Although planned weeks in advance, the timing for our trip to Marlow couldn’t have been better. Is there a lovelier place to be in the midst of a heatwave than sitting besides the Thames in a bucolic English town? Add a couple of Aperol spritzes to the picture and it’s pretty much shangri-la.
The Buckinghamshire bolthole has long been a favourite of (down-from) Londoners and it’s not hard to see why. Its meandering streets, centuries-old buildings and gentle pace are the perfect antidote to city life. On arrival, we head straight to the river, to soak up the afternoon rays at the historic Compleat Angler next to Marlow Bridge. While you pay for the view in the drinks tab, it’s undoubtedly one of the best spots in town for a sundowner.
After a pleasantly lazy stroll past the longboats and luxe motorboats moored on the riverbank we retire to The Chequers, our hotel for the evening. A High Street hostelry since the 16th century, it’s recently had a 21st century makeover, including the introduction of nine new en-suite bedrooms. Historic pubs don’t always go hand-in-hand with stylish design so our room, which is packed with covetable furniture and thoughtful details (hello huge feather bed! Hello Nespresso machine!), comes as a pleasant surprise. The bathroom is especially desirable, all tonal Farrow and Ball colours and powerful walk-in shower.
Those looking for good food in Marlow don’t need to venture far; the high street is dotted with sweet Italian places and courtyard hideaways. But guests at The Chequers don’t even have to leave the low-beamed building. Its restaurant’s formidable reputation for steak has made the pub a foodie destination in its own right. The Chateaubriand, cut in front of us on a block at the heart of the restaurant, is a highlight of the trip, meltingly tender and accompanied by crispy, skin-on fries and a fresh, green salad. After equally decadent puddings – sticky toffee and homemade ice creams – I’m glad we only have to roll up the stairs to our bed.
Despite the stifling heat, we head down to breakfast the next day feeling refreshed (see previous comment about the amazing shower) and slightly shamefully, manage to scarf down yet more food. My partner, who’s quite the connoisseur in this department, is visibly impressed by the full English, which arrives laden with thick bacon and glistening poached eggs. Meanwhile, I make a halfhearted nod at restraint by loading yoghurt with fruit compote but then crack at the sight of the flaky, fresh pastries.
Later, we take a riverboat trip past a landscape of mega-mansions owned, our guide tells us, by the Sultan of Brunei. Elsewhere, there are garden parties taking place and well-heeled types enjoying a spot of sunbathing. It’s all very nice. We leave Marlow far later than we had intended, reluctant to be drawn away from languid river life and full of fantasies about giving it all up to live on a boat. It won’t be long before we’re back.
- Rooms at The Chequers, High Street, Marlow, start at £100 a night midweek and £120 at weekends, on a B&B basis. www.thechequersmarlow.co.uk