The Thames Ring

The Thames Ring is sometimes called ‘the Great Ring’, with some justification! Hire a boat to do the Thames Ring and you’ll need to book for three weeks at least, four if you want to do some relaxing. The Thames Ring consists of a river, a short section of which is semi-tidal and two canals, one narrow which seems to wind more than any river does, one broad which was modernised in the 1930’s. You’ll see the Chiltern Hills from three sides and climb over them twice, get to peer into the gardens of some of the most expensive real estate in the UK, while cruising over 200 miles through over 160 locks.


Busy lock on the River Thames

Busy lock on the River Thames

  • The River Thames is England’s premier river where much of our history has been made. Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace and Runnymede are riverside. We enter the Thames at Brentford on the semi-tidal section but it soon becomes non-tidal, cutting through the southern edge of the Chilterns on its way to Oxford. Above Oxford the Upper Thames winds through water meadows to Lechlade and is well worth a diversion.
  • The Oxford Canal is a contour canal built in the early days of the Canal Revolution. It winds its way through beautiful Oxfordshire countryside and villages in a completely unhurried way, and you should do the same!
  • The Grand Union Canal is far more businesslike, widened with doubled broad locks installed in the 1930’s in a last ditch attempt to become competitive with roads and rail.
The Thames Ring
The Thames Ring Map

The Thames Ring – Junctions, locks and lengths

bullet  The River Thames at Brentford, 32 locks, 96 miles to …

bullet  Oxford Canal at Isis Lock, 39 locks, 54 miles to …

bullet  Grand Union Canal at Braunston, 91 locks, 84 miles to Brentford

Claydon lock on the Oxford Canal
Claydon lock on the Oxford CanalImage courtesy Waterway Images

Boat Hire from family firms on or around The Thames Ring

College Cruisers

Offer relaxing holidays on the Oxford canal & River Thames. Excellence in customer service & comfort with a friendly welcome & expert tuition. Central Oxford base. All parties welcome including dogs.

Grand Union Narrowboats

Small family run company. 2,4 & 6 berth four star graded narrowboats for weekly hire on the Grand Union and Oxford canals. Experience the Northamptonshire countryside at its finest.

Kate Boats

A family run business, with quality narrowboats from two bases on the Grand Union Canal, ideally situated on the Warwickshire ring.

Beginners welcome, full instruction given.

Napton Narrowboats

Based at Napton Junction, Napton Narrowboats family-run fleet now gives you the widest choice of boats and routes.

Oxfordshire Narrowboats

Cruise the beautiful Cherwell Valley & Cotswold Borders toward Oxford & the Thames. Short breaks, families, pets, large groups welcome.

Rose Narrowboats

Are a family firm with a fleet of 20 luxury narrowboats for weekly or shortbreak rental in the heart of the Midlands canal system.
On-line brochure here now.

The Blue Riband Club

Comprises two owner operated companies who guarantee to give you the highest standards of both comfort and service. All boats are Tourist Board annually inspected.

The Wyvern Shipping Co

The Wyvern Shipping Co. have 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 berth luxury narrow boats on the Grand Union Canal. Weekend and short breaks a speciality.

Transport arranged from all London airports.

Twyford Wharf Narrow Boats

Ideally situated on the Oxford Canal, just below Banbury at Twyford Wharf.  4-6 berth, well equipped narrowboat available throughout the year.  Expert tuition, ideal family holiday.

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