The eyes of the world were on Windsor earlier in May as Prince Harry married Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel. It was a spectacular setting for the ceremony, and a reminder of just why the royals are so fond of their beautiful Berkshire home by the Thames.
MDL Marinas, Europe’s leading marina operator, has three sites along the Thames in this lovely corner of Berkshire and Surrey: Windsor, Bray and Penton Hook. Each is a five gold anchor marina with its own unique character and idyllic cruising on tap.
This stretch of river is perfect for leisurely days on the water. The riverbanks are peppered with welcoming pubs and even the odd Michelin starred restaurant – indeed, the area is something of a foodie paradise, home to some of the country’s most acclaimed restaurants. There’s plenty to entertain all the family with amusement parks LEGOLAND and Thorpe Park, the racecourses of Ascot and Royal Windsor and days out at Windsor Castle and Cliveden Gardens.
Windsor Marina is one of MDL’s little gems in a tranquil garden setting with a large river frontage for easy mooring. There’s a busy social programme run by MDL and lots to do in the neighbouring Windsor Yacht Club. The 175-berth marina is also home to the Powmak Pilates studio. With Pilates a favourite exercise of the new Duchess of Sussex, the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Pippa Matthews, the practice certainly comes with royal approval.
Windsor town is just three miles away and packed with shops, bars and restaurants. Shopaholics can easily spend a day or two enjoying the fabulous brands and boutiques. The Windsor Royal Shopping Centre, located opposite the gates of Windsor castle is a converted Victorian railway station home to stores including Hobbs, Jigsaw, Jo Malone, bareMinerals and Links of London.
Almost 1,000 years old and covering 13 acres, Windsor Castle dominates the town and is an astonishing sight. It’s the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, not to mention a favourite residence of the Queen. Visitors can see the changing of the guard and take a peek inside St George’s Chapel where the royal wedding took place in May.
Bray Marina is a haven of beauty and tranquillity where members and visitors can relax on their boats amongst trailing weeping willows as ducks and swans paddle up and down. The 400 berth marina also has plenty to do on and off the water. The on-site Riverside Brasserie serves traditional British cuisine with a modern twist and is the ideal spot to enjoy the views of the marina. The Bray Cruiser Club, also based at the marina, holds barbecues, local and tidal cruises and family fun days and is a great place to socialise with other boat owners.
Bray’s reputation for fine dining is well known. Just five restaurants in the UK have three Michelin stars and impressively, two of them are in the village. The Waterside Inn, founded in 1972 by Michel and Albert Roux, is right by the Bray slipway. The Fat Duck, the pioneering restaurant from Heston Blumenthal, is a short walk away in the village, with Blumenthal’s 16th century inn, The Crown at Bray, a little further down the road.
There are many places of interest within a day’s cruising of Bray and Windsor. Upstream, the Thames is navigable as far as Lechlade. Between Windsor and Oxford there are several riverside inns, stately homes and gardens to visit, including Cliveden, with its extensive Italianate gardens and woodlands. Picturesque Eton and the charming village of Datchet also await discovery.
Penton Hook Marina
Penton Hook Marina in Chertsey, four hours’ cruise from Bray and Windsor, is the UK’s largest inland marina with 575 berths. It’s set in 80 acres and offers fantastic boatyard facilities including a 20 ton crane, trailer boat storage, storage ashore and two pump-out stations and has purpose built pontoons for narrowboats and Dutch barges. It’s also home to Penton Hook Yacht Club, one of the biggest on the Thames.
It’s ideally located for thrill-seekers big and small, with Thorpe Park just across the road. Rides in 2018 - not for the faint-hearted - include Derren Brown’s Ghost Train and the equally terrifying Samurai. If that sounds a bit too exciting, LEGOLAND Windsor offers a gentler day out, with carousels, a splash safari and the captivating Miniland. For a far more tranquil trip, visit the National Trust’s site at Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic, bike ride or country walk.
Penton Hook Marina is also well-placed for a trip to London. In around six hours, you can cruise into the tidal Thames and into the heart of the city.
With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that lifelong boaters looking for a change of pace find a new home on the inland waters of the Thames. And with MDL’s Freedom Berthing programme, which offers complimentary stays at MDL’s 18 UK marinas and over 100 destinations in France, Spain and Italy, there’s plenty of exploring to be done. Visitors are welcome too and enjoy every seventh night free with MDL’s Cruising Club scheme, which is free to join.