No matter the time of year, nothing beats a day out in the Great British countryside – and, stretching for 184 miles, the Thames Path is perfectly carved out for an unparalleled experience. Whether you’re hoping to work your leg muscles, find inspiration along the riverfront, or spot a flurry of fantastic wildlife, there’s a bit of everything to please everyone on this long-distance walking trail. Although it can be attempted whole over the course of a few days, you could just as easily enjoy its varied landscapes in portions: we’ve cherry-picked some of the finest walks, taking you across wetlands in the Cotswolds, past the historic wonders of Oxford, and through London’s greenest spaces.
Oxford to Abingdon-on-Thames
Taking you from Oxford to historic Abingdon-on-Thames, this 10-mile walk offers hours of rich scenery, sightseeing opportunities and pure enjoyment. Take some time to explore Oxford Castle and the city’s heart, before beginning the downstream walk from the train station, across Osney Island and on to greener riverside scenes. You’ll pass Iffley, Sandford and Abingdon Locks as you go, followed by Abingdon Bridge, whose original medieval-style structure dates back to the 1400s. You’ll find a number of pub stops along the way, so a bit of respite is always close at hand, and in the summer you could swap the half-hour return by coach for an upstream journey by boat – a unique way to round off your day.
As far as locations go, Courtyard by Marriott Oxford City Centre is unbeatable: overlooking Castle Mill Stream and set an eight-minute walk from the train station, it’s perfect for kicking back pre- and post-walk, as well as for making the most of your time in this iconic city. It’s a contemporary base, too, featuring sleek rooms, an informal restaurant serving all-day English classics, and even a roof terrace for enjoying fresh air and lovely views.
Neigh Bridge Lake, Cotswold Water Park
Nestled amidst the unique landscapes of the Cotswold Water Park, home to 180 lakes across its 40 square miles, Neigh Bridge Lake is perfect for a short and sweet walk. A man-made feature whose northern shore hugs the banks of the River Thames, it offers a picturesque and easy, circular route spanning 0.7 miles. A serene atmosphere and plenty of wildlife-spotting opportunities are guaranteed here – you’ll come across a vast array of waterfowl all throughout the year, much to the delight of avid birders. If you’re looking to enrich your experience, you’ll find plenty to please as you venture deeper into the wetlands, including cycling routes, overwater activities, horseback riding, and even a sandy beach with a swimming lagoon.
Complete your getaway with a night at De Vere Cotswold Water Park. Surrounded by the park’s many picturesque lakes, and a mere seven-minute drive from Neigh Bridge Country Park, it’s the perfect retreat for resting weary legs. Bliss out in its wonderful spa, enjoy a lakeside meal at the Old Boathouse, and settle down in one of the chic, country-style guest rooms.
Cricklade to Lechlade
For more Cotswolds charm but a longer route, look no further than this 11-mile walk linking the two small towns of Cricklade and Lechlade. This journey takes you along the river up to the village of Castle Eaton, after which you’ll veer off onto country trails and bridleways until you reach Inglesham – a charming spot where the River Coln joins the Thames. Although you do head away from the river for a fair portion of the walk, you’ll always be guaranteed a scenic and relaxing time in unspoilt nature. Getting to Cricklade is straightforward, too: it’s a 20-minute drive from Swindon, your nearest port of call with direct train connections to London Paddington, Bristol and Cheltenham. Hourly coach services are available between Swindon and Cricklade, as well as between Lechlade and Swindon, although do keep in mind that Sunday services are likely to be reduced.
Choose the Jurys Inn Swindon for a stylish and sophisticated experience – the perfect treat after a day outdoors. Located in the centre of Swindon, it offers a chance to combine your walking adventures with a spot of sightseeing: the town is home to the Museum of the Great Western Railway, the grounds of Lydiard Park, and a designer outlet shopping mall. The hotel itself impresses with a chic bar and restaurant, alongside guest rooms with cool design features and plenty of modern conveniences.
Reading to Henley via Sonning village
Another lengthy but no less scenic portion of the Thames Path, this walk takes you from Reading train station to Henley-on-Thames via the pretty village of Sonning. Comprising 10.5 miles of flat land, it’s a simple walk for all to enjoy, as it weaves across riverside parks and walkways into beautiful wooded grounds, meadows and pastures. Stay for a while in Sonning to enjoy lunch in a laid-back pub and a stroll through the vibrant gardens of Sonning Lock, before continuing your route past Shiplake and Marsh Lock, on to Henley. Recognised around the world as a hub for rowing, the latter hosts the annual Royal Regatta – a truly unmissable event filled with overwater thrills and extravagance.
For an enchanting sojourn spilling with five-star luxury and hospitality, pair this walk with a night or two at the Roseate in Reading. Centrally located just moments from the train station, this boutique townhouse hotel features seasonal fine dining, striking decor and uniquely designed guest rooms and suites, all guaranteeing a plush and cosy night’s sleep.
Teddington to Putney Bridge
If you’re looking to up the ante with a more challenging walk, try this wonderful option going from Teddington to Putney Bridge. Drawn out at 11.6 miles along the south bank or 14.1 miles along the north bank, it offers the chance to uncover a different side to London as you make your way past all manner of gorgeous green attractions. We recommend following the south bank trail, along which you could discover Petersham Meadows, Richmond’s Old Deer Park, the botanical gardens of Kew and the wetlands of Barnes, each a spectacular treat for nature-lovers. Eight bridges feature on this route, making it easy to carve out a customised walk to suit your fancy – and if you’re ever in need of a break, you could easily enjoy the handy bus, train and tube links along the way.
As you end up in Putney, make your way to The Lodge Hotel – a colourful boutique base for you to call home after a day of outdoor pursuits. Conveniently located a short walk from East Putney and Putney stations, it features a stellar dining scene complete with a terrace in the summer. For an extra-special dose of rural elegance, head to Warren House in Kingston-upon-Thames: here you’ll find delicious fine dining, landscaped gardens and an air of grandeur, altogether creating an unforgettable stay.