Trying to see everything a country has to offer in the space of one trip is pretty much impossible. Everywhere has so much depth, history and highlights that you can't quite do it all in one shot. And while we are not going to turn around here and say that we have nailed this, we have come pretty close. So if you want to experience a vivid slice of England, you could do worse than taking a walk along the Thames Path.
Walking through rural Oxfordshire
In a Nutshell
Distance: 179 miles. Yes, it is a long one, but don't worry, this is over 17-21 days walking, and you can split it down into weeklong sections so you can enjoy the full path at your own pace. We also have variations on each leg of the trip so that you can walk as fast or slow as suits you.
Grading: The Thames Path is graded Moderate all round, though the final section from Windsor to the centre of London is graded Easy-Moderate. Following a river generally means that you have pretty flat walking. The daily distance can be long though, which is why the route is graded a little higher, but we have tried to split this down as much as possible. The Thames Path is a walk of contrasting terrain, from countryside trails and small country roads to towpaths, riverside paths, plus some city streets, the further into London you get.
The Houses of Parliament
Where is it?
The trip follows the River Thames from close to its source in the Cotswolds, down through Windsor until finally walking into the centre of London. You will walk through the iconic Chiltern Hills, Cleveland Lakes and Chimney Meadow Nature Reserves. Swoop through the dreaming spires of Oxford, pass Wallingford Castle and Windsor Castle, walk through Henley and Twickenham and pass Hampton Court Palace. All before you enter London itself, which is filled with landmarks and sites of historical importance.
Thames Path itinerary
Why walk it?
Where to start! I suppose that the best place to begin is with the walking itself. Walking along a river means that the path is flat for the most part, so you can relax and enjoy the walk, knowing what awaits you underfoot. Add to this the variety of landscapes you will walk through, and you are in for a walking treat. There are lush green wildernesses and nature reserves, wide-open countryside, picture-perfect Cotswold towns and some of the most iconic buildings in England.
There are some obvious historical sites on this trip. Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace, Wallingford Castle, the Houses of Parliament, these are all massively important historical buildings, and it is well worth spending some time at each, even if you are just looking at the outside. However, the Thames is so hugely important for the very foundation of England that it is history. There are crossings which linked the West Country and Oxford, ancient bridges built to keep the wool trade flowing in the area, these small moments in history contribute so much to the bigger picture. And if it is the bigger picture you want, you can stand on the spot where William the Conqueror led his army across the Thames at Wallingford, or stop in Runnymede where the Magna Carta was signed. The Thames is full of history, and you will be immersed in it every step of your journey.
The Goring Gap in Chiltern
And history ties in very well to the iconic imagery of England that will accompany you right along the trip. From the half-timbered houses and winding streets of the villages you will pass through, to the honey-coloured university buildings and cobbled streets of Oxford. From the dominating fortifications of Windsor Castle to the intricate gardens and welcoming architecture of Hampton Court Palace. There are the stunning Botanical Gardens at Kew, Battersea Power Station, the Cutty Sark, Greenwich (home of time itself :) ) and of course, the Houses of Parliament. The amount of things to see on this trip is exhausting to think about!
Planning and preparation
The Thames Path is easy to get to. London is connected to everywhere in the world and from Paddington Station (another icon!) you can take a train up to Kemble to start the trip. Obviously finishing in the heart of London means that it is easy to travel onwards too. If you would like to find out more about our hassle-free itineraries along the Thames Path, have a look here, or contact our friendly team for advice and inspiration.