The Thames Path is a long distance walking trail, following England's best known river for 184 miles (294 Km) as it meanders from its source in the Cotswolds through several rural counties and on into the heart of London. On its way the Trail passes peaceful water meadows rich in wildlife, historic towns and cities and many lovely villages, finishing at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich just a few miles from the sea.
Distance chart – distances between places from the Source to Teddington
Distance chart – distances between London bridges
The Source to Cricklade – 12.3 miles (19.7 Km)
The source of the River Thames lies in a remote Cotswold meadow beneath the boughs of an elderly ash tree. For much of the year this spring is dry and you may find the bed of the Thames remains without water for some distance, especially during the summer.
Your route following the infant river wanders through pastures and small Cotswold villages characterised by creamy stonework buildings with stone slate roofs. These are ideal places to enjoy a break as most villages have excellent local pubs. You’ll also pass through the Cotswold Water Park that has 140 lakes created mostly from gravel extraction. Some lakes are managed solely for wildlife and therefore this is a great place for bird watching.
Just before Cricklade the Thames Path skirts around the edge of North Meadow. This National Nature Reserve is where, in late April, the rare snakeshead fritillary flowers in unimaginable numbers, a truly tremendous sight.
The pleasant small town of Cricklade dates way back to Saxon times. It’s also where the right of upstream navigation ends.
Cricklade to Lechlade – 11 miles (17.5 Km)
From Cricklade you follow the still small river as far as the village of Castle Eaton with its lovely 12th century church. From here the Thames Path is away from the river for a while keeping to tracks, bridleways until it reaches Upper Inglesham.
Following final negotiations with landowners, the Thames Path National Trail has a new route between Upper Inglesham and Inglesham open for Public Use. Please Note the Thames Path no longer follows the verge of the A361. The Trail is off road and mostly follows the river, with new signage, gates and bridges installed along the route. It is fully open and available for public use. Please follow signage on the ground and not Ordnance Survey (OS) maps or guide books for this section. Guide books and maps will be amended in time, when new reprints occur. We hope you enjoy this new and lovely section of riverside walking.
It’s a pleasure to reach Inglesham, especially to visit the small atmospheric church of St John the Baptist just a short way from the Thames Path. Sympathetically restored by William Morris, the 19th century poet and craftsman who lived at Kelmscott just a few miles downstream, the church is delightfully unaltered from previous centuries.
At Inglesham the River Coln joins the Thames, and the Thames and Severn Canal leaves it. Boats last used the canal built to carry barges to Stroud in 1927 although enthusiasts are keen to restore it. The Round House here was the unusual quarters of the lock-keeper – horses were stabled on the ground floor with people living above.
The small prosperous Cotswold town of Lechlade on Thames is reached by leaving the Thames Path at Ha’penny Bridge, a lovely old stone toll bridge still with its small toll house. But don’t worry, you won’t need to delve in your pockets to find the halfpenny toll since this was removed after a local revolt in 1839!
Lechlade to Newbridge – 16.4 miles (26.2 Km)
This is the longest section of the Thames Path following the ever-growing river as it slowly winds its way through the flat flood plain of the Thames Valley. It is wonderfully remote so if you want peace and quiet, large skies and long views, then this is the section to explore!
Once you leave Lechlade behind, having paid your respects to Old Father Thames at St John’s Lock the first lock on the river, you are amongst mixed farming. Many of the meadows are grazed by sheep or cattle, lots with hedges abundant with blackberries in late August and September. Beyond Tadpole Bridge the Thames Path goes through Chimney Meadows National Nature Reserve, a vast area of wildlife rich meadows managed by the local Wildlife Trust.
You pass the oldest bridge on the Thames at Radcot and others with fascinating names. There’s Tadpole bridge, Old Man’s bridge, Tenfoot bridge (although it’s much wider than 10 feet) and finally Newbridge that is so new it dates from the 13th century!
This section also has 6 of the 45 locks on the non-tidal Thames, all remote and with lovely gardens. You’ll be hard-pressed to find many villages close to the Path, but luckily there’s the occasional road crossing with a welcoming pub, and at the finish at Newbridge a choice of pubs, one on each bank.
Newbridge to Oxford – 14 miles (22.4 Km)
By the time you reach Newbridge the River Thames has grown to a respectable size and is pretty well used by a range of boats. This stretch of the Thames Path is, however, still remote and amazingly rural right until you almost reach the centre of Oxford.
At Bablock Hythe, where there used to be a ferry and still is a pub, the Path leaves the river for a couple of miles. There are hopes that one day a bridge will be constructed here which would allow the Thames Path to cross the river and continue along the old towpath on the opposite bank. Swinford Bridge a bit further downstream, built in 1770, is one of only two remaining toll bridges on the Thames but it’s free to pedestrians wanting to visit Eynsham.
There can be no better way to enter the lovely city of Oxford than to walk in from the Trout at Godstow north on the Thames Path. After the river has made a loop around the high ground of Wytham Woods, it slips under the A34 ring road and past the delightful setting of the Trout Inn and the remains of Godstow Abbey. From here for almost 2 miles the Path keeps company with the huge expanse of Oxford’s ancient Port Meadow on the opposite bank until suddenly you are spilled into the city close to the rail station.
Oxford to Abingdon-on-Thames – 9.9 miles (15.8 Km)
This stretch is quite short giving you the opportunity to spend the morning exploring a little of Oxford before leaving. The Thames Path as it leaves the city south towards Abingdon is almost as green as its arrival from the north, and once past Iffley Lock and then the ring road this is a very rural route.
The lock at Sandford, a few miles downstream of Oxford, has the greatest fall of water on the Thames with its weir, known as the Sandford Lasher, being pretty impressive.
Having crossed the Thames at Abingdon Lock you soon arrive at the southern end of Abingdon Bridge with the town to the north. The original bridge was built in 1422 with 14 arches, and the current structure manages to retain a medieval feel. Abingdon-on-Thames is one of the most important of all the historic towns on the Thames, with a magnificent town hall and abbey founded as early as 675AD.
Abingdon-on-Thames to Wallingford – 13.5 miles (21.6 Km)
Starting and finishing in historic towns, this section also encounters several villages on or close to the Thames Path varying in size from the tiny settlement of Little Wittenham at the foot of Wittenham Clumps (also known as the Sinodun Hills) to the far larger one of Benson just before Wallingford.
South of Abingdon the river makes an almost 90 degrees turn to head east past Culham and then on towards the Wittenhams where it loops north, skirting the Wittenham Clumps, before once more turning south. As the crow flies, the distance between the two towns is 8 miles whilst you walk over 13!
Castle Hill, one of the Clumps, above Little Wittenham with its Iron Age fort and views from the top is well worth both the detour from the Path and the steep climb. For the less energetic the remains of Wallingford Castle, built by the Normans and demolished by Cromwell in the 17th century after the Civil War, can be explored.
There are two impressive abbeys to enjoy on this stretch: the remains of Abingdon Abbey at the start of the day and the great abbey church in Dorchester-on-Thames built around 1140, just a mile east of the Thames.
Wallingford to Tilehurst – 14.8 miles (23.7 Km)
This section provides contrasting landscapes, some lovely settlements with plenty of facilities, and finishes on the outskirts of the major town of Reading.
The first few miles of your walk pass through wide open countryside with large undulating arable fields stretching away to the east to a beech wood skyline. Soon the hills begin to dominate with the Berkshire Downs rising to the west and the wooded Chilterns to the east. This, the Goring Gap, is the narrowest part of the Thames Valley with the river, a railway and a road all squeezed together between the hills on either side.
From just south of Wallingford, The Ridgeway, another National Trail and thought to be the oldest road in Britain, follows the opposite bank of the River Thames as far as Goring-on-Thames. Here it strikes west into the Downs on its way to Avebury, having crossed the Thames Path on the bridge over the River Thames.
Tilehurst to Henley-on-Thames – 12.3 miles (19.7 Km)
Reading is a busy, lively place but the route of the Thames Path is surprisingly quiet for it keeps to the north, least urbanised part of the town. Once Reading is left behind, you’ll enjoy a landscape of gentle wooded hills, fine houses and, of course, the ever-widening River Thames.
From Reading to Sonning cyclists can share the Thames Path but from Sonning, with its lovely 18th century hump-backed bridge, the Trail narrows and is for walkers only.
East of Reading the River Kennet enters the River Thames. It provides access to the Kennet and Avon Canal and its towpath that can be walked all the way west as far as Bath. Your path crosses the Kennet via the old Horseshoe Bridge.
Henley-on-Thames is famous for its Royal Regatta and is a delightful town. Make sure you don’t miss the award-winning River and Rowing Museum on the banks of the river as you enter the town.
Henley-on-Thames to Marlow – 8.7 miles (13.9 Km)
Another short section of the Thames Path allowing plenty of time in the day to explore either, or both, lovely towns and to give your feet a relative rest if you’re walking for several days!
Leaving Henley you follow the length of the regatta course along a very straight stretch of the river to Temple Island, the starting point for the races. The small temple is in fact a fishing lodge built as a landscape feature to enhance the view from nearby Fawley Court.
The views across the river near Hambleden Lock are picturesque; the lock, a series of weirs across which you can walk and Hambleden Mill. The latter, white weather boarded, only ceased working as a mill driven by a water turbine in 1955. Hurley, a few miles further downstream, is just a small village but has a tremendous history and many fine buildings to see.
Your approach to Marlow starts with a lovely view of Bisham Church on the opposite bank; on a still, bright day its pale tower is beautifully reflected in the waters of the River Thames. A little further on you enter Marlow’s Higginson Park just before the fine bridge. The people of Marlow really enjoy their river, and unless the weather is poor, the park will be full of people promenading, picnicking, feeding the ducks, or just sitting and looking.
Marlow to Windsor – 14.3 miles (22.3 Km)
Marlow is arguably set in the most beautiful stretch of the Thames Valley with the wooded slopes of Winter Hill rising on the opposite bank as you leave the town. Beyond Maidenhead the river becomes busier and in places there are views of grand homes finishing with the grandest of them all, Windsor Castle, towering above the water.
From Bourne End your route to Cookham goes through Cock Marsh, now managed by the National Trust but grazed as common land since 1272. Cookham is famous as the home of artist Stanley Spencer who lived here for 49 years and where the chapel is now a memorial gallery to his work.
Between Cookham and Boulter’s Lock the beech woods rise steeply on the opposite bank. This is the Cliveden Estate, which can be magnificent in November when the autumn colours are at their best, and notorious for the 1960s Profumo scandal. The National Trust now manages the gardens and woodland and the house is an exclusive hotel.
Windsor to Shepperton – 13.7 miles (21.9 Km)
As the Thames Path gets closer to London the number of riverside settlements inevitably increase, but there is still considerable amounts of green space to enjoy before you reach Shepperton. The first of these, shortly after leaving Windsor, is part of the Castle’s Home Park although beyond Victoria Bridge the Thames Path has to cross to the opposite bank for security reasons.
Once past Old Windsor you reach Runnymede, a place of immense historic and symbolic importance as it was here that the Magna Carta was signed by King John in June 1215. One of just a few copies of the Magna Carta is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, which you may have visited if you followed the Thames Path through the city.
Staines-upon-Thames is an urban, modern town today but until manmade structures were built to impede the river’s flow downstream it was the upper limit of the tidal reach. Just beyond is Penton Hook, the most impressive loop along the river, where it’s well worth making a trip across the lock to explore the tranquil wooded island.
Shepperton to Teddington – 10.9 miles (17.4 Km)
This section is remarkably varied and includes vast reservoirs, an old racecourse, a royal palace and smart Kingston. It is the last non-tidal stretch of the Path as beyond Teddington Lock the River Thames is tidal.
From Shepperton Lock there’s a choice of routes depending on whether the ferry is operating. If it is, you can cross the river and follow the towpath on the south bank; if not then there is a primarily road route that takes you north to cross on Walton Bridge, the latest bridge to be built across the river.
Passing enormous reservoirs providing water for the capital, you eventually reach the green space of Hurst Park where horses raced from 1890 to 1962. Across the river stands Garrick’s Temple built by the actor David Garrick to house a statue of Shakespeare in 1756.
Hampton Court Palace and its Home Park, built by Cardinal Wolsey and added to by Henry VIII and William and Mary, dominate the river and enhance the Path as far as Kingston Bridge. Kingston-upon-Thames has its own association with kings, and continues today as a Royal Borough having been a favoured crowning place for Anglo-Saxon kings.
Teddington to Putney (The south bank route is 11.6 miles (18.6 Km), the north bank route is 14.1 miles (22.6 Km).)
The Thames Path offers a choice of walking routes either side of the river from Teddington footbridge as far as Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs opposite Greenwich. This allows you to design walks that stick to just one side of the river, using the excellent public transport system in London to get back to your start, or circular walks that cross from one bank to the other using the many bridges.
Along this stretch there are 8 bridges where you can cross the river. Maps and route directions can be downloaded from Transport for London’s website.
If you stay on the south bank you’re bound be surprised at how rural it feels, and the north bank too has several lengthy green stretches. Whichever route you take, if you have the time, there’s an enormous amount to see and visit.
On the south bank your walk takes you past an amazing succession of parks, fields and gardens including the nature reserve of Hamlands, cattle-grazed Petersham Meadows just below Richmond, Richmond’s famous Old Deer Park and Kew’s even more famous Royal Botanic Gardens. To pick just a few of the other things to enjoy, why not explore the spectacular 17th century Ham House, the lovely town of Richmond-upon-Thames, pretty Barnes, or the Wetlands Centre just beyond, 40 hectares of wetlands so amazingly close to the centre of a major city. Or just stay by the river and enjoy the views across to Marble Hill House, Syon House and picturesque Strand-on-the-Green.
The north bank has three lovely areas of green space: Marble Hill Park, Syon Park and Dukes Meadow. And, of course, you’ll have great views of all the greenery on the opposite side of the river! Other treats along this route include elegant Marble Hill House within its park, the waterfront at Old Isleworth, the Duke of Northumberland’s Syon House, the Grand Union Canal a short section of which you follow, and the lovely village-like Strand-on-the-Green.
Putney to Tower Bridge (The south bank route is 10.5 miles (16.8 Km), the north bank route is 10.3 miles (16.5 Km).)
The Thames Path offers a choice of walking routes either side of the river from Teddington footbridge as far as Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs opposite Greenwich. Along this section there are an unequalled 16 bridges giving numerous opportunities to design short or long walks that explore some of the fascinating locations, attractions and history found along the river in the centre of London. Maps and route directions can be downloaded from Transport for London’s website.
On the south bank the walk starts in Wandsworth where there have been huge changes to the riverfront in the last 10 years. Much development has taken place providing wide, modern promenades for walkers alongside the river. Further developments have started, or are planned, but until they are complete the Thames Path in places has to divert away from the river. Battersea Park provides a welcome green space before the Path passes behind the old Power Station and on to the real heart of the city between Vauxhall and Tower bridges. There’s far too much along this stretch to list here, but some of the treats include: wonderful views of the Houses of Parliament, a chance to see the whole of the city from the London Eye, and a leisurely stroll along the ‘South Bank’ with all its theatres and galleries to enjoy.
On the north bank, after a short detour away from the river and through Hurlingham Park, you soon come to elegant Chelsea, home previously to many famous literary and artistic people. The Embankment gives great views across the river and takes you through Westminster, around the Houses of Parliament and on towards the financial square mile of the City of London. This section culminates in front of the dramatic Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge to Thames Barrier (The south bank route is 10 miles (16 Km). The north bank route to Island Gardens is 5.5 miles (8.8 Km).)
The south bank route starts amongst narrow cobbled lanes and tall converted warehouses with a glimpse of how Victorian dockland must have been at one muddy inlet just beyond the Design Museum. Soon however busy central London is left behind and, keeping mostly to walkways next to the river, you pass primarily residential areas on the way to historic Greenwich where east and west meet either side of the meridian line. Places particularly to savour are Rotherhithe, from where the Pilgrim Fathers departed to America in 1620, the substantial inland area of water left at Greenland Docks and lovely Greenwich itself.
From Greenwich to the O2 Centre there are still working wharves lining the riverside giving an industrial flavour to the area, and decaying piers or warehouses as a reminder that London once was the busiest port in the world. Around the O2 Centre a wide walkway next to the river takes you much of the remaining distance to the finish of the Thames Path at the iconic steel hoods of the Thames Barrier that protect London from flooding.
The last 10 years have seen great improvements to the route of the Thames Path along the North bank with many developments providing wide, pleasant promenades along the riverside. The start is lovely with the Path skirting fascinating St Katharine Docks, where frequently tall ships are moored, ahead of Wapping with its several historic pubs, cobbled streets and pleasantly converted warehouses. Before the tall modern buildings at Canary Wharf there’s the inland water basins at Shadwell and Limehouse to enjoy and the pleasant green interlude of King Edward Gardens.
Your final stretch to Island Gardens is mostly along broad promenades beside modern apartments and once you arrive take time to enjoy the view of the Old Royal Naval College across the wide river. If you wish to complete the journey to the Thames Barrier, you can cross here to Greenwich via the foot tunnel emerging by the Cutty Sark. Maps and route directions can be downloaded from Transport for London’s website.