Streams weave through vast reedbeds, canals pass colourful meadows and ancient forests, rivers meander through picture-book villages built from golden stone, reflecting families enjoying picnics on their banks – cycling the waterways of the Severn and Thames Way is pure bliss.
In this Collection, we guide you along the Severn and Thames Way as it follows canals and rivers 173 miles (279 km) from Gloucester to Reading. We have broken down the route into seven manageable sections ranging in length from 15 miles (25km) to 30 miles (49km). If you are looking to push yourself even more, you can easily combine the routes together.
The Severn and Thames Way follows along the majestic River Severn, the River Avon and along the Kennet & Avon Canal before reaching the River Thames in Reading. As such, families and leisure cyclists will love this route – you will only climb 1500 meters (4921 feet) in total.
You can truly relax and enjoy the scenery and history along the route as it mostly follows canal paths and traffic-free sections. Just be aware that the paths can become muddy at times, so make sure your tyres have suitable tread.
Bags packed and bike ready, all that’s left to do is get pedaling. This Collection will take you through some of the UK’s finest countryside, cities, and sites. You will ride through stunning nature reserves, over ornate Victorian bridges, through the golden town of Bradford on Avon, explore hipster graffiti in Bristol, relax in Bath Thermae Spa, and much more. From dining in gourmet restaurants to fishing in the river, the Severn and Thames Way offers something for everyone.
Waterways once served as a vital artery of life in the UK. Along the Severn and Thames Way you can learn about their important legacy and influence on the industrial revolution. You will find history around every curve of the river: old dock yards, impressive aqueducts once used to transport goods, and former railway stations converted into cafes.
Your adventure begins in Gloucester, a bustling city known for its beautiful cathedral which featured in the Harry Potter movies, and renovated docks. With direct train connections to Birmingham, Nottingham, Cardiff and London, Gloucester is easy to reach from across the UK. You will also find plenty of comfortable accommodation and restaurants here.
For more information about Gloucester, visit: visitgloucester.co.uk
For train tickets and timetables, visit: thetrainline.com/stations/gloucester
Your first day of adventure cycling the Severn and Thames Way, you will cycle a relaxing 20 miles (33km) along canals and rivers from Gloucester to Berkeley. Before setting off, its worth exploring Gloucester’s stunning cathedral and docks with excellent shops and restaurants. Although the centre in drab in places, the city has undergone a lot of renovation in recent years.
To leave the hustle and bustle of Gloucester behind, you will follow a traffic-free path along the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. The city slowly melts into green countryside as you cycle along the peaceful water, joining the River Severn as it meanders towards the Bristol Channel.
As stage one mostly follows waterways, today will be flat the whole way. But fear not, it is anything but boring. You can hand-wind historic locks on the canals, spot unique wildlife and birds in the surrounding woodland, cycle through pretty villages on the edge of the River Severn such as Elmore and Epney, and rest your legs at traditional pubs along the way.
After passing through Frampton Upon Severn, a small village with a huge 22 acre village green, you will once again follow the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal path until turning inland towards Slimbridge. From here, the final 6 miles (10 km) of stage one will take you along quiet country lanes through farmland and quiet rural life.
Your journey ends in Berkeley, a small town known for its castle where Edward II was once murdered. Today, the town is much more peaceful with sleepy streets and a pretty 14th century church. You will find plenty of accommodation options here to ensure you enjoy your stay.
Walk the corridors of medieval castles, cycle across stunning bridges, and enjoy a hearty meal at a country pub – stage two of the Severn and Thames Way takes you on a journey through beautiful nature, fascinating history, and culinary delights.
Setting off from Berkeley, you will cycle along quiet rural lanes as they wind through green countryside. After 4 miles (7 km) you will reach the village of Hill. Don’t worry, unlike the name suggests the village is, in fact, not situated atop a hill, but on the banks of the River Severn and edge of the Cotswolds.
From here, you will continue through fields of bright yellow Rapeseed and farmland before arriving in Oldbury-on-Severn. Here, you will find many great restaurants and welcoming pubs serving food from around the world.
Leaving Oldbury-on-Severn, you have a short climb to Littleton-Upon-Severn, before passing through Elberton. Here, the route takes a short detour from the Thames and Severn Cycleway across the Severn Bridge and Wye Bridge. These impressive bridges have amazing views across the Severn and Wye rivers which you can enjoy comfortably from your bike on the cycle lanes.
Your final destination is Severn Beach, a village on the edge of the Severn. In the past, the village was a popular seaside resort with city-dwellers flocking to its beaches to enjoy the fun-fair stalls, donkey rides and boating lake. Although much of its rawkus holiday spirit has now vanished, the village is a quaint place to spend a night. You can stroll along the seafront, enjoying a portion of greasy fish and chips before relaxing in your accommodation.
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Mighty rivers, peaceful rural idyll, and artsy cities – today you will cycle 30 miles (50km) from the edge of the River Severn through the City of Bristol. Stage three of the Severn and Thames Way is an easy ride along country lanes, riverside paths, and former railway lines.
You will cycle along a bike path adjacent to Severn Road following the mighty River Severn for 2 miles (4km). On the outskirts of Avonmouth, you will turn inland and cross over the Avonmouth Bridge.
The next section is a lovely ride following the River Avon as it winds through tranquil nature and Leigh Woods towards Bristol. After just over 4 miles (9km), you will see the impressive Clifton Suspension Bridge on the horizon, an iconic Bristol landmark.
After a short, sharp hill, you will continue along the River Avon as it flows into Bristol city centre. A vibrant city with a strong identity, Bristol has an abundance of creativity, green spaces and history. Here, you can explore the street art of Banksy’s hometown, window shop along Clifton’s golden Georgian streets, and step aboard Brunel’s SS Great Britain, docked in Bristol harbor.
You will pass through the Bristolian districts Lawrence Hill, Whitehall, Fishponds, and Staple Hill, each with its unique character and charm, as you leave Bristol. Just before Warmley, you will join the Bath to Bristol Railway Path. Once an important industrial railway line, today the 15 mile (24 km) off-road cycle way is popular with cyclists, runners and walkers.
You will pass historic mills and towns as you cycle along the peaceful route before leaving the path at Saltford, a thriving Somerset village. Here, you will find plenty of accommodation from including hotels, holiday rentals and B&Bs to relax after a fun day of adventure.
Regal Roman bath houses, rooftop swimming pools, peaceful canal paths, leafy railway cycleways and beautiful Georgian architecture – your fourth day of adventure following the Severn and Thames Way will lead you from Saltford to Bradford on Avon via the magical city of Bath. Covering 15.5 miles (25km), stage four is the shortest in this Collection, allowing you plenty of time to explore.
From Saltford, you will continue along the Bath to Bristol Railway Path for almost 5 miles (9 km) before arriving in the centre of Bath. Once home to novelist Jane Austen, this city has an abundance of charm. From the golden-coloured streets, majestic royal crescent, upmarket restaurants, Roman remains, and classy shops, Bath is a beautiful city with plenty to see and do.
You will leave Bath via the Kennet and Avon Canal as it meanders through Bathwick and Bathampton and into the surrounding countryside. This traffic-free section of the route will take you past quaint houseboats and along peaceful towpaths before arriving in Bradford on Avon.
Often referred to as a smaller version of Bath, Bradford on Avon is a picturesque town on the banks of the River Avon. You can stroll the town’s golden streets and discover centuries of history hidden beneath the surface. The town also has an abundance of great restaurants, cafes and pubs, as well as comfortable accommodation.
Stage five of your adventure cycling the Severn and Thames Way takes you deep into rural Somerset and Wiltshire as you ride 29 miles (48km) from Bradford on Avon to Avebury, passing many interesting highlights along the way.
In Bradford on Avon, you will rejoin the Kennet and Avon Canal as it flows through Trowbridge, a historic town with a rich industrial heritage, 11th-century castle, and remnants of its woollen cloth industry. Next, you will continue along the canal as it skirts around Semington village through fine rural Wiltshire.
Tractors ploughing patchwork fields, horses grazing in paddocks, hay bales standing in rows – cycling in Wiltshire gives you a real taste of country living. After 12 miles (20km), the canal flows into Devizes. A vibrant market town, Devizes has a rich medieval past which is echoed in many of the town's buildings and its large market place. Here, you will find many pleasant places to grab a coffee and bite to eat.
On the outskirts of Devizes, you will leave the Kennet and Avon Canal behind, following country lanes through Etchilhampton and Alton Barnes before arriving in Avebury, your final destination of stage five.
Although small, Avebury is a delightful place to spend the evening. If you cannot find the accommodation you are looking for her, you could take a small detour to a surrounding village. Beckhampton, West Overton and Winterbourne Monkton all offer a lovely slice of rural Britain.
Country lanes rise and fall through rural life, passing regal towns and following gushing rivers: stage six of the Severn and Thames Way is a beautiful journey through rolling countryside.
Today, you will ride 29 miles (47km) from Avebury to Newbury. With 380 meters (1246 feet) in elevation gain, stage six is one of the hilliest sections. But, don’t worry the climbs are very gradual and manageable.
Setting off from Avebury, you will cycle through peaceful rural landscapes before reaching Marlborough. A historic market town nestled amongst the finest Wiltshire countryside, Marlborough is a lovely place to relax and wander around its old black and white buildings and independent shops.
A short climb out of Marlborough will take you into the Savernake Forest. Here, ancient trees frame your way as you travel 3 miles (5km) into the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Look out for deer, kestrels, woodpeckers and badgers as you ride into this dense and historic forest.
In Great Bedwyn, you will rejoin the Kennet and Avon Canal as it flows through Little Bedwyn and into Hungerford. With various pubs, shops and restaurants, Hungerford is a great place to stop for lunch, as the name suggests.
With the canal never far away, you will then continue through sleepy villages before arriving in Newbury, the end of stage six of your adventure. A small but thriving town, Newbury has a large market square lined by many ancient buildings such as a rare medieval Cloth Hall and half-timbered listed buildings. Here, you will find various places to stay and re-energize for the final stage of your adventure. Newbury also has direct train links with London, Reading and Bath.
Passing through vast nature reserves and winding waterways, your final day of adventure cycling the Thames and Severn Way takes you through stunning landscapes. Today, you will continue east, cycling a flat 22 miles (35km) from Newbury to Reading.
On the outskirts of Newbury, you will pass through the sprawling Thatcham Reedbed Nature Reserve. Here, birdsong subdues silence as you cycle for 2 miles (4km) through the peaceful idyll.
Rejoining the Kennet and Avon Canal after Thatcham, you will follow the traffic-free towpath pas Woolhampton, a small village once famous for its coaching inns. Today, only the Angel Inn remains, situated on the main road.
This area of the UK was once an essential transport corridor carrying goods across the south of England. Along the canal, you can see old industrial buildings such as the Aldermaston Wharf which was a busy industrial canal wharf in the past. However, today the tranquil Kennet & Avon Canal seems far removed from its industrial history. Nowadays, joggers and cyclists pace its banks whilst wildlife swim in the murky water. Hosehill Lake is also a beautiful natural gem along the way.
You will follow water into the very heart of Reading. Although your surroundings will become busier, you can enjoy traffic-free paths all the way. Reading is a lively town with plenty of things to see and do: browse the shops in the Oracle, wander the ruined Abbey, or learn about the region’s history in the Reading Museum.
As Reading enjoys direct train connections across the UK, you can easily return home by train. London is just over an hour away by train. Alternatively, if you still have muscle power and time, you could continue along the River Thames as it flows into London.
For train time tables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com/stations/reading