The Thames: source to Henley

Discover the sights, sounds and smells of quintessential England as the river threads its way through history while water meadows, old inns, wildlife and weirs lead you serenely on your adventure.

From its source in the Cotswolds the Thames takes you downstream to elegant Henley through a great variety of landscapes. From remote and wild pasture meadows to the steeply wooded Chiltern slopes the river threads its way through sleepy rural villages and through the heart of bustling historic towns such as Oxford and Henley.

Much of the route is along the Thames Path National Trail, but occasionally we take you along old bridleways to bring you close to the river or sights. There is time to discover all the Upper Thames has to offer including the stunning delights of Oxford and a short river boat hop from there to Abingdon.

Tour Overview

The icons below highlight the distance, difficulty and theme of this itinerary.

Distance

97km

Days

8

Grade

Gentle

Theme

Wildlife

Landscape Type

By water

The Thames Path: source to Henley

Every step of the journey has been carefully planned to help you make the most of your walking adventure.

Tour Details

This itinerary has been created by The Carter Company, who specialise in luxury self-guided walking holidays in the UK and Europe. The Carter Company prides itself on booking superior accommodation in quality hotels and boutique B&Bs and drawing on unrivalled local knowledge to provide a real ‘insiders’ tour along the river Thames.

This luxury holiday includes superior accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis, all transfers, an Adventure Handbook packed with local tips, 24-hour contact number and luggage transfers. Additional tours such as brewery tours or garden visits can be booked if required.

This tour is available as a luxury or classic tour, and can be extended to complete the Thames Path into London.

To find out more about this itinerary and make an enquiry or a booking, click on the Enquire Now button at the top of the page. The Save to My Rucksack button allows you to save itineraries to view later, or to download them as a PDF.

Itinerary

The tour starts in historic Cirencester – capital of the Cotswolds.  From here you travel to the village of Ewen to see the source of the Thames for that all important photo call at the very start of the mighty river.

The walk takes you to the lovely ancient towns and villages including Oxford. You will walk through water meadows and woods and pass locks and weirs, all the time following the Thames from its start as a tiny trickle to the impressive navigable waterway home to the famous Henley Regatta.

Day 1 - Arrive in Cirencester

A warm welcome awaits you at the elegant Boutique Hotel in the heart of this historic town. If you have time, we will transfer you to the nearby village of Ewen so that you can take a short walk along the trickling waterway to the source of the Thames River and its headstone to mark the start of your adventure.

Day 2 - Ewen to Cricklade

Your walk today along the Thames Path begins with the fledging waterway as a mere trickle. The route passes several lakes, idyllic meadows and some very pretty villages and willow-lined paths. Cricklade – described as the first town on the Thames, dates from the 9th Century and your overnight stay is in an ancient inn in the heart of the town.

14km / 9 miles

Day 3 - Cricklade to Kelmscott

This section of the river is often remote, very quiet and immensely beautiful with some gentle folds in the landscape and the occasional village. The market town of Lechlade breaks the silence. It marks the upstream limit of navigation today and is a characterful place known for its antique shops. Just beyond lies the lovely hamlet of Kelmscott where William Morris spent many summers in the manor house as he loved this idyllic spot. A short transfer takes you to the manor house in nearby Clanfield for your overnight stay

19km /12 miles

Day 4 - Kelmscott to Oxford

This morning we will transfer you to Eynsham, a typical Cotswold village not far from Oxford. From here you will have the pleasure of walking towards the dreaming spires of Oxford through the extensive wild meadows which lead virtually into the heart of this historic city and to your hotel. Spend the afternoon exploring the splendid university colleges and take in a museum or two and some of the charming Oxford lanes and alleyways.

11km / 7 miles walking and a transfer of 40 minutes by road

Day 5 - Oxford to Dorchester

Enjoy the luxury of a short 2 hour river boat trip first thing in the morning to the market town of Abingdon where you disembark. Take time to explore this ancient town before meandering on along the peaceful river bank, fragrant with the scent of meadow sweet in the summer. There are the two very pretty villages of Culham and Sutton Courtenay to enjoy before you reach Dorchester on Thames with its half timbered houses and thatched cottages. Once the capital of Wessex – until the end of the 11th Century, this delightful town has a wonderful abbey where home made teas are served. Your overnight stay is in an old coaching inn in the town.

11km /7 miles walking with a boat ride of 2 hours

Day 6 - Dorchester to Pangbourne

After breakfast, we transfer you to the charming country town of Wallingford downstream of Dorchester. The river scene is very rural counting tiny ancient hamlets, water meadows and splendid weirs along the way. As you approach the villages of Goring and Streatley, straddled either side of the river and home to several notable novelists, the scene shifts for here the Thames starts to cut dramatically down through the beech-clad slopes of the Chiltern hills. Walking through the woods you have fine views of the river from the cliff before crossing the toll bridge and reaching Pangbourne for a well earned rest.

18km / 11 miles walking with a 20 minutes transfer by road

Day 7 - Pangbourne to Henley

Your final day of walking is full of variety. Following a riverside bridleway you will pass a vineyard and idyllic Mapledurham House nestled at the foot of the Chilterns. This is such a beautiful reach that leads on to the wide meadows through Reading and to Sonning – described by some as the prettiest village on the Thames. The final stretch into elegant Henley takes in weirs, locks and the River Museum. Famed for its annual rowing regatta, Henley is a fitting finale for this walk and your overnight stay is in the heart of the town.

24 km / 15 miles

Day 8 - Depart Henley

Take time to explore Henley today as it offers a wonderful riverside location with waterside cafes, boats galore and interesting shops. Depart at your leisure.

Accommodation

For this luxury itinerary The Carter Company accommodates walkers in  AA/RAC awarded 4 and 5 star (the occasional 3 star) hotels, manor houses, old inns and boutique hotels chosen for their quality, character and location.

Travel

Ferry / Bus

The main bus services in Cirencester are provided by Stagecoach. For details of the Stagecoach service telephone Stagecoach on 01452 418630.

You can plan your journey using Traveline.

Air

The nearest major airport to Cirencester is Bristol (follow M5, leave at junction 11) or Birmingham (Leave the M5 at junction 11a, and follow the A417 towards Cirencester.
Leave the A417 at the “Burford Road” junction and turn right into Cirencester.)

When flying into Gatwick or Heathrow you need to travel along the M4. Leave the M4 at junction 15 (Swindon) and follow A417 to Cirencester.

For Henley leave the M4 at junction 12.

Rail

There is a station at Henley with regular trails to London Paddington. The journey takes between 45 minutes to an hour.

There is no station at Cirencester.

Cirencester’s nearest railway station is at Kemble (around 5 miles from Cirencester) on the Cheltenham-Swindon-London line. Trains run to Stroud, Gloucester and Cheltenham (for the Midlands and North) and to Swindon (for London Paddington, Reading, Bath, Bristol and South Wales). There are also three through services each day to and from Paddington.

Once at Kemble you can get a taxi to Cirencester.

Advice

This route offers gentle walking with no major hills to climb. Your bags are transferred to your overnight accommodation. You will walk between 11 – 24Km (7 – 15 miles) each day. The walk can be done all year, although winter and early spring are best avoided due to the risk of the path being flooded after winter storms.

Food & Drink

You’ll be spoiled for choice with so much great local food and drink on offer. You will pass through many small villages and ancient towns with good pubs and cafes and many small bistros and sandwich shops.

Maps, Guidebooks and Merchandise

The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the National Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise.

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