Londoners, in case you hadn’t noticed there’s a river running through the centre of your city and its called the Thames – and if you’re looking for a great day outdoors, its accompanying trail is the perfect weekend saunter. The Thames Path is one of Britain’s best loved walks. This scenic route runs all the way from the river’s source near Cirencester to London’s own Thames Barrier – a whopping 184 miles. Don’t worry: we’re not expecting you to do the whole thing. But if you are London centric and fancy trying a few selected excerpts, here is a collection of walks we’d recommend.
Thames Barrier to Greenwich
Starting at the end, one of the most action-packed stretches of the Thames Path comes nearest its close. Walking from the Thames Barriers back toward London you’ll find a well-pathed route running on the southern bank that continues all the way to Greenwich. On route, you’ll pass the O2 Arena, the Greenwich Ecology Park, and of course the fin-like Thames Barriers themselves. The walk ends at the University of Greenwich and its accompanying National Maritime Museum. If you’re legs are still feeling sea-worthy head up the hill in Greenwich Park to reach the Royal Observatory where you can spy all the stretch you have just hiked.
Photo credit: Linda Hartley
Yes, we’ve all walked along the Thames in the centre of London at some point; seen the Houses of Parliament, and done the London Eye. Boring, we hear you say? Well, the Thames Path’s route through the heart of the city can also reveal some lesser known sites. Taking the southern bank from Tower Bridge you pass – surprise, surprise – the South Bank, but also City Hall, The Clink Prison Museum and Southwark Cathedral. Transfer to the northern side at the Millennium Bridge and you can visit the Temple Gardens travelling west, Cleopatra’s Needle and the famous Savoy hotel on your trundle. Not bad for a quick hour and a half on your feet!
Battersea to Chiswick
Continuing west, Battersea to Chiswick is a great stretch if you fancy a mix of green scenery and city sites. Battersea Park is one of the underrated lounging spots in London – if you fancy a kip before you’ve even gotten going. There’s also a mini golf centre and a zoo if you’ve decided you want recreation. Back on the Path and you can follow the Boat Race route from Putney Bridge up to Barnes. A dirt and gravel trail leads along the south bank past the WWT London Wetland Centre, and if you want to cross Hammersmith Bridge, there are some of London’s best pubs – The Blue Anchor, The Dove, The Old Ship – and nearby there’s also Furnival Gardens. This area is jogging central, and if you want to get your running shoes on, you’ll be in good company.
Photo credit: Matt Brown
Kew & Richmond
Kew and Richmond are two of London’s greenest spaces, so it’s no surprise they also sit alongside the river. The Thames Path runs right along the edge of the Kew’s Royal Botanical Gardens, and Kew Palace is easily visible from the trail. You can also see King’s Observatory and the quaint Isleworth Eyot as the river turns south. Coming into the beautiful suburb of Richmond, London really begins to evaporate into parks and countryside. The banks here are stunning on a sunny day and the Petersham Meadow and the rolling lawns of Marble Hill Park are a great spot to lie down and reward yourself after a good 3-4 mile walk.
Photo credit: Laura Nolte
Just before the Thames Path departs from London it reaches Hampton Court. This regal palace is a favourite tourist venue – so we are assuming you know it already! But if not, think big and grand. The trail doesn’t actually enter the Hampton Court grounds but if you follow the Barge Walk from Horse Fair bridge you can still catch scenic views of the many spectacular lawns. There is also the aptly named Bushy Park a little further north, and Hurst Park continues the succession of green spaces on the southern bank. Soak it all up to finish off the London stretch of the Thames Path.