The Dorney Loop is a lovely riverside walk of 8.5 miles on easy terrain starting and finishing in the centre of Windsor. There will be fields, a little woodland, but mostly beautiful riverside views.
Starting from (1) Windsor bridge, cross to the Eton side and turn left in front of the George Inn. This pub is owned by the excellent Windsor and Elton Brewery so if this is as far as you ever get on the walk… well, you are forgiven.
Those who manage to pass the pub, and get past the Watermans arms too just 50 yards along, will find themselves on The Brocas, a wide riverside meadow owned by Eton College.
Walk upstream but don’t forget to look back for some great views of the castle. Passing under the first of Windors two other bridges (a railway bridge was built by Brunel). Then continue along the riverbank to the road bridge (2) where a large mural has been painted beneath the arch.
Carry on beneath the arch sticking to the riverbank. There is a pretty little wooden bridge before the path veers away from the Thames across a small field before rejoining the riverside.
A pleasant riverside stroll will take you past the spot when Eton schoolboys used to bathe (look out for a plaque by a park bench). It is called Athens.
On the side of a large stone facing the river an inscription reads: “Bathing regulations at Athens – Fifth Form Nants in First Hundred and Upper and Middle Divisions may bathe at Athens. No bathing at Athens on Sundays after 8.30 a.m. At Athens, boys who are undressed must either get at once into the water or get behind screens when boats containing ladies come in sight. Boys when bathing are not allowed to land on the Windsor Bank or to swim out to launches and barges or to hang onto, or interfere with, boats of any kind. Any boy breaking this rule will be severely punished. From ‘School Rules of the River.’ 1921”
Now, on toward pretty Boveney Lock.
Carry onward past the lock and you soon arrive at the riverside church of St Mary Magdalene, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book.
Built of chalk rubble and flint, this little now-disused chapel was used by both locals and the bargemen who plied their trades on the Thames. Congratulations, you have now walked 2 miles in total.
On the day we walked by we were lucky enough to find the church open and had a good look around inside.
As you continue along the river path you may not notice that hidden away to your right is the 2km stretch of water that is Eton Dorney rowing lake; scene of the rowing events at the 2012 Olympics. Don’t worry, there will be a decent view of it later in the walk.
Continue along the river for just over a mile and you will be rewarded by a view of Oakley Court hotel on the far bank.
This mock Gothic mansion was used as a location in countless horror movies made by Hammer Studios between the 1950’s and 1970’s. It also appeared in the cult classic comedy musical, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Continue along the riverbank for another mile, passing an island called Queen’s Eyot, owned by Eton College. The word Eyot (or Ait ) is an old word for an island on a river. J.R.R. Tolkien uses the word in The Lord of the Rings.
When you see Bray Marina on the bank opposite it will shortly be time to turn off and head away from the river. A large black steel Thames Path signpost marks the exact spot where you should turn right. The well laid path leads you around the far end of the rowing lake ending up joining the main entrance road. If you want to take a look at the rowing lake, turn right for a short detour. Once you have had enough of the view, retrace your steps leave the Rowing lake and walk away from the water to the end of the entrance road and through the white entrance gates. You are back on real roads again so watch out for cars on this corner. Turn right onto Court Lane. Walk past the churchyard on your left and continue a little further before turning right again into the signposted entrance for Dorney Court.
The beautiful Tudor home is still the private residence of the Palmer family as it has been for close to 500 years. It is open to the public only occasionally but even if it is closed carry on along the path to the garden centre where there is an excellent restaurant. You have just completed 4.7 miles, so a cup of tea and some cake will be welcome just about now. Even if you don’t get to see Dorney Court itself, you will probably have seen it in plenty of TV and Film productions. The house has appeared in shows as diverse as:
- Inspector Morse
- Midsomer Murders
- Miss Marple
- The Other Boleyn Girl
- Men Behaving Badly Christmas Special
If you need something stronger than tea, go back to the main road, turn right and then right again onto Lake End Road. A short stroll through the tiny hamlet and will find yourself at the door of the Palmer Arms pub. Once suitably refreshed continue along Lake End Road leads to a cattle grid before a huge open meadow. This is Dorney Common. You can just see the outline of Windsor castle on the horizon ahead of you. Rather than continuing along the B3026 toward Eton and Windsor, turn right again at the first junction and head down Bovney Road which skirts the edge of the common.
Enjoy the open space and look out for cows wandering into the lane. The cows have right of way around this ancient common of 169 acres.
Boveney Road turns into a track. There are some ancient houses here, so do keep your eyes open. ‘Old Place’ for example is a utterly charming. Soon you come to another cattle grid and wooden gates.
Go across the grid, through the gates and along a quiet tree lined avenue at the end of which you can follow a path with fields to your left and trees to your right.
Continue onward and eventually the path turns right to rejoin the Thames path. At the road bridge where we saw the mural earlier, climb the stairs and cross the river to follow the path on the Windsor side of the Thames. This path will take you past the Leisure Centre and all the way back towards the heart of town.
One of the final sights on this walk is the Hurricane memorial to Sir Sidney Camm, who designed this iconic aircraft and grew up in Alma Road, just around the corner.
Continue past the Hurricane and on into town and congratulate yourselves on completing a fine walk.