4 walking days
5 nights accommodation
Walking distance 43 miles
This itinerary starts at the university city of Oxford and works its way down through farm lands on the edge of the Chilterns reaching its terminus at the town of Reading. The walk is completely flat except between Goring and Pangbourne where the Path rises steeply (100 feet) above the riverbank to reach its highest point.
The Path is well signposted and, apart from a section of about 1 mile where the Path goes through a housing estate, it follows the riverbank all the time.
Towns and villages are encountered frequently.
This is one of the prettiest stretches of the Thames Path as the river winds its way between the Chilterns and the South Downs.
Day 0 Arrive at The Buttery, Oxford
Arrive at your leisure in Oxford and stay either at The Buttery or Bath Place Hotel. Both are situated in the heart of the old University, handy for sightseeing and restaurants.
Oxford is the oldest and most celebrated university town in Europe. It is also home to J R Tolkien, Cardinal (now Saint) John Neumann and Harry Potter!
If you arrive early you can spend the afternoon exploring this magical city. And you don’t need to dig deep to enjoy. Highlights are Christ Church cathedral, Christ Church college founded by Cardinal Wolsey, the Bodleian Library which houses every single book ever published in the UK, Magdalen College, the Radcliffe Camera, and the Ashmolean Museum (free admission).
Day 1 Oxford to Abingdon 10.6 miles
The Path starts a mile from your hotel so you will walk back through the town, past the railway station to Osney Bridge where you pick up the Thames Path.
After a mile on the Thames you pass the lovely Folly Bridge with Christ Church meadow behind.
After four miles of pleasant river walking, where you will inevitably see rowing crews exercising, you will arrive at Sandford Lock where, if it’s not too early, you can have lunch at the Kings Arms.
Beyond Sandford the suburbs of Oxford are now far behind and the Path becomes very quiet. You will pass the boat house of Radley College, the famous school, and, across the river is Nuneham House, the grounds designed by Capability Brown.
Trees line the river giving you welcome shade as you make your final stretch to the market town of Abingdon.
Abingdon is a historic market town. A Benedictine abbey was founded here as far back as the 7th century although there’s little left of it now. There are numerous shops, hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes. It also marks the end point of “Swan Upping” where new-born swans of the River Thames are divided and marked between ancient companies. Abingdon’s more recent claim to fame is as home to MG cars.
You will stay at Cosenor’s House which sits in the beautiful grounds of the Abbey on the right bank of the Thames a few metres upstream from the bridge. The house takes its name from Cuisinier, the person responsible for feeding the Abbey.
Dinner can be enjoyed at the hotel or, alternatively, in one of the many restaurants in the town.
Day 2 Abingdon to Dorchester 8.2 miles
You are soon out of Abingdon keeping to the left bank of the Thames past Culham until, after 5.4 miles, you reach the lovely village of Clifton Hampden where there is a shop and a pub, The Barley Mow.
Dorchester soon appears across the fields to your left but, before you leave the Path for your hotel, you may be tempted to make a detour to the top of Wittenham Clumps, a modest hill of almost 400 feet and the highest land around. It’s just to your right and only adds an extra 1.8 miles. Well worth it if the weather is fine.
Back down from the Clumps (or not!), you will carry on until you meet the junction between the river Thames and Thame where you will leave the Path for about 0.5 mile to walk to Dorchester.
Dorchester is a beautiful village. It was the first capital of Wessex before Winchester. An Abbey was founded in the middle ages and the current church dates back 600 years. The Abbey is open every day for visitors and there is a museum here too. The Abbey holds classical music concerts at various times throughout the year.
You will be staying at The White Hart, a 16th century coaching inn in the heart of the village and close to the Abbey.
Day 3 Dorchester to Streatley 12.1 miles
Shortly after setting off, the Path diverts from the river for the first time to take you through the village of Shillingford and down to the lovely Shilingford Bridge, a perfect opportunity to stop for coffee at the hotel on the other side of the bridge.
You will soon be at Benson where you will see plenty of boats as the marina here is the base for a large boating holiday company. You might also see helicopters as RAF Benson is close by.
The historic town of Wallingford is next, hopefully in time for lunch. The castle here, of which the ruins remain, was an important stronghold during the wars between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. Why not stop at the museum?
From Wallingford you follow the right bank of the Thames, diverting from the river for a mile to go through Moulsford. A further 2.5 miles along the river, and under Brunel’s magnificent Moulsford Railway Bridge, and you will arrive at Goring and Streatley.
There are few places as pretty as Goring and Streatley and it’s therefore a perfect place to stop. Goring is on the left bank and Streatley on the right – although they seem to get along together fine. There are plenty of shops, pubs and restaurants for you to unwind.
You will be staying at the Miller of Mansfield in the heart of the village. This award-winning pub is renowned for its food and quirky bedrooms.
After you’ve had a rest, take a short walk and admire the weir and the mill. Mill Cottage is world famous as it was owned by George Michael and is where he died. He’s not the only musician to have lived here: Pete Townsend of The Who had a recording studio here. In fact, you passed the cottage at Cleeve Lock where he wrote Quadrophenia.
An optional extra is to have a rest day in Goring and enjoy a half-day woodland adventure with Steven Gozdz, Goring and Streatley’s own Bird Whisperer.
Day 4 Streatley to Reading 11.9 miles
The day starts with one of the prettiest sections of the Thames as you briefly climb 100 feet out of the woods into the Chiltern hills and look across the “Goring Gap” to the Berkshire Downs. If you haven’t opted for a half-day excursion with the Bird Whisperer, he can instead join you for this part of the walk and point out some of the local flora and fauna. You will catch a glimpse of Basildon Park opposite, a Palladian style mansion that gave its name to the writing paper.
A steep descent takes you across a tollbridge into Kenneth Grahame’s Pangbourne. You are now in “Wind in the Willows” country and you will pass Hardwick and Mapledurham Houses, both of which are contenders for Toad Hall.
At Mapledurham Lock you leave the Thames briefly and walk through Purley on Thames rejoining the river at Tilehurst ready for the final 3 miles of your holiday. Admire the grand houses across the river as you walk through fields and then parkland towards Caversham Bridge. Only another half a mile and you arrive at Reading Bridge, the end of your walk.
Reading is the first sizeable town since Oxford. In fact, it is the largest town in England. Despite its modern appearance it is an ancient city. Reading Abbey was founded in 1121 and it is believed Henry I, son of William the Conqueror, rests here. Reading is famous for its 3 B’s: biscuits, bulbs and brewing. Sadly, they have all long gone.
However, we have decided you should end your journey as close to one of the B’s as possible. The Bel and Dragon was once part of Huntley and Palmer’s biscuit factory and is found on the Kennet and Avon Canal, next to the Riverside Museum. It’s a further 0.6 miles from Reading Bridge (included in the 11.9 miles above) but well worth the walk.
The canal, which runs all the way to Bristol, will take you into the centre of Reading. So, after resting why not wander along and see the Abbey ruins as well as Reading Gaol, once home to Oscar Wilde.
Prices inclusive of bed and breakfast plus baggage transfer between hotels. A map and guide book is also included. You will have unlimited access to our local team in the event of difficulties.
Price per person assuming shared occupancy: £630
Price per person assuming single occupancy: £970
Rest days can be purchased but prices vary depending on category of hotel.