Spanning approximately 184 miles in length, walking the Thames Path is a popular way to see the most impressive river in England. This National Trail allows travellers to walk along the river, exploring the many towns and villages that are dotted along the riverbanks.
Stretching from its source in Cotswold all the way to the busy city of London, where it eventually meets the sea, the Thames has many sightseeing opportunities along its shores. In no particular order, here’s a list of things to keep your eyes peeled for when walking The Thames Path route in the UK.
Thames Head, Gloucester
Identified as the source of the Thames River, the Head is found in Gloucester, just a short walk from the village of Kemble. There’s a monument here, with an inscription that marks the source of the river.
SOURCE: Wikicommons – Robert Powell
There is also a basin of stones a few feet away from the monument, which marks the spring. The water here is rarely seen outside of the winter months. While some claim that this is not the true mouth of the river, it’s still a great spot to seek out on your walking tour.
St John’s Lock, Lechlade
Home to the statue dubbed ‘Old Father Thames’, this is the highest, and shallowest, lock found on the River Thames. Its name comes from a priory that once stood in the area, which was dedicated to St John the Baptist.
Near the lock are picnic benches, where you can sit and enjoy some peace and quiet as you watch the boats on the water. If you cross the bridge, there is also a pub with a beer garden that has views of the river.
Chimney Meadows National Nature Reserve, Bampton
As your journey leads you down the Thames Path, you’ll encounter this ancient piece of land. Protected by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust since 2003, the reserve is home to many species of wildlife.
Source: Rod Allday [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
There are also fields of brilliant wildflowers, which are magnificent to see, especially in spring and summer. Chimney Meadows is also home to a vast variety of birdlife and is often frequented by bird enthusiasts.
Wittenham Clumps, Berkshire
Wittenham Clumps is one of many names for a pair of chalk hills overlooking the otherwise flat Little Wittenham Wood in Thames Valley. Namely, Castle Hill and Round Hill, the landmarks pose an interesting historical significance and are the place of many legends.
Also known by locals as ‘Mother Dunch’s Buttocks‘ or ‘the Berkshire Bubs’, these two clumps are more than 300 feet tall and are ornamented with a crown of trees each. The hills are home to many species of wildlife, as well as archaeological finds. This is a great spot to stop and enjoy the views or try out one of the many brisk walking trails.
Mapledurham Watermill, Oxfordshire
This mill is the last working commercial watermill found on the Thames River. It was first built in the 15th century and uses the Mapledurham Lock and Weir water head to work. The mill is a stunning piece of history, and its quaint appearance has seen it being used as a set for several films and TV shows.
Source: Chris Wood [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
The face brick building reflecting off the river is a sight in itself, but those who have the time can also partake in guided tours of the working mill. Or take a tea break and enjoy fresh scones and cream in the tearoom. There is also an onsite shop, where the flour that the mill produces is sold.
Temple Island, Henley
This stunning venue, situated on an eyot in the middle of the river, is a popular place for weddings and other formal occasions. It’s privately-owned, so access is limited, but the views of the island are enchanting enough.
The stately temple-shaped building allows for beautiful sightseeing as you’re strolling past, and if it’s not too busy, the photo opportunities are priceless. If you’re visiting during the Henley Regatta, or a festival, you could join in the fun as well.
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Ray Mill Island, Berkshire
Located in the middle of the river, Ray Mill Island offers a tranquil space, filled with trees, squirrels, and multiple picnic spots. The island has an aviary and a guinea pig enclosure, as well as numerous wooden animal sculptures throughout the grounds.
You can simply admire the green space from the banks of the river, or take a trip across the Boulters Lock road bridge to enjoy the gardens and cafe. It’s a great place to take the kids, or just for a quick lunch stop on your way down the path.
Windsor Castle, Windsor
Located in the town of Windsor, this castle is not only one of the oldest in the world, but it’s also the largest inhabited one. Being the official residence of the Royal Family for almost a millennium, the castle is well-maintained and splendid to look at.
You can admire the castle from the outside, or pay the entrance fee and enter the magnificent fortress. Inside, you’ll find grand decor, art galleries, and even dungeons.
Tower Bridge, London
Located in bustling London, this combined bascule and suspension bridge is an iconic feature in the city. Built between 1886 and 1896, the historic bridge sees more than 40,000 people crossing it each day.
While breathtaking from the outside, whether seen from the water or land, Tower Bridge offers some fantastic sights inside its walls as well. Go inside to see the engine room, the north and south towers, and the fascinating glass floor that over panoramic views of London. You can also view the plaques of the engineers and workers who built the bridge before you stop in to shop for souvenirs.
Thames Barrier, London
Built to be a protective force against tidal surges, this captivating feature is both functional and fascinating. The barrier is there to keep London from flooding, using its large steel gates.
The actual barrier is not open for public visits, but there are some great spots for you to view it. These include the Thames Barrier Park and the Information Centre, which has a children’s play park and a cafe to enjoy. You could also view the barrier from the water if you’re taking a boat ride.
While there is, of course, much more to see and do as you explore the edges of the Thames, these are definitely the top highlights. We suggest you have your camera ready to freeze your memories of walking the Thames Path, as you’ll want to revisit them often.