Off the beaten track, Bray Marina nestles on a tranquil stretch of the River Thames. It is a wildlife haven with plenty of nesting birds including swans and coots and is even home to a species of rare freshwater shrimp.
Bray is perfect for watching the river laze by under willow, oak and ash trees as well as a newly planted orchard of apple and pear trees. Plus the charming village of Bray boasts seven Michelin stars in total – including two of Britain’s five three-Michelin-star restaurants. The Waterside Inn, founded in 1972 by Michel and Albert Roux, is close by. You will also find The Fat Duck, the pioneering restaurant from Heston Blumenthal, a short drive away, with Blumenthal’s 16th century inn, The Crown at Bray, a little further down the road.
Enjoyed by motorboaters who take advantage of one of the 400 berths, or visitors who cruise between MDL’s other Thames Marinas (Windsor and Penton Hook), the marina’s popularity is down to its tranquil setting and its position right on the riverfront. Plus, being 10 minutes from the M4, 20 minutes from the M3 and 25 minutes from Heathrow, the marina offers a quiet, green, open break close to, but away from, the city.
As a Five Gold Anchor marina, Bray has 400 berths (maximum length 18m) and a wide range of facilities including boat lifting and storage ashore, engineering and repair services and electric vehicle charging via three pin connection. Wide floating pontoons fully supplied with power and water make the most of the tranquil area. The site also has a 10-ton crane and yard services like jet washing and antifouling.
Other facilities include recently refurbished premium shower/changing facilities, 24 hour security, petrol and diesel (at cost price to MDL members), Calor gas and plenty of parking.
Surrounded by open green space, trees and delightful footpaths around the marina, each bridgehead, and the main gate, are controlled by an access card.
MDL’s Penton Hook Marina, a four-hour cruise away, also offers outstanding boatyard facilities including a 20-ton crane, trailer boat storage, boat lifting, storage ashore and two pump-out stations.
Access could not be simpler as the marina is directly on the riverfront. Visiting boats should call in advance, or moor up on the visitor pontoon and check in at the marina office.
The Thames is a great place to cruise. There are many places of interest within a day’s cruising of Bray. 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.
Consider a cruise to Marlow, a vibrant Georgian town, where the counties of Buckinghamshire and Berkshire are joined by a suspension bridge. This lovely riverside town has a fine literary heritage – it was Mary Shelley’s home while she was finishing Frankenstein, and T.S. Eliot lived there too.
Windsor is lovely for a day or weekend visit. MDL has another marina there which its members can stay at as part of the Freedom Berthing package (offering free overnights in over 120 marinas across Europe), so people can take as long as they want exploring the castle, having cream teas and more.
Perfect destinations for weekend cruises include going upriver to Henley on Thames. Once the home of the most pubs per head of population in the south east, it now features walking tours, ale and gin tours and more within its picturesque setting. Plus, it is the home of the River and Rowing Museum said, by The Times, to be one of the best 50 museums in the world. Downriver is Runnymede, the infamous site of the signing of the Magna Carta and a lovely destination for a relaxing or educational weekend. And if boat owners use MDL’s Penton Hook as a stop-off overnight, Central London comes within cruising reach.
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, 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.
Those staying at the marina can buy snacks from the office, or walk a few minutes to the local garage to pick up basics. It is a quick taxi ride – about five minutes – to the nearest supermarket.
Fifield Inn (www.fifielfinn.co.uk) offers a lovely menu and is perfect for a quick drink in a country setting. Popular with cyclists it has a small garden. The recently refurbished Greene Oak (www.thegreeneoak.co.uk) has an extensive garden which is great for large families – and dogs – and offers a selection of delicious food.
THINGS TO DO
Bray Marina has a footbridge across the river, and walkers and cyclists can pick up the Thames Path (www.nationaltrail.co.uk/thames-path) and explore the terrific scenery along the banks.
Local area highlights include Dorney Lake, which is where the Olympic rowing events took place. This is across the river from the marina – accessed via a footbridge – and holds a wide variety of spectator events including rowing, canoeing, triathlons, fun runs and more.
Well worth visiting is the Crown Estate (www.thecrownestate.co.uk). This is the land surrounding Windsor Castle and is free to enter, but visitors are advised to be wary of getting lost as the acreage is over 15,000. Paths are signposted through the land which includes magnificent deer enclosures and games of polo (in season). Also on the estate is the Savill Garden. There is an admission charge, but well worth the visit for the spectacular borders (www.windsor.gov.uk/things-to-do/the-savill-garden).
For a full day out, consider Legoland (www.legoland.co.uk) or exploring Windsor itself.
There are taxi and bus firms operating in the area. For airport pick-ups or local runs consider using Riviera Taxis 01628 666777.
“I have berthed at Bray Marina for the last 16 years and have found it to be the best marina on the Thames. The staff are very friendly and attentive, nothing is too much trouble. We have someone on hand 24 hours a day, the dockmasters in the day and a security team at night. This makes our berthing really great value as we can berth our boat and know that it will be looked after. The facilities are very high-end having just been refurbished for the 2018 season.
“We love it here as we do not have to go very far for some picturesque cruising. If we just want to go for an evening cruise, the ‘stretch’ between Bray Lock and Boveney Lock is around four miles so you can easily cruise for a couple of hours without having to go through any Locks.
“All the pontoons have been refurbished over the last few years with new finger berths and decking. The grounds are beautiful and well maintained. Every time we come through the gate all our worries disappear and we are in holiday mode!”
Monkey Island Lane
Berkshire, SL6 2EB
(SL6 2LL for sat nav purposes).