You don’t have to stay at a cold, over-priced airport hotel when you fly late into or early out of London’s Heathrow Airport: the following two hotels are less than 30 minutes’ drive away. And—bonus—they’re both charmers in charming towns!
Small Hotel in Small Town
The Compleat Angler is a nice hotel in a nice small town, just 20 minutes by car from Heathrow Airport. The hotel’s 64 rooms sit on the banks of the Thames River in Marlow. As the swans and boats float languidly past your room, the travel stress will melt away like butter. Request room #12, as it has a bay window looking onto the Thames, with its pretty church and houses across the river. I have stayed here five times and love it! A two-minute walk from the Compleat Angler, Marlow’s convenient stores stock all the odds and ends you might have forgotten to pack. PLUS: A Michelin two-star pub, The Hand and Flowers, is located just off Marlow’s “high street.”
Small Coaching Inn in Small Village
The Olde Bell is a former coaching inn which first opened its doors to travelers in 1147. It is located in the quaint, quiet village of Hurley, which has one small store, two low-key pubs, and charming, old houses, large and small. The Olde Bell is a three-minute walk through the sleepy village to the River Thames.
While the outside of the Olde Bell is wonderfully traditional, the inside is an attractive mix of old world and modern polish…though not sleek. Of its 48 rooms, #’s 1 and 2 have balconies overlooking the Olde Bell’s relaxing back garden.
Having arrived here thrice after late-night flights into Heathrow, nothing is more welcoming than the Olde Bell’s bar. You will feel instantly immersed in merry old England!
UPDATE (March 2019): I am disappointed to report that the bar has gotten a bit sloppy and somewhat tacked up with space heaters in the fine old fireplaces. Such a shame! The Olde Bell is SCREAMING for improved management, especially in the food and beverage arena. Its town is still an unspoiled gem, full of history and lacking tourists.
Get the Kinks Out!
After that long flight over, get the kinks out by walking along the Thames River path. You will see long boats (classic river boats that are long and narrow), locks, swans, ducks, people walking dogs, country houses in park-like settings, and many an open field. It’s beautiful! If you walk from Hurley in the direction of Henley-on-Thames, you will come to the Flower Pot, an old pub full of character. A bit off the river, its decorative theme is fishing, with prints galore lining the walls of its charming interior. Eat inside or outside on its picnic tables in the garden. Then, walk back to the Olde Bell for a satisfying toes up.
TIP: The fare from Heathrow to Hurley via car service is approx. 40 pounds. Get The Compleat Angler or Olde Bell to arrange a car service for you in advance.Why not just grab a taxi at Heathrow??? Because the driver will most probably know London like the back of his hand but will not know Marlow or Hurley.
THIS JUST IN: A world-traveling friend of mine with discerning taste highly recommends the Great Fosters Hotel, a luxury country house hotel near Heathrow. She has stayed here three times and loved it.
–posted October 2016