Wallingford is an ancient market town, founded in the 10th century by Alfred the Great. Equidistant from the world renowned university city of Oxford and the rowing capital of Henley-on-Thames, Wallingford is charmingly laid back with its picturesque market square, castle ruins and independent shopping streets. Have a delicious meal or order a hamper from the Boat House or stroll into town and grab a spit roasted chicken from the town’s big Waitrose supermarket, have a swim at the open air Lido and make a day of it. If you are on foot or riding a bike then explore the Thames path before jumping aboard one of our environmentally friendly electric self-drive hire boats.
Leaving our site at the Boat House, cruise under the arches of the historic bridge and head downstream towards Goring and Streatley. Enjoy the 5 miles of peaceful countryside before reaching Cleeve Lock. Have a picnic by the river or book a table with Don Giovanni at The Leatherne Bottel (Goring) on the left bank or at The Beetle & Wedge (Moulsford) on the right. At river speed it will take you two relaxing hours to reach the lock and return. If you are planning to picnic or to dine then you will need to book at least a four hour slot with us. The riverside scene is a charming mix of beautiful riparian houses and gardens interspersed with stretches of deserted farmland where cows lazily chew the cud and red kites wheel overhead.
As you leave our site at the Boat House and turn to the left you will be going upstream leaving the bridge behind you. You will pass the ruins of the old Wallingford Castle which formed part of the largest Saxon fortified town in England – its ramparts include part of the Saxon town walls. William the Conqueror and his army crossed the Thames at Wallingford in 1066 and ordered the building of the castle. Over the next six centuries it dominated the Thames Valley, standing firm through two civil wars and several royal intrigues! Today we mainly see its massive earthworks and can just imagine it receiving many of the mediaeval monarchs of the realm.
Beyond the castle you will quickly come to Benson lock (a rise of 1.9m). Moor up as you wait to be asked to enter the lock by the keeper. Put your ropes round the bollards so they can run freely as the boat rises or falls depending on whether you are going upstream as you leave Wallingford, or returning on the home journey and heading back downstream. Do not let your ropes trail in the water.
Once through the lock you will see the lively marina with its wooden lodges and the popular Waterside Bistro on the right. You can tie up for a cuppa or continue upstream meandering past picturesque boat houses as you make for Shillingford and eventually Dorchester. To reach the next lock at Days Lock (1.6m rise) below the Wittenham Clumps, will take a good hour so no further lock passages please unless you have a half day or a full day’s booking.
Dorchester is well worth a visit if you are out for a full day. Moor up near Day’s Lock and take the footpath into this charming village with its imposing Abbey. Dorchester was once on the main road between Wallingford and Oxford and has several good watering holes while the Abbey tells of Saxon knights on daring crusades. Crossing the lock on foot enables you to climb to the top of the Clumps on the left bank to see the river snaking into the distance and Oxfordshire spread out before you.
Beyond Days lock is Clifton lock (1m rise) just beyond the pretty village of Clifton Hampden with a watering hole at Barley Mow.
Our hire boats and kiosk are located near the Wallingford bridge, at the bottom of the steps adjacent to the Boat House pub terrace, across the river from the Riverside Park & Pools splash-park. (Use postcode OX10 0BL to locate our site, if you are coming by foot.)
If you are coming by car, use the Riverside Car Park.
The Riverside Car Park (postcode OX10 8EB), right across the river from our Wallingford boat hire location, is the closest place to park your car when you visit us.
Once your car is parked, it is a short 4 minute walk across the Wallingford bridge and then down the steps on your right.