What is Sonning famous for? Top 12 things to do in Sonning on Thames!

Nestled by the beautiful Thames, Sonning is a picturesque gem waiting to be discovered in the heart of Berkshire, UK. Brimming with English charm, it’s undoubtedly a must-visit spot.

Just a brief jaunt east of Reading, you’ll find this delightful village. Beyond the river from the town lies a charming island on the Thames. This island cradles the hamlet of Sonning Eye, a distinct yet inseparable part of the Sonning experience.

Looking for things to do? From the elegance of the French Horn in Sonning to the quaint atmosphere of the Mill House in Sonning Eye, there’s a diverse mix of attractions. So, why not add this vibrant British village to your UK adventure list?

There’s no denying that Sonning, along with its scenic hamlet Sonning Eye, offers an enchanting escape. Perfect for a day trip from London, it’s a chance to explore England’s tranquil countryside.

Oh, and here’s a fun fact for movie fans – Sonning Eye is home to none other than George Clooney! Talk about a star-studded village!

Whether you’re journeying from Sonning to Reading or simply losing yourself in the quaint corners of this English paradise, you’re in for a beautiful backdrop at every turn. So, are you ready to dive into the allure of Sonning and Sonning Eye? These tranquil havens are just waiting to share their English charm with you!

What is Sonning famous for?

Sonning is a village located in Berkshire, England. It is primarily known for the following:

  • The Mill at Sonning: The Mill at Sonning is a historic theater located on the banks of the River Thames. It is renowned for its unique setting within a converted 18th-century watermill. The theater hosts a variety of productions, including plays, musicals, and comedy shows.
  • George Clooney’s residence: Sonning gained additional fame due to actor George Clooney choosing it as his primary residence in the UK. Clooney and his wife, Amal Clooney, purchased a mansion in Sonning in 2014, attracting attention from media and fans.
  • Scenic location: Sonning is situated in a picturesque setting along the River Thames, with beautiful countryside surroundings. It is known for its charming riverside walks, scenic views, and quaint village atmosphere.
  • Historic sites: The village of Sonning has a rich history, and there are several notable historic sites to explore, including Sonning Bridge, a Grade II listed structure dating back to the 18th century, and the Norman-era St Andrew’s Church.
  • Idyllic setting for boating: The River Thames flows through Sonning, making it a popular spot for boating enthusiasts. Visitors can rent boats or take boat tours to enjoy the river’s tranquil beauty and explore the surrounding area.

Overall, Sonning is famous for its historic theater, celebrity residents, scenic location along the River Thames, and its appeal to those seeking a peaceful and picturesque English village experience.

Where is Sonning-on-Thames?

Sonning-on-Thames lies on the edge of Berkshire county. A short walk over the bridge will take you into Oxfordshire as you enter the neighbouring village of Sonning Eye. As you might guess from the name, the bridge in Sonning goes over the Thames. The banks of the river define the northern edge of the village.

The nearest major town to Sonning is Reading which lies no more than four miles to the East. Despite its proximity to the suburbs of Reading, Sonning has managed to keep its identity as a separate village. It really is one of the top villages near London.

Sonning Berkshire – car hire

Check out our guide to the best car hire company in the UK or simply explore the options directly on discovercars.com if you need a car to visit Sonning village.

How do I get to Sonning on Thames?

Sonning on Thames is a village located in the county of Berkshire, England, about 4 miles east of Reading. Here are a few ways to get to Sonning on Thames:

  • By car: If you have access to a car, you can reach Sonning on Thames via the A4 or A4155 road. The village is about 10-15 minutes’ drive from Reading and about 25-30 minutes’ drive from Maidenhead.
  • By train: The nearest train station to Sonning on Thames is Twyford, which is on the main line between London Paddington and Reading. From Twyford, you can take a taxi or a bus to Sonning on Thames, which is only a short distance away.
  • By bus: There are several bus routes that run through Sonning on Thames, including the number 850, which operates between Reading and Henley-on-Thames, and the number 128, which runs between Reading and Wallingford. You can check the timetable and plan your journey on the Reading Buses website.
  • By bicycle or on foot: Sonning on Thames is located on the Thames Path, a popular walking and cycling route that runs from the source of the River Thames in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier in London. If you enjoy cycling or walking, you can reach Sonning on Thames by following the Thames Path.

Sonning on Thames postcode

The postcode for Sonning on Thames is RG4 6UT for most of the village.

Where to stay in Sonning on Thames?

Let’s face it! There are only two options for you to stay in this village:

Sonning facts:

Region:South East
Famous for:The Mill at Sonning

Is Sonning-on-Thames good for scenic drives?

Sonning on Thames is located in a beautiful part of the English countryside, surrounded by scenic drives that offer stunning views of the River Thames, pretty villages, and rolling hills. The nearby Chiltern Hills and Cotswolds are both known for their picturesque scenery and historic landmarks, making them ideal destinations for a day trip or weekend getaway. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely drive or an outdoor adventure, there’s plenty to see and do in the surrounding area.

What famous people live in Sonning?

Who lives in Sonning? There are quite a few notable residents of Sonning. Perhaps the most famous are George and Amal Clooney. Amal’s family lives a few miles outside of Sonning. The pair have a large property just over the bridge in the hamlet of Sonning Eye, which they have done extensive work on including adding a large pool house and private cinema.

Jimmy Page, of Led Zepplin and former cricket captain Andrew Strauss both have homes within the bounds of Sonning. When it comes to magicians, both Paul Daniels and Uri Geller have lived here. If you’re interested in politics, then it may interest you to know that Theresa May also calls the village home.

There have been a lot of rumours that more American superstars have been looking for property in the area. Taylor Swift and Brad Pitt have both been identified as celebrities looking for an English base in the area.

What famous people live in Sonning
Sonning UK

Parking in Sonning Eye

There are a few good spots to park in Sonning Eye. If you enter the hamlet over the Sonning bridge, then there is a small number of free parking spots located immediately after the bridge.

If these are all taken, the next option is to park in the car park of the French Horn. It is only for customers, so you’ll have to grab a bite to eat in the restaurant, however, as long as you do they are quite relaxed about cars being left for a while if you go to explore the village further.

Best things to do in Sonning-on-Thames
Sonning on Thames

Things to see in Sonning Eye

1. The Bull Inn, Sonning-on-Thames

Looking for the best pubs in Sonning? The Bull Inn is a picture-perfect English country pub and restaurant. This 16th Century pub is Grade II listed and in excellent condition. The timber frame and white rendered exterior is the perfect canvas for the plants and trees that climb its sides.

The food served is a great example of what can be done with seasonal produce. This means that what you have to choose from will depend on the time of year. With much of the food locally sourced you can get a real taste of proper English pub food.

Sonning on Thames Berkshire - The Bull Inn, Sonning-on-Thames
The bull Inn Sonning

2. Sonning Lock

What to do in Sonning? A short walk upstream from Sonning Bridge will bring you to Sonning Lock. You can also follow a scenic footpath from St Andrew’’s church to bring you to this serene and beautiful spot. It’s well worth the short walk to see the beauty of the location.

If you visit in summer, you can also enjoy a spot of tea or a cold drink from the informal tea garden that sits by the lock.

Sonning on Thames Berkshire - Sonning Lock
Sonning walks

3. Sonning Bridge

There has been a bridge in this spot since 1125. Of course, the original wooden bridge is long gone, as are the many wooden ones that followed. There are rumours that Dick Turpin lived in the area and it was over this bridge that he raced across to escape the authorities by crossing the county line.

The current stone bridge was put in place in the early 20th Century. This was in response to complaints that the traction engines crossing the wooden bridge were causing too much damage and disturbing the locals.

As you cross over the bridge, you can find a stone marker. Carved into the marker are the letters B and O, separated by a straight line. This is the marker for the county line, between Berkshire and Oxfordshire. The line is the boundary and runs down the middle of the River Thames.

In the middle of the bridge, there is a post box. However, the post box is located on the side of one of the supporting buttresses of the bridge, so the only way to reach it is by boat. The postbox is a mystery, but it was believed it is the work of a prankster!

Best things to do in Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire - Sonning Bridge
Sonning Oxfordshire – Sonning Bridge

4. The Mill at Sonning on Thames

In the 18th Century, the Mill at Sonning was ideally located to take advantage of the river for grinding flour. Now it’s quirky location on an island in the middle of the river, makes it a popular spot for dinner and a show.

The Mill was the first building on the Thames to harness the river’s flow to generate electricity. It’s an excellent reflection of how The Mill used to operate. Because of its loving and sensitive restoration, the Mill has received several conservation awards.

The Mill is adjoined to the Mill House, the home of George and Amal Clooney.

Things to do in Sonning on Thames Berkshire - The Mill at Sonning
Sonning Eye Mill House

5. High Street

The High Street through Sonning and Sonning Eye is lined with large brick-built homes. Interspersed you will find several pubs and restaurants. There are few shops in either the village or the hamlet. However, there is plenty of character to soak up as you wander through the street, and over the single-track bridge.

Sonning on Thames Berkshire - High Street
Sonning village

6. The French Horn

Best Sonning restaurants? The French Horn is a pub and restaurant that sits on the banks of the River Thames. As you enter the cosy pub, you will be greeted with the sight and aroma of ducks roasting over an open fire.

This is a tradition almost as old as the pub itself.

Sonning on Thames Berkshire - The French Horn
Restaurants in Sonning – The French Horn

7. Coppa Club Sonning

The Coppa Club is a fantastic place to visit, the food is terrific, and the place is filled with different nooks and spaces for you to experience. You can choose to dine in the lounge bar or dining room. If you want to get some fresh air you can sit in the landscaped gardens that face onto the River Thames. In poor weather, there’s also an all-weather terrace to sit out on. 

If you’re there for a celebration, you can hire one of the private celebration igloos! You can book this funky space for up to 6 guests for 2 hours. It’s a great way to have an unforgettable experience while you’re in Sonning.

Best things to do in Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire - Coppa Club Sonning
Sonning, Berkshire – Coppa Club

8. St Andrew’s Church, Sonning

This active and bustling church is nestled into the heart of Sonning and has a prime location right on the river. The current church is built on the site of an Anglo Saxon church, so the area is one that had long been used for worship. You can still see some of the Saxon stonework in the church today.

The majority of this church dates from the 13th and 14th Century and is filled with memorial plaques. It’s well worth a visit for anyone interested in English country churches.

Sonning on Thames Berkshire - St Andrew’s Church, Sonning
Sonning England – St Andrew’s Church

9. The Apple Tree House

If you’re travelling in a large group, there is an amazing property in the heart of Sonning that you can rent. The Apple Tree House is a massive mansion of a home that can sleep up to 16 guests and includes a hot tub in the garden. Even if you don’t stay here, it’s worth having a nosy at the place from the outside as it’s a truly exceptional rental house.

Sonning Walks

Looking for great walks near London? Several lovely walking paths start from Sonning and take you along the River Thames. Your options include;

10. Blue Water Walk

The Blue Water Walk is the name of the path that heads north along the river from the Sonning side of Sonning Bridge. Following this path will take you up to Sonning Lock. It’s only a short walk. The path is a small part of the Thames Path. It gets its name from the large number of blue dragonflies you can spot on this short stretch of the river.

Sonning on Thames Berkshire - Blue Water Walk
Sonning UK walks

11. The Thameside Walk

On the other side of the River Thames is the Thameside Walk. This path starts from the car park of The Mill at Sonning. You begin by walking over a small wooden bridge before the route takes you on a lovely walk. The whole path is 3 miles in length and takes you as far as Shiplake to the north of Sonning.

12. Thames Path

The Thames Path is a long-distance walking trail. To walk the whole thing takes around 14 days. The path passes right through Sonning so you can easily walk in either direction along the route if you start from Sonning. 

By heading north, you’ll start on the Blue Water Walk. Once it becomes the Thames Path again, you can continue up through Shiplake to Henley, which is the end of the path. Heading to the south from Sonning along the Thames Path will take you through Caversham.

In either direction, the path is easy to follow, well signposted and easy to walk. It’s suitable for all level of walkers.

Things to do in Sonning on Thames Berkshire - Thames Path walk
Sonning Berkshire – Thames Path

Sonning on Thames village history

Sonning on Thames has a rich history that dates back to the Roman period, when a settlement was established here. The name “Sonning” is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word “Sonningas,” which means “the people of Sunna” (Sunna being an Anglo-Saxon personal name).

In the Middle Ages, Sonning on Thames was an important market town and a center for cloth-making and milling. The village grew in importance during the Tudor period, when Henry VIII established a palace in the village for his queen, Catherine of Aragon.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Sonning on Thames became a popular destination for wealthy families, who built large country houses and estates in the area. The village was also a hub for the coaching trade, with several coaching inns and stables providing transport for travelers to and from London.

Today, Sonning on Thames is a popular tourist destination, known for its historic architecture, scenic river views, and association with famous residents, including George Clooney who lived in the village for a few years. Many of the old buildings and houses in the village have been well-preserved, giving visitors a glimpse into the area’s rich history.

What pub did three men in a boat go to in Sonning?

In the novel “Three Men in a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome, the three men (Jerome, Harris, and George) stop at The Bull Inn in Sonning. The Bull Inn is a real pub located in Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire, England. It has been in operation since the 14th century and is well-known for its historic charm and riverside location.

Sonning on Thames tourist information

Sonning on Thames is a charming village that attracts many visitors each year. Here is some tourist information about the village that may be helpful:

  • Things to see and do: Sonning on Thames is known for its historic architecture, scenic river views, and picturesque countryside. The village is home to several historic buildings, including the 13th-century St Andrew’s Church, the Tudor-era Bull Inn, and the Old Vicarage, which was once the home of the novelist George Eliot. The village is also located on the Thames Path, a popular walking and cycling route that offers stunning views of the river and the surrounding countryside.
  • Accommodation: Sonning on Thames has several accommodation options, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, and self-catering apartments. Some of the popular options include The Great House at Sonning, The French Horn, and The Mill at Sonning.
  • Eating and drinking: There are several restaurants and pubs in Sonning on Thames that offer a variety of cuisines and dining experiences. The Bull Inn and The French Horn are both popular options for traditional English pub food, while The Great House at Sonning offers fine dining in a historic setting.
  • Getting around: Sonning on Thames is a small village that can easily be explored on foot. There are also several bus routes that run through the village, providing easy access to nearby towns and cities.
  • Events and festivals: Sonning on Thames hosts several events and festivals throughout the year, including the annual Sonning Scarecrow Trail, which takes place in May, and the Sonning Regatta, which is held in August. The village also has a popular Christmas market in December, featuring local vendors and craftspeople.

Pubs in Sonning on Thames

Sonning on Thames is home to several pubs, offering a range of dining and drinking experiences. Here are some of the popular pubs in the village:

  • The Bull Inn: The Bull Inn is a traditional English pub located in the heart of Sonning on Thames. The pub dates back to the Tudor era and offers a range of local and seasonal dishes, as well as a selection of beers, wines, and spirits.
  • The French Horn: The French Horn is a fine-dining restaurant and pub located in a historic building overlooking the River Thames. The pub offers a range of classic pub dishes, as well as a more formal dining experience in the restaurant.
  • The Mill at Sonning: The Mill at Sonning is a converted 18th-century mill that now houses a theater, restaurant, and bar. The pub offers a range of classic British dishes, as well as a selection of beers, wines, and spirits.
  • The Great House at Sonning: The Great House at Sonning is a boutique hotel and restaurant that serves classic British cuisine with a modern twist. The pub offers a range of beers, wines, and spirits, as well as a cocktail menu.
  • The Ivy House: The Ivy House is a popular gastropub located on the outskirts of Sonning on Thames. The pub offers a range of classic British dishes, as well as a selection of beers, wines, and spirits.

All of these pubs are located in or near the village center, making them easy to access on foot or by car. They are all popular with both locals and visitors, and provide a range of dining and drinking experiences to suit different tastes and budgets.

Restaurants in Sonning on Thames

Sonning on Thames is also home to several restaurants that offer a range of cuisines and dining experiences. Here are some of the popular restaurants in the village:

  • The Great House at Sonning: The Great House at Sonning is a historic hotel and restaurant that offers fine dining in an elegant setting. The menu features classic British cuisine with a modern twist, and the restaurant has an extensive wine list.
  • Coppa Club: Coppa Club is a popular restaurant and bar located on the banks of the River Thames. The menu features a range of dishes, including sharing plates, pizzas, and burgers, as well as a selection of cocktails and other drinks.
  • The French Horn: The French Horn is a fine-dining restaurant and pub located in a historic building overlooking the River Thames. The restaurant serves classic French cuisine, and has an extensive wine list featuring wines from around the world.
  • The Mill at Sonning: The Mill at Sonning is a converted 18th-century mill that now houses a theater, restaurant, and bar. The restaurant offers a range of classic British dishes, as well as a pre-theater menu for theater-goers.
  • The Bull Inn: The Bull Inn is a traditional English pub that also offers a range of classic pub dishes, including Sunday roasts and fish and chips. The pub has a cozy atmosphere and is popular with locals and visitors alike.

Places to visit nearby Sonning on Thames:

  • Henley-on-Thames: 7 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Hambleden: 11 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Marlow: 11 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Goring on Thames: 13 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Fingest: 14 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Windsor: 16 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • West Wycombe: 17 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Wallingford: 17 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Burnham Beeches: 18 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Beaconsfield: 18 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Dorchester on Thames: 20 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Old Amersham: 23 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Abingdon: 27 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Wendover: 27 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
  • Thame: 30 miles away from Sonning-on-Thames
Places to visit nearby Sonning-on-Thames
Sonning Reading

Sonning FAQ

What’s it like to live in Sonning-on-Thames?

Living in Sonning-on-Thames is a picturesque experience with its charming riverside setting and idyllic countryside surroundings, offering a peaceful and scenic lifestyle. The village combines historical character with a close-knit community, making it an appealing place to reside.

What celebs live in Sonning?

Sonning-on-Thames is known to be home to several notable celebrities, including George Clooney and Amal Clooney, who own a luxurious mansion in the village, adding a touch of glamour to the area. Other famous residents have included British singer-songwriter Adele and comedian Jimmy Carr.

The Mill at Sonning

The Mill at Sonning is a renowned and historic theatre located in Sonning-on-Thames, offering a unique theatrical experience where guests can enjoy performances while also dining in a picturesque riverside setting. It has a rich history and is well-known for its combination of fine cuisine and live entertainment.

Is Sonning a part of Reading?

No, Sonning is a separate village located near Reading, Berkshire, in England. While it is in close proximity to Reading, it is considered an independent entity with its own distinct charm and identity.

Dinton Pastures Country Park

Dinton Pastures Country Park is a beautiful natural retreat located near Reading, Berkshire, offering a range of outdoor activities such as walking trails, cycling paths, fishing lakes, and wildlife spotting, making it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and families alike. The park’s scenic landscapes and tranquil atmosphere provide a refreshing escape from city life.

Is it worth visiting Sonning-on-Thames?

Sonning is a beautiful little village in the heart of the English countryside. It’s a spot worth visiting if you’re looking for a base for a walk along the River Thames, in a village where you have several good meal options and plenty of luxury to enjoy!

If you are looking for a great location in the south of England for your next UK weekend trip, then Sonning is a great choice!

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There’s an abundant list of things to do in Sonning, from enjoying the culinary delights at the French Horn to immersing in the cosy atmosphere of the Mill House in Sonning Eye. For those seeking to add an unexpected twist to their visit, a glimpse of George Clooney’s house in Sonning Eye offers a taste of Hollywood amidst the quintessential English setting.

With their stunning landscapes and inviting corners, Sonning and Sonning Eye extend a warm welcome to anyone eager to experience the true charm of England. These tranquil havens encapsulate the best of what Berkshire, UK has to offer, making them must-visit destinations for any UK adventure.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or a first-time visitor, the allure of Sonning and Sonning Eye is undeniable. They are ready to share their captivating stories, serene riverside views, and historical treasures. Isn’t it time you experienced Sonning, the charming heart of Berkshire, for yourself?

Things to do in Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire

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