Escape the city on this enchanting ride along the Thames Valley Cycle Route – from London to Oxford – where history, culture and, in parts, surprisingly rural natural beauty meet.
As the name suggests, the Thames takes centre stage on this route. On the first and last part you follow the river directly along the popular Thames Path, where you can soak up the quaint riverside flair. In between, the more varied, undulating part of the ride leads you into the Chiltern Hills, before rejoining the river where historic market towns and villages have formed.
It’s amazing how almost half of this 98 mile (158 km) journey offers a traffic-free cycling experience while still passing through well-known towns such as Windsor, Eton, Maidenhead and Reading, and of course connecting two major cities: London and Oxford.
Richmond Park, Hampton Court and Great Windsor Park are also all located directly on the route for you to enjoy grand architecture, elegant gardens and wide open green spaces.
With varied terrain and a combination of bike paths, tow paths, roads and cycle lanes comes the question of bike choice: There’s nothing a road bike can’t handle on this route, but you will likely be more comfortable on a bike that is set up with slightly wider tyres.
As for food, there isn’t just charming little cafes, pubs and plenty of supermarkets en route for you to refuel, you could even choose to dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant with Heston Blumenthal’s fancy “Fat Duck” being located on the route in Bray. It’s probably best to make a booking though.
The same goes for accommodation, where you’ll find countless options for all budgets along the journey.
Discover Oxford, home to the world’s oldest university – and a thriving cycling culture – as your final destination.
When it comes to your return leg, public transport links between Oxford and London are very good. Train journey times into London Paddington or Marylebone are around an hour. However, try to avoid commuting hours as bicycle transport may be restricted to just folding bikes during peak time. Find out more at nationalrail.co.uk.
Fancy tackling the route in reverse? There’s absolutely no reason not to. Just remember the official route starts in Putney, located to the southwest of London’s city centre. You can, of course, easily change your end point to match your itinerary.
Let the Thames Valley Cycle Route lure you out of the city. Whether you want to tackle the route over three days to allow plenty of time for off-the-bike comforts and discoveries, or adapt the ride to suit your own pace, adventure awaits on the capital’s doorstep!
Historic bridges, locks, houseboats, rowing clubs, cafes and modern mansions, immerse yourself in the best the Thames and its banks have to offer as you follow the river out of London and for the most part of day 1. It may be the shortest and flattest part of the trip, but with endless opportunities to get off the bike and explore further (or to simply linger and enjoy the views!) you can easily make a day of it.The first Highlight of the day awaits just a few miles into the ride, where the official route deviates from the river and leads you through one of South London’s treasures — Richmond Park. Enjoy the lush open landscape (you may even spot some deer) and smooth tarmac!If that’s not enough royal opulence for you, you’ll be in for a treat as the route next passes right by the impressive Hampton Court and its gardens.Hang in there for lunch with the perfect spot coming up just over half way into the ride at Shepperton Lock. To get to it you need to cross the river either using the footpath or, arguably the more fun option, by jumping on the ferry.With plenty of options to refuel and stay for the night in and around Staines and Egham, the last section of day 1 is arguably more practical than exciting — but worry not, things will get interesting again in the morning.
Having left the banks of the Thames behind, (bar a few river crossings), day 2 starts with a bit of a climb up Cooper’s Hill before the terrain generally becomes more varied.However, this next section still makes for rather gentle pedalling: Less than five miles (eight kilometres) into the ride you will pass through yet another beautiful royal park - Windsor Great Park, where the route leads past the park’s charming village store and post office. Then you continue through the often busy Windsor town centre and Dorney Lake, Eton College’s impressive, purpose-built rowing lake.“With effort comes reward” – should perhaps be the motto for the next section: The route kicks up a bit once more after Maidenhead but in turn you will be rewarded with miles of quiet, picturesque country lanes. I've also included a popular cycling cafe, which is located just off the official route on Warren Row. So if you’ve not had lunch yet or fancy a cake stop and don’t mind a few extra pedal strokes, this could be a definite Highlight.Reading is the final destination of day 2 and offers plenty of choice in terms of accommodation and local amenities.
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Day 3 is the most testing part of the route both in terms of ascent and distance, but you probably won’t mind the extra elevation being surrounded by the beautiful, tranquil landscape of the Chilterns.By the time you reach Wallingford and the ruins of its famous medieval castle, most of the climbing will be done and dusted for the day. OK, there’s another noteworthy climb awaiting up the Wittenham Clumps (a pair of wooded chalk hills) but again, the spectacular vistas will make the effort worthwhile and remember, you’re now less than 20 miles (33 kilometres) from Oxford.If you can manage to wait until this far into the ride, Abingdon, the next town along, is a really nice place for a lunch or cake stop.For the final stretch of the journey into Oxford, it’s time to rejoin the riverside path and to enjoy everything that comes with it - locks, meadows and fabulous views of the college boathouse and rowing crew. But remember, it’s a shared pedestrian and cycle path and it’s narrow at points so just don’t get too distracted.Oxford itself, of course, doesn’t need much introduction. While it is world renowned for its university history (Oxford University is the oldest university in the English-speaking world with records of teaching dating back to the 11th century!), it remains a young, vibrant city, home to a thriving cycling culture at its heart. You certainly won’t be stuck for things to do on or off the bike if you have time to stay for another night or two.As mentioned in the Collection intro, if you’re heading back to London, there’s a good train link with journey times into Marylebone or Paddington of around an hour.Enjoy!