Everything You Need To Know About Henley Royal Regatta
Henley Royal Regatta (HRR) is the most prestigious and well-known event in the world. It attracts more than 300,000 visitors every year and boasts over 30 races across six days of elite sporting competition. It’s the highlight of the British summer sporting and social calendar and has been since the end of the 19th century. Henley Royal Regatta is steeped in history, has a unique format, and showcases the finest displays of skill, determination, and sportsmanship.
Read on for a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about Henley Royal Regatta before you visit. Henley Royal Regatta (HRR) is the most prestigious and well-known event in the world. Come rain or shine, this incredible event will never disappoint.
History and Significance of Henley Royal Regatta
Henley Royal Regatta’s history dates back to 1839 when the first race was held and has been held annually ever since. There have only been a handful of expectations where the event did not take place, this was due to two world wars and the Covid-19 pandemic. The regatta was originally staged by the Mayor and the people of Henley as a public attraction that featured a fairground and other amusements, but the emphasis of the event has rapidly changed over the years so that the competitive amateur rowing has now become the main event.
One of the regattas defining moments occurred in 1851 when Prince Albert was the first royal patron of the event, earning the event its ‘royal’ prefix. Since then, reining monarchs have traditionally consented to be the patron of the regatta adding to its prestige and allure. Over the years, Henley Royal Regatta has undergone several changes and expansions. It started as a two-day event format and was extended to three days in 1886, then to four days in 1906, and finally to its current 5-day format in 1986.
Each extension allowed the regatta to accommodate more races, more people, and more things to enjoy and do. Its significance extends beyond its sporting achievements and is now widely seen as a symbol of tradition, showcasing the timeless values of sportsmanship, dedication, and camaraderie. It has also had a profound impact on the sport of rowing itself and has served as a platform for the introduction of innovations in rowing techniques, equipment, and training methods.
Today, Henley Royal Regatta attracts rowers from around the world, including clubs, universities, and national teams. It’s considered to be one of the premier rowing events worldwide and often serves as a crucial test for aspiring Olympians and elite rowers. The regatta’s reputation for excellence and its challenging course make it a significant milestone for rowers aiming to make their mark in the sport.
Henley Royal Regatta is located in the beautiful town of Henley-on-Thames. The whole event takes place on the River Thames and the hospitality tents, catering, and exclusive enclosures are all situated on its banks.
As the event is usually packed out, travelling to and from the event can be tricky. It is highly advised to travel via public transport including taxi, bus, and train. Find out more information on each below:
Travelling By Taxi
If arriving by taxi, the main drop-off point for Henley Royal Regatta is on the A4130. This drop-off point is only a short walk from the exclusive enclosures and the main event.
Travelling By Train
Trains are fairly frequent to Henley-on-Thames from London Paddington and other places within the country. During the regatta, Great Western Railway (GWR) operate a special timetable to make it even easier to get to and from the event.
Travelling By Bus
If you’re looking to arrive by bus, the closest bus station is in Henley town centre. This stop is a 10-minute walk from the Enclosures and the rest of the event.
Reading Buses offer a late-night service throughout the event and more information can be found on their website.
As with any event, you don’t have to travel by public transport. There are dedicated car parks for those looking to attend Henley Royal Regatta by car. It is highly recommended to book this in advance to avoid disappointment and the potential to be turned away.
The car parks are open daily from 7.30 am to 9 pm and overnight parking is not permitted. The official car park is not suitable for the following vehicles:
- Commercial Vehicles
Please contact the Badge Office on 01491 571900 for information on minibus parking as well as disabled parking.
When you book your parking you will be given a Car Park Hanger to display in your car. Your Car Park Hanger will either be circular, rectangular, or triangular, this will indicate which signs you need to follow in order to find the correct car park.
If you’ve opted to collect your hanger, you’re required to collect this prior to the day of your visit. You will not be permitted into the Henley Royal Regatta car park if you do not have the valid car park hanger with you to show upon arrival.
For more information regarding parking at Henley Royal Regatta, take a look at their FAQs.
Henley Royal Regatta’s Unique Format
Henley Royal Regatta was instituted long before national and international rowing federations were established, meaning it occupies a unique position in the world of rowing. For many rowers, winning an event here has always been one of their greatest achievements and it’s not hard to see why.
This regatta has its own set of rules and is not subject to any governing body of rowing. Unlike other rowing events that feature multi-lane rowing races, Henley Royal Regatta is completely unique. It instead follows a one-on-one knockout format with only two boats racing against each other in each heat. This means they can hold up to 90 races for the heats, making it a spectacular spectator event.
Races are conducted at 5-minute intervals over a distance of 2,112 metres (1 mile and 550 yards) going upstream. If more entries than the permitted number in the rules are received for any race then the committee shall arrange for qualifying races to take place and those that qualify with race against each other for the title.
Catering and Hospitality For Everyone
World-class hospitality at the Regatta is presented by their hospitality partner SodexoLive! SodexoLive! will be providing a range of packages within the exclusive Fawley Meadows Enclosure and on your own private island – Temple Island. All these packages include exquisite menus, a Moët & Chandon Champagne and Canapé reception, and a River boat excursion.
Dine in the Fawley Meadows Restaurant and experience exclusive hospitality in a relaxed yet stylish setting with picturesque views of Fawley Meadow. Enjoy an exclusive private atmosphere inside the Fawley Meadows Chalets where you can feast on a 5-course menu with a complimentary bar and access to your own private riverfront garden.
If you’re wanting something even more exclusive and intimate, book Temple Island for a front-row seat to watch the exhilarating boat races and enjoy a private island that caters for up to 40 people. But if all these options sound like they cater to large bookings and corporates, then don’t worry there are still a couple more options you’ll enjoy.
Embrace the Henley Royal Regatta’s tradition, charm, and celebratory atmosphere with a Fawley Meadows Picnic. The Fawley Meadows Picnic enclosure is located on the banks of the Fawley Meadow and is the perfect place to enjoy a range of hampers that include the very best of British Summer artisan specialities.
Or treat yourself to some relaxing entertainment in the Fawley Meadows Lounge. Here you’ll be able to enjoy a relaxed ambience with informal seating, a grazing lunch menu, and a complimentary bar. Look out for the DJ who will heighten the experiential atmosphere with a few tightly-lipped surprises.
Henley Royal Regatta Exclusive Enclosures
There are two very exclusive enclosures at Henley Royal Regatta. One of which is only open to Henley Royal Regatta members and their guests. Read more information about the Stewards’ Enclosure and the Regatta Enclosure below:
The Stewards’ Enclosure is only for registered members and their guests. This exclusive venue is situated on the Berkshire side of the River Thames and is perfectly positioned with a view of the finish line. There are two Grandstands where you can watch the racing as well as enjoy glorious sweeping views of the Regatta Course.
As a member, you’ll be able to indulge yourself in one of their exclusive eateries, meet up with friends in one of the lively bars, and even be inspired by a visit to the Art Gallery tent. If you’re lucky enough to be a member or a guest of a member, the Stewards’ Enclosure has a dress code you need to adhere to. Here are the dress code requirements:
Ladies’ Dress Code:
- Dresses or skirts with a hemline below the knee.
- Alternatively, you can wear jackets or blazers with trousers or a trouser suit.
- It is also customary for ladies to wear hats.
- No shorts, leggings, tracksuits or jeans are allowed.
Gentlemen’s Dress Code:
- Lounge suits.
- Alternatively, you can also wear jackets or blazers with trousers.
- Ties or a cravat are also required.
- Just like the ladies, no shorts, leggings, tracksuits, or jeans are allowed.
Younger Guests Dress Code:
As children aged ten and over are welcome within the Stewards’ Enclosure, the appropriate dress code must be adhered to. Girls should wear dresses or skirts with a hemline below the knee, and boys should wear lounge suits with a tie or cravat.
Click the button below for more information regarding the Stewards’ Enclosure and how you can go about booking yourself (as a member) or your guests in.
Unlike the Stewards’ Enclosure which is exclusively for members only, the Regatta Enclosure is open to everyone. It is located on the beautiful Henley Reach and is the perfect place to the competition whilst soaking up the exclusive and family-friendly atmosphere.
The Regatta Enclosure opens half an hour before the first race and offers riverside seating and an open Grandstand, as well as a covered restaurant, outside dining area, and a bar with a wide range of food and drinks. Daily admission ranges between £30 – £42 per person depending on the day you are attending. Admission is free for children under the age of 14 when accompanied by an adult with a valid badge.
You’ll also be happy to know that there is no dress code inside the Regatta Enclosure, however many spectators like to embrace the spirit of the event by wearing club blazers or other rowing apparel. You can use this as a chance to dress up and go all out or opt for a more casual look it’s entirely up to you.
Click the button below for more information regarding the Regatta Enclosure including food and drinks, where to watch the races, and safety information.
Other Events in Henley-on-Thames:
The annual Rewind Festival is the world’s biggest festival dedicated to the 1980s and takes place beside the River Thames in Henley. Every August the festival attracts over 40,000 festival-goers and more than 25 bands for a fun-filled weekend of dancing, music, and good times.
The festival is filled with things to do from a kid zone and firework displays to a funfair and glamping facilities. Enjoy some of your favourite bands, join your friends, and have a weekend to remember.
Book your tickets and view the lineup on the Rewind Festival website.
Henley Festival is unlike any other. It’s an upmarket civilised, black-tie, celebration of the best of international and British music, art, food, and culture all in one quintessentially British location.
This annual event takes place over five days and draws in audiences in excess of 30,000 people. Everyone who attends Henley Festival is here to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a vibrant programme of high-quality performances and activities where art and gastronomy share equal billing with music.
Check out the Henley Festival website for more details on booking your tickets and planning your weekend ahead of time.
Accommodation Near Henley Royal Regatta
Looking for some last-minute accommodation near Henley Royal Regatta? We’ve got a range of properties for you to choose from. Whether you’re looking to stay slightly further afield or right in the heart of Henley-on-Thames, check out these two beautiful properties we have available:
Nestled in the quiet Oxfordshire countryside within easy reach of Henley Royal Regatta, is Buttercup Lodge. The lodge is new to our inventory and has been expertly built and crafted with you in mind. Enjoy countryside views from your balcony before heading off to the most prestigious regatta in the world.
Bluebell Lodge is another property within easy reach of Henley Royal Regatta. Constructed from high-quality wood throughout with quirky hand-made features, Bluebell Lodge offers the perfect countryside escape for families or a group of friends. Book it in conjunction with Buttercup Lodge and enjoy the delights of Henley Regatta before relaxing in the garden soaking in the last of the sun’s rays.