Thames Path
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Thames Path
England, UK

The Thames Path follows one of England’s most famous rivers, the Thames, from its source to its mouth.

This National Trail path begins in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds and stretches for 294 kilometres through Oxford and London, to the Thames Barrier, Woolwich.

A walk that has something for everyone, from unspoilt, quiet countryside to the bustling centre of London, you won’t be stuck for exciting things to see.

As you would expect from a path that follows a natural water source, the terrain is fairly flat. It is a good path for walkers of all abilities, and much of it is accessible for wheelchair users and mobility scooters.

This path is unique in that each area you visit along the way has historical connections and significance to do with the iconic river Thames. If you like places full of stories, this is the walk for you!

In the towns and cities along the route there are many accommodation options, from hotels and B&B’s to holiday apartments and cottages. Prices vary, but tend to be higher in London.

In the rural areas you will also find B&B room available, and also hostels and campsites.

Highlights
  • Explore the iconic Thames River from source to mouth
  • Easy terrain suitable for all abilities
  • Stunning English countryside
  • Lively, historic towns and cities
Walk Map
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About the route
  • Travel

The source of the Thames, and the start of the trail, begins just outside the village of Kemble in a meadow known as Thames Head, in the Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire.

The village has a train station, with regular services going to and from London Paddington, Cheltenham and Gloucester.

Both London, Oxford and the Cotswolds have great transport links, although there are more options in the cities than rural areas.

Getting to the London parts of The Thames Path is arguably best done using public transport, as London roads can become very congested.

Getting into the city is easy by train, and there are regular trains, buses and even boats that will take you to Woolwich from other parts of London.

  • Length

The Thames Path is 294 kilometres long, yet can be slightly longer depending on which side of the river you walk in London.

Most walkers are able to complete it within 14 – 16 days, allowing for some easier days and rest days.

Being so well served by public transport, the Thames Path is easy to walk in sections.

  • Grade and difficulty of the walk

The Thames Path is mostly flat, with perhaps a few gentle inclines here and there when the path leads away from the river at points along the trail.

It is a fantastic path for those who just want a short, gentle stroll, as well as those who like to get plenty of miles in per day.

It is accessible in many places for people in wheelchairs, mobility scooters or pushchairs.

The rural areas of the walk between the source or the river and Oxford may see some rougher parts of the path, such as mud or rutted ground, although generally the footpath is clear and well-marked.

  • Experience

This is a walk that can be enjoyed by any age and ability, and no special hiking experience is needed if you want to walk The Thames Path in stages.

However, if you plan to walk many miles per day, some hiking experience is recommended to ensure you have the stamina to see it through.

With excellent signage along the way, you don’t need any navigational experience to walk this path. Having an OS map with you is always a good idea though, as you may find some interesting things to see a little off the path.

  • Permits

No permits are necessary to walk The Thames Path.

  • Guided or Self-Guided

If you’d like to learn about the history of the Thames in London, having a guided walk could be really interesting.

A guide will be able to teach you things about the river and the area help bring history and the sense of place alive.

Self-guided walks along the Thames Path are the most common, as the signage is easy to follow.

In the towns and cities, it is easy to hop off the path to visit an attraction or have a bite to eat, and find it again afterwards.

There is no right or wrong direction in which to walk this path, it depends on personal preference.

You could either go from the bustling city to the peace and calm of the rural areas, or follow the story of the Thames as it gathers its strength and flows through the capital towards the sea.

best time to walk

The most enjoyable time to walk The Thames Path is spring, summer and early autumn, so you can make the most of the weather, flora and fauna, but much of the trail is stone or paved, making it a great walk for all seasons.

However, the path between Oxford and Thames Head, Kemble, is often grass or earth, and during winter the low level ground can be prone to flooding.

If you want to walk this part during autumn and winter, be aware that you might have to leave the path to get around flooded fields and boggy areas.

A typical itinerary would be:

Day 1:
The Source to Cricklade – 20 kilometres

Day 2:
Cricklade to Lechlade – 17 kilometres

Day 3:
Lechlade to Newbridge – 26 kilometres

Day 4:
Newbridge to Oxford – 22 kilometres

Day 5:
Oxford to Abingdon – 16 kilometres

Day 6:
Abingdon to Wallingford – 22 kilometres

Day 7:
Wallingford to Tilehurst – 24 kilometres

The Thames Path at Woolwich

Day 8:
Tilehurst to Henley-on-Thames – 20 kilometres

Day 9:
Henley-on-Thames to Marlow – 14 kilometres

Day 10:
Marlow to Windsor – 22 kilometres

Day 11:
Windsor to Shepperton – 22 kilometres

Day 12:
Shepperton to Teddington – 17 kilometres

Day 13:
Teddington to Putney – approx. 20 kilometres, but differs slightly depending on whether the north or south bank route is taken.

Day 14:
Putney to Tower Bridge – 17 kilometres

Day 15:
Tower Bridge to Thames Barrier – 16 kilometres

This plan can easily be split into different walking excursions, such as week long trips or days out walking.

Whether you start your walk from the source or the mouth, or if you just want to do different sections in the middle, you are immersed in the rich heritage of the Thames.

From rural idyll to the thriving capital, the energy of the River Thames makes an inspiring walk.

Accommodation

There are many towns and villages along the route of The Thames Path, so you won’t be stuck for places to stay.

There are a range on B&B’s and hotels, although booking in advance is recommended.

There are some hostels and campsites, especially in the more rural areas, that offer cheaper accommodation.

Hostels are situated in:

  • YHA Oxford
  • YHA Streatley
  • Longridge Activity Centre, Marlow
  • YHA Earls Court, West London
  • YHA St Pauls, City of London
  • YHA London Thameside, City of London

Campsite include:

  • Abingdon, Bridge House Camping
  • Benson Waterfront
  • Cookham Lock
  • Eynsham Lock
  • Pinkhill Lock
  • Henley, Swiss Farm Camping
  • Hurley Riverside Park
  • Hurley Lock (Environment Agency)
  • Maidenhead, Amerden Caravan & Camping Park
  • Marlow, Longridge Camping
  • Oxford/Wolvercote, Kings Lock
  • Shillingford, Bridge House
  • Wallingford, Bridge Villa Camping
What to do

The Thames Path offers a diverse range of things to see and do, and there are many highlights along the river. One of the most notable experiences of this walk is the sense of history and importance of the river, as you explore the many settlements that have grown along its banks.

Form the source to the outskirts of Oxford, you can enjoy the wildlife, tranquillity and exceptional views of outstanding natural beauty. Break up your journey by popping into some traditional English pubs.

In the historic city of Oxford, there is a wealth of cultural activities and sites to explore.

In this ‘city of dreaming spires’, you can have a relaxing punt along the river, visit Oxford Castle, or visit some of the university colleges and libraries.

The Thames in London flows past iconic landmarks such as Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace and Kew. It also takes you to Runnymede where the Magna Carts was signed in 1215.

The views of London from Westminster Palace and South Bank shows the city in all its glory, and the modern construction of the Thames Barrier is a fitting end to the walk.

Published: November 21, 2019 Modified: April 24, 2020
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Mickledore
Mickledore
Mickledore specialises in self-guided walking holidays in the UK for the independent traveller.
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At a glance
Skills RequiredHiking, Walking
Difficulty 1/5
Starts at Kemble, Gloucestershire
Finishes at N Woolwich Rd, Royal Docks, London E16 2HP, UK
Length of route 294 Km
Average time to complete 14 - 16 Days
Possible to complete sub-sectionsYes
Highest point 110 metres
Permit requiredNo
Equipment neededPoles if preferred, Trekking gear, walking boots
Countries visited England, UK