The Thames Path follows Britain’s most iconic river for 184 miles (296 kilometers) from its source in a quiet Cotswold meadow through to the bustling heart of London.
On this epic journey, you will see the River Thames transform from a tiny stream into the silvery lifeline of England as it meanders through Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Henley, Windsor, and past all of the famous sights in the capital city.
From wildflower fields to water meadows, sleepy villages to urban areas, nature reserves to royal palaces, patchwork pastures to Victorian streets; this ever-changing journey always offers something new to pique your interest.
The Thames Path is almost entirely flat, it is well-maintained, and exceptionally easy to navigate, meaning that it is suitable for all ages and abilities. As long as you have an average level of fitness, you will not struggle on any of these routes.
In this Collection we conquer the Thames Path in 15 stages, starting from Thames Head, in Gloucestershire, and finishing at Thames Barrier, in Woolwich. Averaging 12 miles (19 kilometers) per day, you have plenty of time to take in the many sights along the way.
As always, of course, you can split up each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages, in isolation. Public transport links are fantastic along the entire trail so it is easy to tailor the hikes.
If you are using public transport to undertake the routes in this Collection, you will need to catch a train to Kemble Railway Station, which is served by direct trains from London and has connecting services around the country.
From Kemble, it is a three-mile (five kilometer) walk to the source. You can also catch the 882 bus service from Kemble to Coates, the closest settlement to the source. Or, alternatively, you could arrange a taxi, which would not cost much.
If you are planning to arrive by car, your best bet is to negotiate with a hotel or B&B a rate to stay for a night either side of your hike in Kemble and leave your car for the duration.
Alternatively, you could leave your car at a long-stay car park in London and get a train to Kemble. Either way, trains between Kemble and London are fairly frequent and easy to navigate.
For more information about the Thames Path, visit: nationaltrail.co.uk/thames-path.
For the 882 bus service timetable visit: bustimes.org/services/882-gloucester-cirencester-kemble-tetbury.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
The start of the 184 mile (296 kilometer) Thames Path begins at the source of the river, known as Thames Head, in a Cotswold meadow near the village of Kemble.
As the spring is dry for most of the year, you will most likely not see any evidence of the river. Fear not, though, you will soon become fully acquainted with the mighty River Thames.
Meanwhile, if you are after water, the trail quickly veers into Cotswold Water Park; the UK’s largest marl lake system. Covering an area of 40 square miles, the system comprises more than 150 lakes across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, and West Oxfordshire.
Along this stage, you follow the tiny River Thames as it meanders through some delightful Cotswold villages; packed with beautiful architecture and boasting plenty of places to stop for refreshments.
This stage finishes in the small town of Cricklade, which has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
This stage gently meanders through a picturesque patchwork of fields and traditional villages.
From Circklade, you follow the river to Castle Eaton, at which point the trail diverts from the water’s edge until Upper Inglesham.
You are able to return to the riverside at this point after negotiations with landowners resulted in a new and improved section of the trail opening. This new way (as shown here, but not in many maps and guidebooks) also avoids following the A361.
When you reach Inglesham, it is worth taking a moment to explore Saint John the Baptist Church, a Grade I-listed building that is mostly unchanged since the medieval era.
Before you reach the small town of Lechlade, where this stage finishes, you have to cross the historic Ha'penny Bridge. Built in 1792, the halfpenny toll to use the bridge was abolished in 1839 after a local revolt
Lechlade has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
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Stunning views, open skies, and a wonderfully-remote landscape combine to make this an enjoyable stage.
At 16 miles (26 kilometers), this is the longest stage on the entire trail officially—not including detours on later routes on the Path—and follows the widening river through the Thames Valley floodplain.
From Lechlade, you soon pass the iconic statue of Old Father Thames at St John's Lock, the first lock you encounter on the river.
The trail winds through arable and grazing fields, separated by hedgerows that erupt into a banquet of summer fruits in late summer.
You pass six of the 45 non-tidal locks on this stage; all with beautiful gardens where you can stop for a moment.
This stage finishes in Newbridge. Whilst there are some options for accommodation and food and drink in Newbridge, it does not have much choice. However, the surrounding area has quite a few options.
A serene, beautiful, and delightfully-unpopulated landscape characterize this stage, right up until you reach the historic city of Oxford.
The Thames has grown considerably by the time it reaches Newbridge and you will notice that many different boats are using the waterway.
At Bablock Hythe, the Path veers away from the waterside for a few miles at the point of an old ferry crossing. It is hoped that one day a bridge will be built at this spot so people can cross and walk along the towpath on the other side.
You return to the water at Farmoor Reservoir, a delightful stretch of water surrounded by countryside and woodland. The reservoir is home to lots of wildlife and is especially good for birdwatching.
Close to the village of Lower Wolvercote, you pass the enchanting ruins of the 12th Century Godstow Nunnery, which are well worth exploring.
This stage finishes in Oxford, an iconic university city that boasts a tantalizing fusion of ancient history, modernity, and abundant beauty.
Oxford has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
First-time and regular visitors alike soon become spellbound by the reverent history, beautiful architecture, and quintessential Englishness of Oxford.
Owing to the draw of Oxford, this stage is intentionally short to allow you plenty of time to explore the historic university city.
Some Oxford highlights have been included on this hike, including Christ Church Cathedral, Balliol College, and Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
However, if you have time, other key attractions include Bodleian Library, Ashmolean Museum, Magdalen College, and Pitt Rivers Museum.
The trail winds through pleasant countryside once you have left Oxford and the stage finishes at one of the most important historic towns on the River Thames, Abingdon.
Boasting a magnificent town hall, an abbey that was founded as early as 675AD, as well as ancient streets and a calendar of traditional festivals, you will feel the draw of Abingdon as soon as you cross and a medieval bridge.
Abingdon has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
This scenic stage is alive with a history dating back to the Bronze age.
From Abingdon, you follow the river south past the village of Culham before making a near 90 degree turn east at Culham Cut.
After crossing the river at Days Lock, it is worth crossing back via the bridge a few meters downstream to make a worthwhile detour to see Wittenham Clumps. It is a bit of a climb to the summit, but if you have the legs, you will not regret it.
One of South Oxfordshire’s most iconic landmarks, the Clumps rise high above the landscape, affording spectacular views over the River Thames and the surrounding countryside. The Clumps are steeped in history with evidence of Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman occupation.
You continue to follow the river southwest until you reach the historic market town of Wallingford, where this stage finishes. Here, you can explore Wallingford Castle ruins and gardens, and take in the town’s medieval bridge.
Wallingford has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
This varied stage takes you through serene countryside, small towns and villages, and ends in a major city.
From Wallingford, you follow the path south through splendid open countryside and pass through Cholsey Marsh nature reserve.
You cross the river at Goring on Thames and follow the river banks until you reach Hartslock Nature Reserve, a stunning south-facing chalk downland hill which affords breathtaking views over the River Thames, Goring Gap, and the rolling landscape.
The grassland on the reserve, which is surrounded by ancient hedgerows and woodland, is home to myriad species of plants and animals, some of which are extremely rare. It is worth a slight detour to see this reserve and it is a perfect spot to relax.
The stage finishes in Tilehurst, on the outskirts of Reading. There is a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions in the area.
Upon leaving Reading, this stage quickly resumes its rural charm; exploring a landscape of wooded hills and open countryside with manor houses nestled in the creases.
Whilst you might be expecting city crowds at Reading, the Path takes the less populated north side of the river, affording a surprising sense of serenity.
Along the way, you pass the Redgrave-Pinsent Rowing Lake, named after the Olympic rowing champions Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent.
You also see the beautiful arched brick Sonning Bridge, which was completed in 1775; the church of St Peter and St Paul, which dates to the 13th century; and the impressive Henley Bridge, constructed 1786.
This stage finishes in the picturesque town of Henley-on-Thames, famous for hosting the Henley Royal Regatta. The town has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
This short stage allows plenty of time to explore the historic towns of Henley and Marlow—and give your legs a rest if you have been walking for eight days already.
From Henley, you follow a section of river which is used for the Henley Royal Regatta, hailed as the the most famous regatta in the world.
Temple Island, a small river island that houses an ornamental folly in the form of a temple, is the starting point for the regatta.
As the river bends after the regatta course, you can see the magnificent Greenlands Lodge on the opposite bank. Built in the nineteenth century, the Grade II-listed building is now a campus at the University of Reading.
A short time later, you see Hambleden Mill on the opposite side of the river. Also a Grade II-listed building, the historic flour mill was constructed on the fast-flowing and narrow Hambleden Bourne, which discharges into the River Thames at this point.
The trail then follows the river through patchwork fields, crossing the river via bridges at a couple of points, all the way to Marlow, a town famed for its Michelin-star restaurants, boutique shops, and picturesque riverside setting.
Marlow has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
This stage takes you along one of the most beautiful sections of the Thames Path.
From Marlow, the trail meanders through serene countryside all the way to Maidenhead. At this point it may feel a little busier as more people flock to admire this enviably affluent and picturesque part of the world.
Along this gorgeous section of the Thames Valley you can glimpse into some grandiose homes, finishing with the jewel in the crown, Windsor Castle, standing proudly above the water.
Highlights along this section include Dorney Court, which is hailed as one of England’s finest Tudor Manor House; Dorney Lake, an international competitive rowing lake used in the 2012 London Olympics; and the enchanting St Mary Magdalene's Church, a religious fixture since the Norman conquest.
This trail then follows the river banks through arable fields to the town of Windsor, home to the Royal Family, where the stage finishes.
Windsor has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
The River Thames has reached a respectable size by Windsor, but it has a lot of growing to do before it reaches London.
As you get closer to the capital, you will notice that the Path feels busier and there is inevitably more built-up areas. However, there is still plenty of picturesque walking on offer throughout this stage and beyond.
After taking some time to explore Windsor, the trail snakes through open fields and some residential areas; following the banks of the Thames for almost the entirety of the hike.
This stage finishes in the suburban village of Shepperton, which has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
This stage takes you along the last non-tidal section of the River Thames, exploring an ever-changing landscape of green space and urbanity.
From Shepperton, the trail winds past Walton-on-Thames and past a series of enormous reservoirs; all providing vital water supplies for the capital city.
As you pass Molesey, you will see the intriguing Garrick's Temple to Shakespeare on the opposite side of the river, which was built by the actor-manager David Garrick in 1756 to celebrate the genius of William Shakespeare.
Soon after Molesey lock, you cross the Thames via Hampton Court Bridge and come right up to Hampton Court Palace, once home to Henry VIII.
The trail crosses the Horse Fair bridge a few miles later as the river meanders through Kingston-upon-Thames and follows the banks until Teddington, where this stage finishes.
Teddington has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
The Thames Path follows both the north and south banks of the river during this stage, so the choice is yours.
The south bank route is 11.6 miles (18.6 Km) in total and the north bank route is 14.1 miles (22.6 Km).
There are eight bridges crossing the river along this stage, though, so if there is anything you want to see, on either side, it is easily done.
From Teddington, you head north along the Thames and soon arrive at Ham House, an atmospheric 17th-century manor house surrounded by spectacular gardens.
A short time later, you pass Richmond Bridge, the oldest bridge crossing the Thames in Greater London, and continue to follow the river as it snakes to Putney Bridge, where this stage finishes.
Putney has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
This stage passes some of the most iconic London landmarks, many of which are recognizable throughout the entire world.
If you are interested in taking a self-led London walking tour then this is the stage to do it. On this route, we have suggested a short detour at Westminster Bridge so you can explore the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, Whitehall, St James‘s Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, and Downing Street.
However, this detour only scratches the surface. If you have time—and the energy—why not explore nearby Hyde Park, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, and Covent Garden? There are lots of interesting places to visit within a stone’s-throw from the City of Westminster.
If you do not fancy extending the route, though, you can still gaze at Westminster and Big Ben from the other side of the river and saunter past the London Eye, Tower Bridge, and glimpse the Tower of London.
This stage finishes at Tower Bridge. There is a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and myriad other attractions to explore.
This stage brings the Thames Path national trail to its epic conclusion.
The Path has followed the river for 184 miles (296 Kilometers) from its source as a tiny spring in the Cotswold Hills, all the way to being an enormous river flowing through the heart of London.
On this stage, you can follow either side of the Thames between Teddington footbridge and the Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs, opposite Greenwich. The south bank route is 10 miles (16 kilometers) and the north bank is five-and-a-half miles (nine kilometers).
As the trail winds along old cobbled streets, rich with Victorian heritage, and past some exquisite residential homes, the hustle-and-bustle of London does, at times, feel miles away.
This route makes a brief detour to pass the old ship Cutty Sark, Greenwich Market, the free entry National Maritime Museum, and up to The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, where you are afforded a breathtaking view of central London and the Thames.
From here, the trail winds around the Greenwich Peninsula until it reaches the Thames Barrier, an epic defence against high tides and storm surges from the North Sea.
This stage finishes at the Thames Barrier. There is a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions in the area.