As we traveled throughout Berkshire, we came across some quintessential English villages, such as Pangbourne. Here you can find stunning river walks, top restaurants, and medieval churches to explore.
Pangbourne is one of the most popular villages in Berkshire and a favorite spot for those looking for a day trip from London!
Nestled along the Thames River, Pangbourne is a lovely village filled with boutiques, museums, cafes, and parks that you won’t find anywhere else. The village has distinguished character and stunning river views you don’t want to miss.
History of Pangbourne
Pangbourne owes its existence to its location on a strategic crossing point of the Thames River. The Thames River was an essential route for natives to commute for thousands of years.
Discoveries of Middle Stone Age flint tools have been found along the river. Evidence of permanent settlement was found in the 19th century when workers building the railway discovered an extensive Roman-period cemetery.
Paega (referring to ‘Pang’ in Pangbourne) was one of the Penga’s Saxon chiefs, who, with his followers, decided to settle here, hence the name of Pangbourne. The first recording came from the Bishop of Leicester to Bertwulf, the King of Mercia (the Midlands), in AD 844.
The Toll Bridge
We entered the city by crossing the Toll Bridge, which joins Pangbourne to the neighboring village of Whitchurch. Not only does this crossing join two villages, but it also is the meeting point of county lines. So when you are in Pangbourne, you are in Berkshire, but once you cross the bridge, you are in Oxfordshire.
The original bridge to cross the Thames River was built in 1792. Later, the timber bridge was rebuilt in 1853. Another half-century later, it was replaced by an iron bridge in 1902. The iron bridge survived over 100 years until it was replaced in 2013.
Even though the bridge was replaced, the community kept the elegant appearance of the white-painted iron structure.
The white lattice wrought iron bridge has a lovely design making it an attractive place to view the Thames River below. Here you can look upstream to see Pangbourne Lock, as well as incredible views of the two villages on each side of the river.
If you are traveling from the Whitchurch side of the Thames River, you must pay a toll to cross the bridge into Pangbourne.
The cash toll for cars is £0.60 per crossing. There is no pedestrian, cyclist, or motorcyclist fee.
Pangbourne Meadow is a beautiful spot, just as you cross the Toll Bridge into Pangbourne for a picnic or a stroll along the banks of the Thames River. On the day of our visit, we brought the dog we were pet-sitting, to run about in the park.
The meadow is used for recreation, picnics, and games throughout the summer. Here you have a lovely view of the white iron Toll Bridge. On the day of our visit, locals were enjoying a swim in the river.
The independently owned cheese shop offers over 100 cheeses to sample. The Cheese Etc. has been awarded Cheese Counter of the Year at the World Cheese Awards in 2017. In addition, the shop has won other awards for its delicious cheeses and customer service.
In addition to the wide selection of cheeses, you will find delicious chutneys, crackers, beers, ciders, and wines to compliment any cheeseboard.
The Swan pub is known as where the ‘Three Men in a Boat’ ended their journey. The gorgeous 17th-century building that houses The Swan is called Shooter’s Hill.
When you go inside, you will see exposed oak beams. Go to the terrace in the summer and enjoy a drink while soaking up the sun, overlooking the flowing river.
The pub’s dining room is called The Bunker. Here you have a gorgeous dining room offering delicious food.
The Elephant Hotel
Opened in the late 800s, The Elephant Hotel has been refurbished and operates today, featuring 22 themed guestrooms, a restaurant, a bar, three flexible banquet rooms, and a spacious garden. The rural, chic hotel is filled with handcrafted Indian furniture, oriental rugs, and lush fabrics for elegant accommodations.
If you want to book your stay at the hotel, visit the website.
The George Hotel
First established as a coaching inn in the 1600s, The George Hotel is surrounded by history and unique characteristics. The boutique hotel displays the heritage of Pangbourne. The interior is inspired by the novel “The Wind in the Willows.” The restaurant has elegant, beamed ceilings and offers a selection of traditional English pub food.
If you are interested in booking accommodation at this charming hotel, visit this website.
St. James The Less
One of only 26 churches in England dedicated to St. James the Less. The present-day church was built in 1866. It is written that the current church is the second, if not the third, church on this site. When the church was restored, it was keen to preserve what historic architectural features it could, but none were found. As a result, only the Jacobean pulpit, the Royal Arms, and the monuments to Sir John Davis and others were retained.
One of the most treasured pieces to see is the enormous east window by Karl Parsons. The magnificent work of art is eye-catching as you enter the church. The image depicts the Virgin and Child, St. George and St. Michael.
Starting in Pangbourne, you can easily get on the Whitchurch-on-Thames circular walking trail. The trail is a 6-mile hike that will take you into the Chiltern Hills. There is a high point where you can get a breathtaking countryside view.
To learn more about the walking path, click here.
The Church of St. Mary the Virgin (Whitchurch)
If you want to check out Whitchurch village, visit The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, a medieval church dating to the Anglo-Saxons. You can witness Saxon, Norman, Gothic, Georgian and Victorian architecture throughout the church building.
Interesting Facts About Pangbourne
Pangbourne has long been linked with the literary world. Pangbourne has served as an inspiration for many writers.
- Kenneth William’s ‘Wind in the Willows’ was taken from the water voles on the banks of the river. Here you can see animals along the riverbanks which are mentioned by the author.
- H. Lawrence, the author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, was not impressed with the town. After he visited, he renamed the town, ‘Pangbourne.’
- Jerome K Jerome’s novel ‘Three Men in a Boat’ mentions The Swan pub.
- H. Shepherd’s famous illustrations of his book are said to have been inspired by the Thames River and the water voles.
Getting to Pangbourne
Pangbourne is in Berkshire County, located on the outskirts of Reading, east of London.
If traveling from London, take a 30-minute train ride from Paddington Station.
It sits on the boundary between two areas of outstanding natural beauty – North Wessex Downs and the Chiltern Hills.