5 walking days
6 nights accommodation
Walking distance 54 miles
This itinerary starts at the source of the Thames in Gloucestershire and works its way down through arable and pasture lands of the Cotswolds reaching its terminus at the university city of Oxford. The walk is completely flat but can be wet/muddy underfoot.
The Path is well signposted and follows the riverbank almost all of the time.
Apart from Lechlade (Day 1) and Cricklade (Day 2), there are very few shops. However, lunches can be obtained from many pubs along the route.
Day 0 Arrive at Thames Head Inn
Arrive at your leisure at the Thames Head Inn near Kemble. If you wish, you can take a stroll in the afternoon up to the source of the Thames and back again (round trip 1.4 miles). This will save you some time tomorrow. Enjoy a hearty dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
Day 1 Source to Cricklade 12.9 miles
If you did not take a pre-dinner stroll to the source yesterday, you will set off today to find the source of the Thames. It’s quite possible that you won’t see water for the first mile or so. If there is water, it will just be a trickle running through the many fields.
At about half way the landscape changes as you enter the Cotswold Water Park where disused gavel pits have been turned into a number of lakes, the path threading between them. Pause to observe the many birds.
After 7 miles you reach Ashton Keynes which is a useful place to stop for lunch. There is a pub and a shop. Beyond the village you will pass by more lakes until, shortly before Cricklade, you will walk through the meadows of North Cricklade National Nature Reserve where wild flowers will be in abundance, especially in spring and early summer.
Cricklade is a small town with plenty of facilities to recharge the batteries after a longish first day of walking. There are shops, pubs and restaurants.
The river runs past the end of the High Street. Your hotel will be The Red Lion, a 16th century Inn, which is conveniently at the “river” end of the High Street. The inn has its own microbrewery and a delightful beer garden at the back. There is no food service on Sunday evenings but there are plenty of independent restaurants in town.
Almost directly opposite the Red Lion is St Mary’s Church. The building was leased from the Church of England in 1984 and, since the building predates the Reformation, it is the oldest Catholic church in England. The building was founded nearly 1,000 years ago and has a fine 12th Century Chancel Arch .
Day 2 Cricklade to Lechlade 10.1 miles
You have now left the water parks behind and, instead, you will follow the river almost all the way, passing through arable and pasture fields. After 4.5 miles you will reach the small village of Castle Eaton where you can get lunch at another Red Lion! – unless you bought sandwiches from Tesco in Cricklade.
After Castle Eaton you temporarily leave the Thames as you walk through farmlands. To your left, on the other side of the river, is RAF Fairford. So don’t be surprised if you see something spectacular in the skies.
Shortly before you reach your destination you will pass the hamlet of Inglesham which has a Grade I listed church and is open to visitors.
Much prettier than its neighbour, Cricklade, Lechlade also has pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops, and with a delightfully-named bridge: Halfpenny Bridge, which takes you into the town. Lechlade marks the start of the navigable part of the Thames so you will probably see your first boats.
You will stay at the New Inn, a 17th century coaching inn lying in the heart of the town.
St Lawrence Church, just next door to the New Inn, is where the poet Shelley (1792 to 1822) wrote “A Summer Evening Churchyard”. Shelley’s second wife, Mary, was the author of Frankensetin.
Day 3 Lechlade to Tadpole Bridge 10.4 miles
Unlike yesterday, you will never stray from the river. Soon after leaving Lechlade you will arrive at the first of the 45 locks that make the Thames navigable. You will pass five today! You will also see your first of many pillboxes. These formed a line of defence to protect the rest of England should the south-east be invaded during World War II.
After 3 miles you can detour briefly through the village of Kelmscott. This was the summer residence of the celebrated designer William Morris. His house, Kelmscott Manor, is normally open to visitors although currently closed for renovations.
Ye Olde Swan at Radcot Bridge, the oldest bridge on the Thames, makes a great place for lunch.
The Path continues on the other side of the river until you reach Tadpole Bridge.
You will stay at the Trout at Tadpole Bridge. Unlike at Cricklade and Lechlade, once at Tadpole Bridge you will not want to move from the hotel as there is nothing else around! Indeed, this is the wildest and most remote part of the entire Thames.
So, just relax in the comfort of this fine hotel and particularly enjoy the beer garden which looks out onto the river.
Day 4 Tadpole Bridge to Bablock Hythe 9.2 miles
You continue to follow the river which passes through Chimney Meadows, a nature reserve. Fields, once planted with wheat and barley, are now colourful, species-rich wildflower meadows.
After 6 miles of wilderness you will arrive at Newbridge where you can obtain lunch at either of two pubs here: The Rose Revived or The Maybush.
Back on the river you will soon arrive at Northmoor Lock where you can fill up with water before walking the final 2 miles to Bablock Hythe.
Your accommodation is The Ferryman, so called because the pub used to ferry people back and forth across the river. In fact, the Thames Path used to cross to the other side of the river here following the right bank.
It’s a remote spot and, once again, you are held captive. But there is plenty of river traffic here as there is a slipway for boats. Sit and enjoy the view from the beer garden.
Day 5 Bablock Hythe to Oxford 9.8 miles
The last four days have been spent walking through fields, mostly by the river. On your last day you will encounter some more variety.
After 4 miles you will see Swinford Bridge, a toll bridge that is governed by its own Act of Parliament. The bridge costs 5p for vehicles.
For a while you will walk alongside Wytham Woods before the Thames turns sharply south at Kings Lock with Oxford its target.
Before reaching Oxford you will pass Godstow Lock with yet another Trout pub, which makes a convenient place for lunch, as well as the ruins of Godstow, a Benedictine Abbey founded in 1133.
There is one more potential refreshment stop between you and Oxford, The Perch at Binsey, before walking the final 1.5 miles to complete your journey at Osney Bridge, Oxford.
You will leave the Path at Osney Bridge, the gateway to Oxford, the centre being about a half mile from the bridge. Oxford is the oldest and most celebrated university town in Europe. It is also home to J R Tolkien, Cardinal John Neumann and Harry Potter!
Oxford is a place to linger. 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).
You will stay either at The Buttery or Bath Place, both hotels being in the heart of the old University, handy for sightseeing and restaurants.
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: £690
Price per person assuming single occupancy: £1,075
Rest days can be purchased but prices vary depending on category of hotel.