The Thames Path is a national trail that stretches for 184 miles (294 kilometres) along the River Thames in England, from its source in the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier in London.
When most people think about the Thames path, they think they will only be walking through the city of London.
But here’s the thing:
That couldn’t be further from the truth, you see, the Thames Path opens you up to more than just the biggest city in England.
And in this article, I’m going to be explaining all the beautiful places this stunning hike takes you on, so don’t go anywhere.
Highlights of The Thames Path
Table of Contents
- Explore Picturesque villages and towns: The trail passes through many charming villages and towns such as Oxford, Henley-on-Thames, Windsor, and Richmond, each with their unique history and architecture.
- Walk in Stunning scenery: Walkers can enjoy beautiful English countryside landscapes, rolling hills, and picturesque valleys on the route.
- Visit Historic landmarks: The Thames Path passes by many historical landmarks, such as the ancient ruins of Cliveden, Hampton Court Palace, and the Tower of London.
- Immerse yourself in nature: The path goes through several nature reserves and wetlands, offering the opportunity to spot diverse flora and fauna such as waterfowl, swans, and rare bird species.
- Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve: Located near Oxford, Chimney Meadows is a wetland reserve with rare plants and a variety of wildlife such as otters, water voles, and dragonflies.
- Wallingford Castle Meadows: Situated in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, this reserve offers a chance to spot a variety of birds, such as kingfishers, herons, and swans.
- Dorney Wetlands: This reserve near Windsor is a great spot for birdwatching, with a variety of waterfowl and rare bird species.
- Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve: Located in East London, this reserve offers a unique blend of urban and rural habitats, with diverse bird species, marshland, and a variety of flora and fauna.
- London Wetland Centre: Located near Richmond, London, this reserve is a haven for waterfowl and offers a chance to see rare bird species such as bitterns and kingfishers.
- Visit London’s iconic landmarks: The path ends in London, passing many iconic landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, London Bridge and the Tower Bridge.
- Refuel and relax at riverside pubs and restaurants: There are many riverside pubs and restaurants along the way, offering a chance to rest and enjoy some traditional English cuisine.
Who Will Enjoy Walking The Thames Path?
It’s a great choice for walkers who love nature – especially birders, history and foodies, so it offers a lot and is a great way to combine interests, or a great choice if you’re walking with someone else who has different interests.
And if you love walking but don’t love walking up hills, this is the perfect walk; since you’re following the river downstream, it’s mainly a flat route.
History of The Thames Path
The trail starts in the Cotswolds and takes you through several counties before reaching your final destination in the heart of London.
The River Thames became iconic because it helped trade to the city of London and helped it grow.
In the 1930s, people started to wonder what they could do regarding this iconic path. But it wasn’t until 1996 that groups such as the Ramblers Association and the River Thame Society decided it should be open to hikers.
The Thames Path National Trail is one of 16 national trails found in the UK.
Here’s a list of all the national trails in the UK: Cleveland Way, Cotswold Way, Glyndwr’s Way, Hadrian’s Wall Path, North Downs Way, Offa’s Dyke Path, Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, Pennine Bridleway, Pennine Way, Pembrokeshire Coast Path, The Ridgeway, South Downs Way, South West Coast Path, Thames Path, The West Highland Way, Yorkshire Wolds Way.
Your 15-Day Itinerary to Walking The Thames Path
The Thames Path follows one of the most iconic rivers in the UK for 184 miles, and your 15-day-by-day breakdown with daily distances looks a little bit like this.
I’ve hiked in the UK for 20 years, have experience in teaching outdoor education and have walked the Thames Path, so you’re in good hands. I’ll share the highlights, point out tricky or technical sections if there are any, and share my favorite accommodations for walkers each day. Let’s get started!
Day 1: Walking From The Source To Cricklade
- Start Point: The Source
- Distance: 12.3 miles (19.7 km)
- Finish Point: Crickdale
Your first day of hiking starts you off at the source of the River Thames, which lies in a small Cotswold meadow beneath an elderly ash tree in the town of Kemble.
The route follows the small river through stunning pastures and many small Cotswold villages (like Ashton Keynes and Somerford Keynes) known for their creamy stonework building slate roofs.
You’ll find these places excellent for stopping off at local country pubs for lunch before continuing your walk.
One of the highlights of this section is the North Meadow National Nature Reserve. In late April you can see the rare snakehead fritillary flowers in bloom.
You’ll eventually find your way to the small town of Cricklade, which dates back to Saxon times and is where you’ll spend the night.
Day 2: Walking From Cricklade To Lechlade
- Start Point: Cricklade
- Distance: 11 miles (17.5 km)
- Finish Point: Lechlade
From Crickdale, you’ll continue following the tiny river to the village of Castle Eaton, which has a stunning 12th-century church that’s worth a visit.
From this point, you’ll leave the river briefly while following tracks and bridleways to the town of Upper Inglesham.
Quick Note: The Thames Path has a new trail between Upper Inglesham and Inglesham, so you no longer have to follow the verge of the A361. It’s well-signposted.
Once you’re in the town of Inglesham, there’s yet another beautiful church called St John the Baptist, and it’s only a short walk from the Thames Path. It was restored in the 19th century by William Morris, a famous poet and craftsman that lived in the area. It’s worth a visit.
As you continue your hike, you’ll make your way to the town of Lechlade, where a stone bridge and its toll house are still to be seen. Don’t worry; there’s no toll to pay anymore.
It’s a pretty small town with a few places to rest your head for the night, including The New Inn and Lechlade Court.
Day 3: Walking From Lechlade To Newbridge
- Start Point: Lechlade
- Distance: 16.4 miles (26.2 km)
- Finish Point: Newbridge
This will be your longest day walking on the Thames Path as you follow the ever-growing Thames River.
I actually really enjoyed this section of the hike; it’s tranquil and wonderfully remote, with great views the entire way.
You’ll pass through many meadows where sheep or cattle graze the fields and find plenty of hedgerows with blackberries (depending on the season).
Just after you reach Tadpole Bridge, the path will take you through Chimney Meadows National Nature Reserve, which is rich with wildlife.
You’ll also pass the oldest bridge on the Thames Path, which is ironically named Newbridge, which dates back to the 13th century. And it’s here you can spend the night at the Rose Revived Hotel, which is the only accommodation in the area.
Day 4: Walking From Newbridge To Oxford
- Start Point: Newbridge
- Distance: 14 miles (22.4 km)
- Finish Point: Oxford
At this point, I noticed that the Thames River was growing significantly, which means the size of boats is also getting larger.
The route remains fairly remote until you reach the city of Oxford, where it becomes busier.
You’ll walk through the town of Bablock Hythe, where there used to be a ferry, and then the path leaves the river for a few miles.
As you continue walking, you’ll see Swindon Bridge which was built in the 1770s. It’s one of the two remaining toll bridges on the route.
You then loop through Wytham Woods, a natural area of national beauty, before heading into Oxford city.
Before you go to bed, take a look at Oxford Castle & Prison, it’s pretty interesting, and then from there, make your way to your accommodation. There are plenty of places to choose from, like The Master’s Lodgings or Longwak Annex Courtyard.
Day 5: Walking From Oxford To Abingdon-On-Thames
- Start Point: Oxford
- Distance: 13.5 miles (21.6 km)
- Finish Point: Abingdon-On-Thames
Today you will make your way to the market town of Abingdon-On Thames. It’s a pretty short part of the Thames Path, so waking up early is unnecessary.
The path leaves the city of Oxford to the south towards the lock in Sandford town, which is just a few miles away from Oxford.
Soon after, you’ll find yourself crossing the Thames at Abingdon Lock and then arriving at Abingdon Bridge, where you’ll find the town just to the north of the bridge.
If you have time, check out the town hall, for a bit of history. It was built in 675 AD!
Day 6: Walking From Abingdon-On-Thames To Wallingford
- Start Point: Abingdon-On-Thames
- Distance: 13.5 miles (21.6 km)
- Finish Point: Wallingford
Today you’ll pass many tiny villages and settlements like Little Wittenham, Wittenham Clumps, and Benson.
For me, one of the highlights of today was taking a detour to Castle Hill, where you can find an Iron Age fort with great views of the surrounding area.
If you don’t fancy the steep climb, you can check out Wallingford Castle, which was built by the Normans and demolished in the 17th century after the Civil War.
Day 7: Walking From Wallingford To Tilehurst
- Start Point: Wallingford
- Distance: 14.6 miles (23.7 km)
- Finish Point: Tilehurst
This is another lovely day of walking with beautiful scenery and settlements before reaching the outskirts of Reading city.
You walk through the countryside before reaching the beech wood skyline in the distance. You’ll then reach Goring Gap, which is the narrowest part of the Thames Valley.
Tilehurst is a suburb town of reading, where you’ll spend the night at Riverside Park Homes.
Day 8: Walking From Tilehurst To Henley-On-Thames
- Start Point: Tilehurst
- Distance: 12.3 miles (19.7 km)
- Finish Point: Henley-On-Thames
Reading is a fairly busy city, but luckily the Thames Path remains relatively quiet, which makes a nice contrast. As you leave Reading, you’ll be treated to wooded hills, impressive houses, and the River Thames.
The river takes you to the town of Sonning and over the lovely pedestrian 18th-century bridge.
You’ll also pass the Kennet and Avon Canal, where you can walk all the way to the city of Bath if you please.
And finally, you’ll reach the town of Henley-On-Thames, known for the famous Royal Regatta (an annual rowing event). You can also check out the rowing museum while you’re there.
You can spend the night at Hotel Du Vin Henley-On-Thames, beside the River Thames.
Day 9: Walking From Henley-On-Thames To Marlow
- Start Point: Henley-On-Thames
- Distance: 8.7 miles (13.9 km)
- Finish Point: Marlow
You’re in for a short day of walking today, so you have plenty of time to relax or explore the local towns or villages.
You’ll leave Henley, where you’ll follow the regatta course on a straight line to Temple Island, which is the starting point for the race. You might think a temple is there, but it’s a small fishing hut.
You’ll have picturesque views throughout the walk as you reach Hambleden Mill, which only ceased working in 1955.
Shortly after, you’ll reach Hurley, a small but lovely village with much history and beautiful buildings.
Eventually, you’ll hit the town of Marlow, where you get lovely views of Bisham Church on the other side of the bank.
Day 10: Walking From Marlow To Windsor
- Start Point: Marlow
- Distance: 14.3 miles (22.3 km)
- Finish Point: Windsor
You could argue that Marlow is one of the most beautiful areas of the Thames, and it’s a shame to leave. As you leave towards the village of Maidenhead river, the area becomes busier, and the views of homes become very grand.
None more than the royal residence of Windsor Castle, which you can see towering above the water.
After switching between grazed land and beech woods, you’ll find Cliveden Estate, a beautiful building.
Day 11: Walking From Windsor To Shepperton
- Start Point: Windsor
- Distance: 13.7 miles (21.9 km)
- Finish Point: Shepperton
You’re getting closer to London now, so the number of towns and settlements is beginning to increase, and a quiet walk suddenly feels less so.
You’ll reach the borough of Runnymede, a historical symbol because it’s where King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215.
You’ll find one of the few copies left is in Oxford in the Bodleian Library, which you can visit while in Oxford.
When you reach the town of Staines-Upon-Thames, check out Penton Hook Island, it’s excellent for looking at boats and exploring the wooded island.
Day 12: Walking From Shepperton To Teddington
- Start Point: Shepperton
- Distance: 10.9 miles (17.4 km)
- Finish Point: Teddington
You’ll pass reservoirs, an old race course, and a royal palace during this hike section. Follow the river on the south bank where you’ll pass an enormous reservoir which provides water to the capital.
After a bit more walking, you’ll reach a green space that marks the location of Hurst Park, where they used to race horses.
You’ll also see Hampton Court Palace and its Home Park, built by Cardinal Wolsey and added to by Henry VIII, which dominates the river until Kingston Bridge.
As you pass Kingston-Upon-Thames, you can think back to all the Anglo-Saxon Kings that were crowned there.
Day 13: Walking From Teddington To Putney (South Bank)
- Start Point: Teddington
- Distance: 11.6 miles (18.6 km)
- Finish Point: Putney
Along this stretch, you’ll pass eight bridges, including Richmond Bridge, Hammersmith Bridge, Kew Bridge and Putney Bridge. You have a choice between hiking the north or south bank, providing alternative routes.
I chose the south bank because it feels slightly more rural than the north bank. The south bank takes you past some fantastic parks, fields, and gardens, including Hamlands nature reserve, the famous deer park and lung of London Richmond Park, and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Day 14: Walking From Putney To Tower Bridge (South Bank)
- Start Point: Putney
- Distance: 10.5 miles (16.8 km)
- Finish Point: Tower Bridge
You’re on the second to last day, and you have to choose between the north or south bank again. I decided to stick to the south bank, where a lot of development has happened since I lived there 20 years ago.
Battersea Park provides you with some green space on the first part of the walk. Then, on the south riverside path you’ll cross Westminster Bridge, towards Tower Bridge. Alternatively, you can walk along the north bank towards the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. You’ll also find many theatres and galleries. like the Tate Modern art museum.
Day 15: Walking From Tower Bridge To Woolwich Foot Tunnel (South Bank)
- Start Point: Tower Bridge
- Distance: 11.2 miles (18 km)
- Finish Point: Woolwich Foot Tunnel
It’s officially your last day of hiking today, and again, you have to choose between the shorter north bank or the longer south bank route.
I felt like I should stick to the south bank for continuity. The route on the south bank starts with cobbled paths and tall warehouses where you get a feeling of what it might have looked like during Victorian times.
On the way to the borough of Greenwich, it’s pretty residential but still has some great views across the river.
Eventually, you’ll finish your hike at the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, which connects to the England Coast Path National Trail.
Thames Path Accommodation Guide
For your easy reference, here is a list of where you’ll want to book your accommodations for the 15-day itinerary:
Arrival Day: The Source
Day 3: Newbridge. Our Recommendation: Rose Revived Hotel
Day 4: Oxford. Our Recommendations: The Master’s Lodgings or Longwall Annex Courtyard
Day 7: Tilehurst. Our Recommendation: Riverside Park Homes
Day 15: Woolwich Foot Tunnel
Frequently Asked Questions About Walking The Thames Path
How many days does it take to walk the Thames Path?
It’s a 184-mile walk, and on average, people complete the hike in around 12-20 days, but it can be done quicker if you don’t mind walking further each day. It all depends on how far you’re willing to walk and what you want to see along the way. I did it in 15 days and found that was a good balance of walking while still having time for sightseeing.
When’s the best time to do it?
As always, it’s best to walk in the summer in the UK as it’s your best chance of avoiding rain.
Plus, you get to see all the wildflowers in full bloom along the way. Spring is also a good time for the flowers, but there’s more of a chance of rain.
What Gear Do I Need To Bring on the Thames Path?
Here’s our list of recommended trekking gear for a multi-day walk like this. Of special note is buying clothing made from Merino wool, which is perfect for English weather, especially if you’re doing the walk in spring or fall.
You’ll also want to bring a blister kit to help avoid painful blisters.
And for the ladies who still want to look good while doing this route, check out our hiking makeup tips.
How do I get to the start?
The walk starts near the village of Kemble in Gloucestershire. Kemble has a railway station and is connected with national rail service from London Paddington and other major cities in the UK.
The train journey from London Paddington to Kemble takes around 1.5-2 hours, with regular train services running throughout the day.
Once you arrive at Kemble Station, you can either walk or take a taxi or a bus to the source of the Thames Path at Thames Head, approximately 4 miles (6.5 kilometres) from the train station.
There are several taxi and bus services available at the station. It takes approximately 15-20 minutes by taxi or 30-40 minutes by bus.
Where can I eat along the Thames Path?
You’ll pass through many villages, towns and cities where you can eat lunch or stock up on snacks. I recommend always carrying extra food with you in case you get hungry, and you’re not near someplace where you can buy food.
You’ll also want to have a good hiking breakfast before you head out each day.
More Information on Walking the Thames Path
Guidebooks are great sources of information, like this guidebook which includes a route planner, route maps if you’re planning on doing it by yourself.
The Thames past is an epic walk with a fantastic mix of nature and history along the source of the most iconic river in the UK.
One of the best things about this walk is it’s mainly flat. You’re following a river most of the time, so there are pretty much no hills to walk up or down.
And that means most walkers shouldn’t have any problems taking on this stunning 184-mile Thames Path.