Exploring the Trail
How long does it take to complete the Trail?
The Trail is 184 miles (294 Km) long. As a guide, using roughly 15 miles/24 Km a day as an average daily walking distance, the Trail can be completed in 14 days allowing for a couple of days’ rest. However it’s important to walk at the pace that suits you, allowing time for exploring and relaxing, and there is no pressure to do it quickly – the Thames Path is there for you to enjoy, and doesn’t have to be a route march!
You don’t have to walk it all in one go of course, you can dip in for half or a full day’s walk or complete is section at a time.
How hard is it?
The Thames Path is a gentle Trail, suitable for people with a wide range of abilities.
It is mainly flat, with just a few natural slopes. Many places along it can be accessed by people with limited mobility such as users of wheelchairs or mobility scooters, parents with pushchairs or those using a walking stick.
In recent years most of the stiles along the Trail have been replaced with gates. However there are still structures which may be barriers for many people with reduced mobility.
Are there any major diversions on the route?
Diversions show as exclamation marks on the interactive map.
August 2020: Due to cracks in the cast iron structure of Hammersmith Bridge it has been closed by Hammersmith and Fulham council. On the north bank there are local roads to use as diversion.
If you’re walking upstream on the south bank, turn left when you get to the Bridge, and walk from Hammersmith Bridge Road along Castelnau (A306) for 0.23km then turn right onto Lonsdale Road (B350). Continue for 0.85km to the Leg o’ Mutton nature reserve now managed by Friends of Barnes Common. Just before the nature reserve turn right onto Ferry Lane, a 0.13km track that takes you back to the Thames Path. The nature reserve is open and has a network of paths with several access points around it to enjoy seeing wildlife here – an interesting diversion.
If you’re walking on the south bank downstream from Barnes Bridge towards Hammersmith, continue on the Thames Path past the Leg o’ Mutton nature reserve until the Ferry Lane track on the right. Take Ferry Lane, a 0.13km track, and turn left onto Lonsdale Road. After 0.85km turn left onto Castelnau and continue towards Hammersmith Bridge before turning right to resume your walk by the river.
What will I see along the way?
We have route descriptions to give you an idea of what each section offers and help you decide where you’d like to walk.
Top Tips for Exploring the Trail
How do I get to the Thames Path?
Downstream of Oxford there is good access to many places along the Thames Path by train, bus and even boat, with London and the larger towns and cities through which the Trail runs very easily accessible by public transport.
Upstream of Oxford, with a little planning, the Thames Path can also be reached in many places by public transport.
Bristol Airport is the closest airport to the western end of the Trail. The eastern end of the Trail is easily reached from London’s airports.
You can find up-to-date public transport information including a journey planner at www.traveline.info. For detailed rail information please see www.nationalrail.co.uk
For public transport in London use the Transport for London journey planner.
The Trail is easily reached from the motorway network with the M4 motorway linking London to Bristol in the west and the M40 passing close to Oxford.
Where can I stay on the Trail?
There is a good choice of accommodation close to the Trail and it can be viewed on the Interactive Map below or on the Create Your Own Trip page here.
Download and print a list of accommodation for each section of the Trail.
Many places fill up quickly, we recommend that you book in advance.
Can I camp along the Trail?
There are plenty of campsites along the Trail and they can be viewed on the Interactive Map. If you plan to camp please note it is not legal to wild camp in England or Wales – you will need to stay on official campsites.
Can I get my bags carried or my accommodation booked?
There are several companies that will arrange to move your bags for you, help you plan your trip, or arrange a full package.
View a list of these companies here.
What is the best time of year to walk on the Trail?
The best months to visit are spring through to the end of autumn since during winter the Thames is prone to flooding, particularly upstream of Oxford. For up-to-date information on flooding contact the Environment Agency’s Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or visit their website.
If you’re interested in wildlife there are always a range of birds present on and around the river but they’re at their most active and visible during April and May whilst establishing territories and finding mates. If you’re keen on wildflowers, then April to September is the time to visit, and if insects such as butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies are the things you’d most like to see choose June to September.
Which direction should I walk it in?
There is no “best” direction – it all depends on what you’d like to experience! However the prevailing wind is from the southwest, so starting at the source of the River Thames in the Cotswolds and walking towards London will usually mean any wind will be behind you, and the official National Trail Guide also begins here.
If you do start at the source you’ll initially find yourself meandering through the relatively quiet and remote rural landscape that surrounds the upper reaches of the Thames as far as Oxford. Downstream of Oxford as the river grows wider you’ll increasingly encounter villages, small market towns and larger settlements, with your final destination being one of the world’s greatest and most thriving cities, London. Walking in the other direction, you’ll move from the dynamism and bustle of London into gradually quieter and less busy countryside.
What should I take with me?
We recommend that you take a map and/or guidebook with you. You may also find a compass useful.
It is always advisable to carry water, whatever the distance you are planning to walk, and in hot summer weather carry extra. Additionally, wear appropriate clothing and protection. Given the English weather that provides such a ‘green and pleasant land’, it’s sensible almost all year round to carry waterproofs just in case of a shower, and in wetter weather, or if you’re planning to walk some distance, wear sturdy footwear. In hot weather wear a hat and use sunblock cream.
Will I have mobile phone and internet access?
Mobile phone coverage may be patchy in rural areas, so you cannot always rely on it. Some accommodation offers Wi-Fi access.
Is there signage on the Thames Path?
The UK is unique in having a network of paths that the public can use, this is the Public Rights of Way network. You can see these paths on Ordnance Survey maps.
National Trails are signed with an acorn symbol and/or the Trail name which you will see on stiles, gates and signposts. This is the symbol used by all the English and Welsh National Trails.
As you are walking along the Trail you will also see waymarkers pointing to other paths. You can use the public rights of way network to leave the Trail to explore places of interest, reach your accommodation and find places to eat and drink.
You will often find a coloured arrow on signs which indicates the status of that section of path. The most common are yellow arrows which are footpaths and blue which are bridleways.
Can I download a GPX file?
Leaflets, Maps, Guidebooks and Merchandise
Can I get a guidebook and map for the Trail?
The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the The Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise. If you want to know more about the area as you walk, the Thames Path National Trail guides give section by section route descriptions with accompanying maps as well as snippets of information on what you’ll be seeing- history, wildlife and places of interest etc.
Which Ordnance Survey maps cover the Trail?
You can find a list of Ordnance Survey maps for the Trail here.
Can I get a certificate if I complete the Trail?
Are there any useful Trail Leaflets?
Circular and Linear Walks
There are some great walks to enjoy along parts of the Thames Path, which will give you a flavour of the wonderful, peaceful nature of the Thames Path landscape. Find the perfect walk for you in the Further Information section.