3 walking days
4 nights accommodation
Walking distance 40.9 miles
This itinerary starts in Reading, a busy railway hub and therefore easy to get to. The walk takes you through “rowing country” where teams from around the world compete at various places along the way including Henley, Marlow and Dorney.
The Path is well signposted and follows the riverbank almost all the time.
Towns and villages are encountered frequently.
Whilst not as pretty as the section between Oxford and Reading, you will see some of the finest country houses along the Thames. You will also enjoy the historical sites at Windsor and Runnymede.
Day 0 Arrive at The Bel and Dragon, Reading
Reading 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.
You will stay at Bel and the Dragon, a hotel that was once part of Huntley and Palmer’s biscuit factory and is found on the Kennet and Avon Canal, next to the Riverside Museum.
The canal, which runs all the way to Bristol, will take you into the centre of Reading. So why not wander along and see the Abbey ruins as well as Reading Gaol, once home to Oscar Wilde?
Day 1 Reading to Aston 12.6 miles
To reach the Thames you leave the front door of the hotel and follow the Kennet Canal for a half mile to where it meets the Thames. You follow the right bank of the river until you reach Sonning three miles later. Sonning is a delightfully pretty village. In fact, its is so beautiful that it has become popular with the rich and famous: George Clooney, Teresa May and Uri Geller (remember him?) all live here.
Three miles before reaching your destination, you will pass Henley, the home of British rowing, where you can stop for a cup of tea at the River and Rowing Museum. Leaving Henley you will see, across the river, Fawley Court, believed by some to be the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame’s Toad Hall. You will also pass the lovely Temple Island which marks the start of the boat races at Henley Royal Regatta.
Aston is a quiet village served by a delightful inn, The Flowerpot, where you will stay and have dinner. The village is a five minute walk from the river and on the Thames Path. The pub is renowned for its summer garden barbecues. Hopefully you’ll arrive in time!
If you would rather stay in Henley, this can be arranged. It will, however, add 3.2 miles to Day 2 making it 16.5 miles. Just let us know in the form under “Questions or additional information”
Day 2 Aston to Maidenhead 13.3 miles
Leaving Aston, you walk through the estate of Culham Court where there is a deer park filled with white deer. Three miles later you arrive at the lovely village of Hurley. You will soon see Bisham Abbey across the river. It’s home to the National Sports Centre.
Further on is Marlow, a good place to stop for lunch as there are plenty of shops and restaurants here. Beyond Marlow you pass Bourne End and Cookham, where you can visit the Stanley Spencer Gallery.
On leaving Cookham, you will see, in the distance, one of the greatest country houses in England: Cliveden, the former home of the Astor family. Across the river is Spring Cottage which Stephen Ward rented during the Profumo Affair.
The town of Maidenhead is a mile away but Norfolk House is a short walk from the bridge, sitting in grounds of 3 acres with an outdoor swimming pool.
Dinner is not served but there is a nearby Miller and Carter steakhouse and a fabulous Thai restaurant; or, if you are feeling adventurous, a short taxi ride will take you to Bray, home of two of only five “Michelin three star” restaurants in the country: Michel Roux’s Waterside; and Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck.
Day 3 Maidenhead to Staines 15.0 miles
From Maidenhead the path is through wooded glades and you will pass Bray Film Studios and Oakley Court Hotel (where many Hammer Horror films were made). At Dorney Lake, site of the rowing events in the London Olympics, the vista opens up and you will see Windsor Castle calling you in the distance.
Windsor makes an excellent early lunch stop. You might consider following our suggested detour past the Castle and through the Great Park, rejoining the river at historic Runnymede. It’s only an extra 0.2 miles.
At Runnymede, there are a number of monuments worth visiting: the Magna Carta and JFK Memorials both being a couple of hundred yards from the Path. The Air Force Memorial on top of Cooper’s Hill is also worth a visit. Although further, on a fine day you will be able to see London in the distance.
After the highlights of the last two days Staines may strike you as something of a disappointment. Despite its modern appearance, Staines is very old indeed being an important river crossing in Roman times. It’s now a useful railway junction and therefore a convenient place to end this section with trains back to Windsor, Reading and London Waterloo.
You will be staying at the Boleyn Hotel in the old quarter of town. The hotel lies quietly away from the busy modern commercial centre that dominates Staines. The hotel features its own Indian restaurant and there are plenty of other options for dining back across the bridge.
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: £375
Price per person assuming single occupancy: £580
Rest days can be purchased but prices vary depending on category of hotel.