The River Thames is so much more than meets the (London) eye...

Surrounded by lush countryside and dotted with quaint villages, there's so much to see and do along the riverbanks of the Thames. Join your local leader on a River Thames tour from source to sea to experience England's most iconic river the Intrepid way. Whether it's kayaking along the tranquil waters, cycling through charming villages in the Cotswolds, trying your luck at punting, or enjoying some much-deserved R&R in cosy pubs after your active adventures, this is the English countryside at its best.

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Highlights of the River Thames

A lake at the Cotswold Water Park

Go wild swimming

You won’t find any plastic slides and chlorine smells around here. Spanning a mighty 40 square miles and surrounded by natural beauty, the Cotswold Water Park is the perfect place to recharge the batteries. Take a cool dip (trust us, there’s no better way to start your day!), glide across the water on a paddleboard, go wakeboarding or chill out on a lakeside beach with a good book.

People punting in the River Thames in Oxford

Try your luck at punting

It wouldn’t be right to pass through Oxford without having a go at punting. Hitting the river on a flat-bottom wooden boat (AKA a 'punt') has been a favourite pastime in Oxford for hundreds of years. You can do a guided tour past the city’s most iconic spots or brave it in your very own boat to explore at your own pace. There’s plenty of pubs dotted along the riverbank to wet the whistle. From punt to pub – now that sounds like a great afternoon.

St Mary's Church in Bampton, England

Soak up the old-world charm of Bampton

Could this old medieval town be any more delightful? Bampton oozes old-world charm with centuries-old buildings, quaint village shops and heaps of green space to sit and watch life go by. You might even recognise it from Downton Abbey – it’s where much of the hit series was filmed and it’s easy to imagine you’ve stepped back to the 1900s as you walk around. Hop on some wheels for a pleasant riverside cycle, explore the village on foot or sip your way through local tea rooms and pubs.

A person stand-up paddle boarding in Oxfordshire

Go stand-up paddleboarding

Fancy seeing the Thames from a different perspective? What better way than hopping aboard a stand-up paddleboard. Float from Eyndsham all the way to Oxford while you soak up the quintessential English scenery. You might even get a few friendly waves from passersby – just make sure you're steady if you wave back, unless you fancy a dip! Paddleboarding can work up quite an appetite, but there are loads of pubs dotted along the banks to grab some hearty grub and refuel. 

Windsor Castle and gardens

Visit the majestic Windsor Castle

Fancy getting a glimpse inside the world’s largest occupied castle? Windsor Castle is over 900 years old and is said to be Queen Elizabeth’s II favourite weekend digs. It has a whopping 1,000 rooms, 300 fireplaces and magnificent gardens. Windsor is also said to be the most haunted royal residence and there are plenty of ghost stories that’ll make your hairs stand on end. Keep an eye out for the royal flag – if it’s up you know the Queen is home!

A scenic view of the Chiltern Hills

Cycle the lush Chiltern Hills

Load your daysack with snacks and set off for a fun day of exploring on two wheels. Cycle through the rolling green Chiltern Hills and the gorgeous Hambledon Valley before reaching Windsor. Although the Chilterns are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there are plenty of spots that are still a bit of a local secret – from bluebell-blanketed forests and secluded villages to Roman ruins and centuries-old stately homes.

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River Thames FAQs

Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards

From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travellers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).

However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travellers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.

Learn more about Intrepid’s COVID-19 policy

Now that would be telling... only kidding. Thames Head is located in a field near the village of Kemble in Gloucestershire. The springs are seasonal and you have the best chance of seeing them on a wet day or after a big downpour. The location can change slightly depending on water levels but trying to find them is half the fun, right?

Believe it or not, the River Thames is considered one of the cleanest city rivers in the world. The murky colour of the water might make you think otherwise, but the brown colour is because it’s a muddy river with a silt riverbank. The Thames was once declared biologically dead, but after changes to London’s sewage system and big cleanup efforts, it’s thriving once again with many wildlife species returning to the waters.

There are a surprising number of animals that live in the Thames. Along with over 125 species of fish including eel, trout and sole, you might also see porpoises, dolphins and seals. This hasn’t always been the case. It was only after extensive river cleanup and wildlife conservation projects that these species started to return and thrive. Above the water you’ll find mute swans, grey herons, kingfishers and coots – and of course the iconic mallard, AKA “the duck”.

The River Thames runs for 235 miles (354 kilometres) from Kemble in Gloucestershire to the North Sea in Kent. The major towns and cities it passes through include Oxford, Reading, Maidenhead, Windsor, Slough, Windsor and London.

The Thames is a popular wild swimming spot. The swimming conditions and environment generally get nicer the further west you go. Like with any wild swimming (or swimming in general) it’s important to be aware of the risks and hazards, know your limits and follow the latest safety advice. The Port of London Authority (PLA) does not recommend swimming in the tidal Thames unless you are an experienced open-water swimmer due to powerful tides and undercurrents. If you want to swim in the tidal Thames you need to register for a permit.

Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. However, we’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

Learn more about Accessible Travel with Intrepid

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