Great things to see and do from River Rapids busesOxfordshire
Ride the River Rapids buses from Oxford to Reading for fabulous car-free days out. Visit flowering gardens or ruined abbeys, award-winning museums and riverside pubs. Take a boat trip on the river, a ramble on the ancient Ridgeway or a stroll along the beautiful Thames Path. You could also set off from Reading, of course, which is only 25 minutes from London Paddington by train. Either way, there's lots to see and do along the way. Look out for spring bluebells in the roadside woods, ox-eye daisies in the summer fields, golden beeches in autumn and red kites circling overhead.
1. Bus rides in Oxford
Car-free adventures in Oxford might start with an open-top bus tour of the ancient colleges, cobbled squares and gold-stoned streets. Students have been learning at Oxford since the eleventh century, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Today it also has world-class museums, towers with great views, markets and shopping centres, theatres and cinemas.
- When you’re ready to head out into the countryside, hop on one of two River Rapids bus routes to find all kinds of adventures.
- Bus X39 and bus X40 both run hourly to Reading so, between them, there are buses every half an hour. Both buses go past the university’s arboretum (see 4 below) and ancient Dorchester (see 5 below) and through the pretty market town of Wallingford (see 6 below).
2. Boat trips on the Thames
In Oxford, both bus routes start round the side of the huge Westgate shopping centre, from Stop E3. Simply follow Castle Street beside the brick cliff of this newly-renovated mall with its shops and cafés to find the stop. Or catch your bus from outside Oxford Police Station on St Aldate’s near iconic Folly Bridge, which the buses cross before heading south out of Oxford.
- Folly Bridge is one of several places along these bus routes where you can take a boat trip on the Thames. Salter’s Steamers offer hourly short trips to Iffley Lock every day or longer cruises that take in picturesque Port Meadow with its waterbirds and grazing ponies.
- From Caversham Pier in Reading, take a River cruise under the town’s three bridges or a cream tea cruise past riverside villages and flower-decked Sonning Lock.
- You can also hire small craft like punts and rowing boats from these and other places along the river.
3. Taste the Thames Path
The River Rapids buses are an ideal way to sample the Thames Path, a National Trail that follows the mighty River Thames for nearly 200 miles from its muddy source in the Cotswolds, through town and country, to Greenwich and beyond. Here are three varied sections of the well-signed route that you could walk in a leisurely afternoon, all with a well-earned pint or cup of tea by the river near the end. For anyone who would rather skip the hike, these waterside pubs and cafés near bus stops are perfect for relaxing.
- Folly Bridge to Iffley Lock (2 miles) Setting off from Folly Bridge, Iffley Lock and its unusual bridges are soon after the Isis River Farmhouse pub and you can cross them to visit the 12th-century Norman church at Iffley. To find the nearest bus stop, walk back to the pub and turn left through a gate just beyond it. Walk diagonally across Iffley Meadows and the bridges in the far corner to Weirs Lane. Turn left and left again into Canning Crescent – the stop is at the end. Look out for rare snake’s-head fritillaries in the meadows in April.
- Shillingford to Benson (1¾ miles) A short rural stretch with a bus stop at each end from a wisteria-hung village to a busy marina. At Benson, turn left just after the Waterfront café or continue to Wallingford.
- Benson to Wallingford (2 miles) Across Benson weir and along a sandy, willow-shaded path, this is another delightful walk. You could combine it with the previous one and end at the mock-Tudor Boathouse pub in Wallingford.