back to the 1530s, providing guests with a veritable rabbit warren of discovery and relaxation. 

We headed down to the riverside hotel to take a peek… 

The Vibe

Relais is the French word for coaching inn and the Relais Henley manages to retain whispers of the historic pub within its freshly redesigned nautical interiors. Uneven flooring, nooks, crannies and a general feeling of cosiness make this a hotel that is utterly perfect for autumnal stays. 

A better location you simply couldn't wish for, with shops, restaurants, galleries and the Thames Path literally on the doorstep. 

The Location

Located just 1.5 hours by train or car from London, this hotel is an easy riverside escape from the city. The River Thames flows through Henley’s centre and life is very much geared towards water, boats and walking within the picturesque countryside.

Positioned quite literally in the heart of Henley, the Relais nestles in the cross section between the river and the town centre, at the bottom of the Henley Bridge. A better location you simply couldn’t wish for, with shops, restaurants, galleries and the Thames Path literally on the doorstep. 

For those wishing to venture further afield, the hotel provides cheery blue bikes for the more adventurous explorers. Not to mention, it provides a great little spot for a workation as the Salon provides a remote working space (with membership available for non-hotel residents).

The Rooms

Each with its own unique quirks, this is a hotel with heart. Each bedroom is individually decorated to capture Henley’s rowing tradition, blending a rowing club spirit with botanicals from the English countryside. 

Huge cosy beds and heavy antique furnishings marry with striped carpets and modern bathrooms. Pick a riverside room with wonky wooden beamed ceilings for the best view, a heritage room to soak up the historic townscape or a courtyard room for direct access to the outdoors.


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Our room overlooked the river and was a mixture of white beamed history, contemporary eclectic furnishings, modern amenities, all giving the impression you were staying on a vintage yacht. The centrepiece being the staggeringly large bed with crisp Egyptian linen that reminds you that you are in fact on land.

Huge cosy beds and heavy antique furnishings marry with striped carpets and modern bathrooms.

The Service

Friendly staff without unnecessary airs and graces are on hand to cater to your every need. If you are looking for 5 star pomp. this isn’t the place for you. Warm hospitality and a personal touch is the order of the day and what makes it such a wonderful stay. Think delicious food served at a leisurely pace, the ability to unwind unbothered and attention only when called for. 

The Food & Drink

The main restaurant is called The Clipper, one assumes a nod to the large rowing clipper suspended above the dining area. The Clipper restaurant offers menus by Mosimmans of London and when not serving up dainty afternoon teas is busy dishing out a cracking Sunday roast.

The restaurant has an open deck into the hotel courtyard, which was strung with fairy lights and bunting when we stayed and the perfect spot for both a morning brew or sundown cocktail. Also worth a mention is the hotel Deli – a clever little space selling artisanal products alongside gourmet grab-and-go sandwiches and full service picnics.

The Verdict

A winner for anyone looking for an affordable weekend break within easy reach of London and a dash of cosy luxe. 

Check in, snuggle down and let the river wash by outside whilst cradling a glass of vin rouge in the Quarterdeck Bar, before battening down the hatches at bedtime. Weekend wind down bliss.

Rooms start from £160 

The Relais Henley, Hart Street, Henley-on-Thames, RG9 2AR 


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