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Holidays

Self-Guided Walking: The Thames Path. Kemble to Oxford

England
Walk & Trek
Self-Guided
LEISURELY LEISURELY

Follow England’s greatest river from its source in the Cotswolds to the dreaming spires of Oxford on this short self-guided walking break

Trip Code: MTP6
Holiday Grades

Our Holiday Grades Explained

To show the relative difficulty of our holidays, each trip is graded on a scale of 1 to 12, with 12 being the most challenging. Although we have tried to make our grading system as clear as possible, it cannot take into account your personal interests, abilities or experience. If you have any questions about the nature of a particular trip or its suitability for you, please read the 'Is this holiday for you?' section or contact us.

 1 - 3 LEISURELY
1 - 3 LEISURELY

Suitable for most people in good health, holidays at this grade include only limited amounts of activity.

View leisurely holidays
4 - 6 MODERATE
4 - 6 MODERATE

Suitable for reasonably fit individuals, such as weekend walkers and cyclists. There can be the occasional more difficult day.

View moderate holidays
7 - 9 CHALLENGING
7 - 9 CHALLENGING

Physically challenging holidays, where you need to be prepared before you go.

View challenging holidays
10 - 12 TOUGH
10 - 12 TOUGH

Our toughest holidays, involving many long days, often in isolated areas. A high level of fitness and previous wilderness and mountain experience is essential.

View Tough holidays

Self-Guided Walking: The Thames Path. Kemble to Oxford

Highlights
  • Beloved by walkers since its opening as a National Trail in 1996, this section of the Thames Path links the Cotswolds to Oxford
  • Expect water meadows lush with flowers and wildlife and honey coloured Cotswold villages
  • A pathway rich in the heritage of England’s greatest river and trading route for centuries
  • Expand your itinerary by a day and enjoy extra time to explore the dreaming spires of the city of Oxford
  • Extensive route notes, recommendations for local meals, daily luggage transfers and B&B in local guesthouses included in the holiday price

At a Glance
  • Self-guided
  • 5 days walking
  • Average of 18 km per day walking
  • Packed lunches available on request
  • Recommendations for excellent local meals
  • Join In Kemble / Ends Oxford

Accommodation & Meals
  • 6 Breakfasts
  • 6 nights Guesthouse
Overview

The Thames Path became a National Trail in 1996 and was instantly beloved by walkers. This is five days walking with a real sense of remoteness and rural tranquillity as the Thames winds its way through flat water meadows grazed by cattle or sheep, or fields of crops. You’ll pass from the golden-stoned hamlets of the Cotswolds to the fabled university town of Oxford’s stunning skyline. 


Once the most significant trading river in England, the heritage of centuries of wealth are apparent as you walk thorough historic towns and villages and peaceful water meadows abundant with wildlife. Starting from a tiny trickle at Kemble (in summer this may even be a dry bed for a short distance) the river will slowly grow in size at it meanders through the Cotswolds until you reach St John’s lock, the furthest upstream lock on the Thames. This is the first of many you will encounter and you’ll be able to watch numerous boats negotiate the locks on your journey. As you approach Oxford, you’ll find Swinford Bridge built in 1770 for the Earl of Abingdon and one of only two remaining privately owned bridges on the river. Finally you’ll cross Port Meadow a bucolic open pasture with its stunning views of Oxford and its spires. This is a charming short self-guided break of river walking and dreaming towns and villages. 


The trip includes all accommodation, breakfast and full luggage support meaning you can travel light and concentrate on the lovely scenery and historic sites.  


This is just one of 11 itineraries we offer including the entire 300 km route. Please bear in mind that the distances each day are trail distances only. They do not take into account walking to your accommodation. On some days the accommodation might be on or close to the trail but on other days you may need to walk one or two kms to get to your overnight stop.

Is this holiday for you?

Of the UK National trails we cover, this is one of the easiest. It is a gentle trail which is suitable for people with a wide range of abilities. The route journeys across obvious broad promenades to grassy paths. Terrain: Mostly flat with well defined paths. What’s it like underfoot? You may be walking on an obvious trail, path or pavement and occasionally on a path across a field j …

Of the UK National trails we cover, this is one of the easiest. It is a gentle trail which is suitable for people with a wide range of abilities. The route journeys across obvious broad promenades to grassy paths. Terrain: Mostly flat with well defined paths. What’s it like underfoot? You may be walking on an obvious trail, path or pavement and occasionally on a path across a field just visible in the grass. The terrain when dry is often compact and easy going, however, when wet it can be muddy in sections. How much up and down? If you start at the source the route spends the majority of the walk losing height. Signposting: Good signposting, signs are marked with a white acorn to indicate the National Trail. Navigation: Pretty straightforward, keep your map and guidebook to hand.

Why KE?

We operate this trip in collaboration with our sister company Mickledore Travel, which is also based in Keswick in the Lake District. Mickledore have a long tradition of operating self-guided walking holidays along some of the finest trails in England, Scotland and Wales. Route notes, maps, luggage transfers and bed & breakfast accommodation in the best B&Bs, guesthouses and inns along the way are all included. Recommendations are also made for the best places to find delicious local meals at each night stop. 

Mickledore have a near perfect customer satisfaction score (99%), and we have no doubt that you will find their knowledgeable and friendly team able to answer even the most detailed of questions.

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Itinerary

Arrive at your first nights' accommodation in Kemble.

Accommodation

Guesthouse

This section is particularly beautiful during spring when the fields are full of wild flowers. The Thames passes beautiful Cotswold villages renowned for their golden coloured stone which has been quarried from the areas Jurassic limestone bedrock. Just after passing through the hamlet of Ewen you are surrounded by the Cotswold Water Park on your route to Cricklade. Keep your eyes open for all sorts of movement from water voles, shrews, and otters to dragon flies, chiffchaffs and water rail.

Accommodation

Guesthouse

Meals

B

Ascent

23 M

Distance

19 KM

Follow the small reed filled river to Castle Eaton where a lychgate leads to a 12th Century church with Norman and early English gothic styling, along with a very distinctive corbelled bellcote which was added by William Butterfield in 1861-63. Continue along the river to Upper Inglesham, where we advise to skip this short busy road section, and continue enjoying the river slowly growing in size from Inglesham. You might be interested to visit the simple but magnificent church at Inglesham which has managed to avoid the Gothic restoration treatment of the Victorian age.

Accommodation

Guesthouse

Meals

B

Ascent

14 M

Distance

18 KM

Leaving Lechlade you pass St John's lock the furthest upstream lock on the Thames and the highest point on the Thames that trading barges are able to reach. This is just the first of 46 locks along the Thames path. You'll be greeted here by the statue 'Old Father Thames' which was crafted by Raffaelle Monti in 1851 and has been relocated twice before being re-homed in Lechlade in 1974. Continue on past decaying pillboxes (concrete guard post) once used as a defense line in 1940 and now home to bats.

Accommodation

Guesthouse

Meals

B

Ascent

4 M

Distance

16 KM

The path meanders through the flat flood plain of the Thames valley passing another 5 locks, Chimney Meadow nature reserve and wonderfully named bridges, such as Tadpole Bridge, Newbridge (actually 13th century), the Tenfoot bridge (which is wider than 10 feet), along with the oldest bridge which is located in Radcot and made up of three gothic arches made of Taynton stone. You may be interested to stop and see Kelmscott, the home of William Morris.

Accommodation

Guesthouse

Meals

B

Ascent

8 M

Distance

13 KM

Although today you will be heading towards a city, this part of the path is very rural, almost until reaching the city's edge. As you wind your way along the path today you pass through Bablock Hythe, maybe the best known of the Thames crossings. A chain hauled ferry operated here for over 1000 years but now lies in disrepair after floods in 2007. Pass Swinford Bridge, built in 1770 for the Earl of Abingdon and one of two remaining privately-owned toll bridges on the Thames, before passing the edge of Wytham Great Wood, a 600 acre wood and wildlife haven. Finally finishing through Port Meadow with stunning skyline views of Oxford and its spires, you'll understand why Matthew Arnold coined Oxford as the 'city of dreaming spires'.

Accommodation

Guesthouse

Meals

B

Ascent

17 M

Distance

23 KM

Depart from Oxford after breakfast.

Meals

B
Download Trip Notes
The Route
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Essential Information

We've compiled some of our Frequently Asked Questions to help you learn more about this amazing trip.

  • All accommodation as described
  • Meals as described in the Meal Plan
  • Self-guided information pack containing your map and route notes
  • Luggage Transport

  • Travel Insurance
  • Evening meals
  • Packed lunches (can be booked at an additional cost)
  • Off road parking (available at most locations on request)
  • Transport to the start and away from the finish
  • Personal equipment
  • Any additional activities/excursions indicated as optional

This holiday is operated by our sister company, Mickledore Travel. KE is not acting as an agent, but is marketing the holiday on Mickledore’s behalf. All bookings and payments will be processed by Mickledore, and you will enter into an agreement directly with them under the terms of their booking conditions.

You will be posted your self-guided holiday pack once we have received the balance (normally around 8 weeks before the start of your holiday).  We supply one holiday pack per booking and this will be posted to the person that made the booking. Extra packs can be purchased at £30 per pack. Please contact us a minimum of 6 weeks in advance if you require an extra pack. 

Your holiday pack comprises of:

  • Your itinerary with details of each night’s accommodation; information on your evening meals, as well as luggage transport and transfers, (where applicable).
  • Directions and detailed maps to each accommodation
  • A guidebook that describes the route in detail, and covers the whole route with a series of maps, as well as providing a wealth of background information.
  • Map(s) which cover the entire route(s).
  • Luggage Tags (if luggage transport booked) which the luggage courier will use to identify your bags.
  • Information on local facilities, such as cafes and other recommended places to eat, cash points, taxi companies, etc.

As part of the standard charge we will issue the following:

  • 1 guidebook and map for up to 4 people
  • 2 guidebooks and maps for 5-7 people
  • 3 guidebooks and maps for 8 people or more

You may purchase extra copies from us at a discounted price.

This holidays starts at your accommodation in Kemble. All of our self-guided holidays are sold on a land only basis allowing you the flexibility to choose the travel method which best suits you.

Detailed instructions on getting to your first night's accommodation by car, or on foot from the nearest train or bus station, will also be included in the holiday pack on individual accommodation maps.

This holiday is on a B&B basis. Packed lunches are available on request, and we have many recommendations for excellent local meals.

Water is drinkable from the taps on this holiday. Please fill your personal bottles for your day in the morning. We do not encourage the purchasing of single use plastic bottles.

Your evening meal isn’t included in the package, but we include full details and recommendations for each evening meal in your itinerary. You will normally be within walking distance of a pub and/or restaurant, or where there is good food available at the accommodation, we’ll book that for you. Allow about £20 per person per night. 

Allow about £20 per person per night. Pack lunches can be provided on this holiday for an additional cost from £35 per person. We recommend this as there will not always be a handy shop or cafe on the route.

Whilst we can cater for vegetarians, albeit sometimes with a more limited choice, we cannot always provide special diets.  Due to the nature of some of the trips that we operate and the countries in which we operate them, it can be very hard (and sometimes impossible) to cater for a wide range of dietary choices and you may have to supplement your diet with food/snacks from home.  If you have specific dietary requirements please do speak to our sales team and they will be able to advise you whether or not we will be able to offer your specific choice.  Please note that we are unable to provide separate menus and cannot accept liability for any problems arising from special dietary requirements or intolerances.

Good accommodation and friendly hosts are an essential part of any holiday. We understand this and go out of our way to find the best. We put a great deal of effort into hand picking our accommodation and matching it to individual customer requirements. As well as visiting the accommodation ourselves, we ask all our customers to complete a short evaluation on each night’s accommodation, which then gives us an insight in to the day-to-day operation, and lets us spot any potential issues before they become a problem.

We use a variety of accommodation, including small country house hotels, guest houses in market towns, bed and breakfasts in farm houses, country cottages and Victorian town houses. In selecting the accommodation we look for helpful, friendly hosts with good quality, characterful accommodation close to the trail. For example, over the course of your trip you might stay in a village inn, a bed and breakfast in a converted barn, a Victorian guest house, on a working farm, and in a Georgian hotel.

We always try to arrange en suite accommodation, i.e. rooms with their own bathrooms for each night of your stay. However, in some of the more remote locations accommodation is limited and occasionally we may have to book rooms with shared bathrooms for one or two nights of your holiday, (especially if the booking is made at short notice), but we will always let you know if this is likely to be the case.

For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required, and you should have at least 2 blank pages for each country that you visit.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Please ensure that you check for the latest advice before travel. For the most up to date information on entry requirements, please visit the UK Government website.

If you have a severe allergy please inform the KE office before you travel. We will do all we can to help, but we cannot guarantee an allergy free environment on KE trips. You will need to carry your own treatment for the allergy with you, as 'adrenaline auto-injectors' are not carried as standard by KE leaders and staff. You should inform your leader on arrival of your allergy, and let them know where you keep your adrenaline pen.

Severe Allergies

Please inform our KE Sales and support team of any severe allergies you may have before travel. We will always do our best to help but we are unable to guarantee an allergy free environment on our KE trips. We advise that you always carry your own treatment for the allergy with you such as 'adrenaline auto-injectors' if required.  We also recommend that you discuss this with your accommodation on arrival so that they can better assist you.

As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office's ‘Travel Aware campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas. The 'Travel Aware' website provides a single, authoritative source of advice for all kinds of travellers and we recommend that prior to travel, all KE clients visit the official UK Government website at travelaware.campaign.gov.uk and read the FCDO Travel Advice for their chosen destination. North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: www.travel.state.gov for essential travel advice and tips.

KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCDO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCDO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

KE do not encourage the use of single use plastic items. We are ensuring that our agents all over the world are working together to reduce the problem and educate those around them. We are leading by example in our KE office by reducing our plastic use.

It is an essential condition of joining a holiday with KE Adventure Travel that you have a valid travel insurance policy to cover the cost of medical treatment and to protect the value of your holiday in the event of cancellation.  When taking out insurance please ensure the policy you choose covers you for the activities and altitude included in your itinerary.

For appropriate insurance cover we recommend Campbell Irvine Direct.  Please go to our Travel Insurance page for further information and to get a quote.

Please note that a paper copy of your travel insurance is required if you are travelling to Huaraz and the Huayhuash region.

Where luggage transport is included in the price, this will be a standard of 1 piece of luggage per person, usually up to 20kg in weight. On some routes the weight limit may be less, but we will advise you if this is the case. If you leave your luggage at your accommodation in the morning, it will be waiting for you on arrival at the B&B that evening. Any extra bags can be transported (at an additional charge) as long as they are pre-booked.

On certain holidays we also offer a storage service for extra luggage not needing to be transported for the holiday. Please contact us for for information on which holidays and a quotation.

All you need to carry is a small day sack to hold your waterproofs, personal items, packed lunch, map, guidebook and camera. You should be prepared for all weathers, at all times of year.

YOU SHOULD BRING THE FOLLOWING ITEMS:

  • Walking boots – need to be comfortable and well broken in
  • Several pairs of thick walking socks
  • Mittens/gloves
  • Warm hat and/or sun hat
  • Raincoat: (waterproof and windproof with a hood)
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Thermal long-johns & thermal top
  • Jacket
  • Fleece tops
  • Fleece or polypropylene trousers (no denim or cotton)
  • Spare clothing for the evening
  • Shorts and t-shirt (ideally made from synthetic fibres)
  • Map case
  • Compass
  • Torch: with spare batteries
  • First aid kit: insect repellent, sunscreen, blister kits, pain relief and assorted bandages
  • Water bottle
  • Walking poles (if you already use these)
  • Small day sack (20-30L) for carrying your personal items
  • Day sack liner / black bin bag / day sack waterproof cover
  • Camera and memory card
  • Phone and charger
  • Binoculars
  • Sunglasses
  • Whistle
  • GPS (if you already use one)

Cotswold Outdoor Red PantonMany of the Equipment items listed above are available from Cotswold Outdoor - our 'Official Recommended Outdoor Retailer'. When you book a holiday with KE you will receive 12.5% discount voucher from Cotswold Outdoor and other retailers.
>> Find out more

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