The Boat Race (13 miles)


Route in figures

Route Summary

Distance 13.0
Traffic-Free 7/10
Hills 0/10


Large scale map
Route details

A flat, traffic free course. The first half, along the North bank of the Thames, takes you out of the suburbs of Putney and Fulham, past the stunning riverside houses of Hammersmith and Chiswick, to the river front at Mortlake and Kew. The route back along the tow path on the South bank is a splendid trail run.

To cut this down to a 10 mile run, cross at Chiswick Bridge instead of Kew Bridge. For an 8¼ mile route, see Route 6 – The Railway Bridge.


“Digital Data © Geoinformation Group (2003)”

[[:scrollbox_begin]] The Boat Race Route [[:scrollbox_end]]

Start and finish

The route starts and finishes at Putney Bridge tube station, on the District Line (Wimbledon branch), on the 39, 93 and 270 bus, or a 15 minute walk from Putney BR station.

There is a cafe and toilets. There is nowhere here to leave your bags, unless you have a car or can persuade the people in Nancy’s Cafe to look after them.

Map of Putney Bridge

“Digital Data © Geoinformation Group (2003)”

Route details

Mile Directions
0 Turn left out of Putney Bridge Tube Station. Turn right into Ranelagh Gardens and left into Fulham High Street. Pass through a gate labelled “Willow Bank”. Go through the underpass, labelled “Thames Path”, under Putney Bridge. Go ahead into Bishops’ Park, and then turn left towards the river.
0.2 Turn right at the river (the riverbank opposite is the start of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat race). Keep along the path by the river for ¾ mile.
0.8 Follow the path to the right when it reaches side wall of Craven Cottage, the football ground of Fulham FC. Follow the path to the gate out of Bishops Park, and turn left into Stevenage Road (not s/p). Keep the football ground on your left.
1.0 At the end of the football ground, turn left, labelled “Thames Path”. Return to the river and turn right. Keep along the path for half a mile.
1.5 Just past a swing on the right, follow the path to the right (ie don’t go up the steps in front of you). Follow the footpath ahead, with the pub on the left, under a metal trellis. Turn left onto the street. Go past Palace Wharf, and turn left down to the river, signposted to Dorset Wharf Community Centre. Turn right at the river.
2.0 Follow the path to the right and then left. Turn right onto Chancellor’s Road (not s/p) and left into Crisp Lane, signposted to “Riverside Studios”. Pass the Riverside Studios on the left, and turn left towards the river. Turn right at the river.
2.2 Pass under Hammersmith Bridge. (If you want a shorter run of 4.4 miles, turn right up the steps onto Hammersmith Bridge, over the bridge, and rejoin the route at 10.9 miles). Go ahead into Furnival Park.
2.5 At the end of the Park, by the jetty, turn right away from the river, then quickly left into a footpath running past the Dove pub. This opens out into Upper Mall. Run past the rowing clubs, and follow the path to the right at the Black Lion pub. Turn left into Hammersmith Terrace. This street becomes The Mall.
3.0 Swan House on the right.
3.3 At Chiswick Mall Public Drawdock on the left, in front of 1-7 Chiswick Mall, ignore the sign for pedestrians and bikes to go ahead and turn left through the gate with a sign saying “privately owned footpath”. Turn right at the river. (When the gate is locked, go straight ahead.)
3.6 If you have followed the road rather than the footpath, after half a mile turn left at the roundabout towards a cuppola by the river and rejoin the route.
3.6 Just past the cuppola, pass in front of the Pier Waterside Brasserie. Run along Thames Crescent, and out of the gate onto the Promenade.
3.9 As the path bears right, keep straight ahead along the grass, along a terraced embankment.
4.0 Pass in front of the derelict bandstand.
4.2 When you reach two signs at right angles, both labelled “Thames Path”, decide whether to go over Barnes Railway Bridge. For a shorter, 8¼ mile run you cross Barnes Bridge by going straight ahead at the signs – see Route 5: The Railway Bridge for details. To go on to Chiswick and Kew Bridges, turn right, away from the river, and follow the road along the railway embankment to the left. After ¼ mile, turn left under the railway, and left again. Pass Dukes Hollow Nature Reserve to the left, and follow the road back to the river. Drop down onto the path by the river.
5.0 The gates into Dukes Meadow Golf club on the right.
5.2 The road bends away from the river at Chiswick Bridge. Keep along the river, passing under the third arch of Chiswick bridge, and then up the steps on the other side on to the bridge. At the top of the steps, turn left away from the river. Alternatively, for a 10 mile run, cross Chiswick Bridge and rejoin the route at 8.3 miles.
5.3 Turn left away from the river, follow the pavement to the first turning on the left, Hartington Road. Turn left here, keeping the Polytechnic Stadium on your right. Keep on Hartington Road.
6.0 6 miles is reached at the second roundabout junction with Grove Park Road.
6.1 At the Chiswick Yacht and Boat Club and Strand End House, follow the footpath to the left. Keep on the footpath, signposted “Strand on the Green”.
6.5 Rejoin the road, and pass Cafe Rouge on the right.
6.7 Go up the steps on to Kew Bridge, and cross the bridge. Turn left on the other side, and go down the steps to the river. Turn right on the towpath.
7.0 Pass Kew Pier
7.4 Go under Barnes Railway Bridge. Then pass the Public Records Office on the right.
8.0 The eight mile mark is just before the gate, just before Mortlake Anglian and Alpha Boat Club.
8.2 Pass under Chiswick Bridge. If you have crossed Chiswick Bridge, come down the steps and turn right along the tow path. Go past the Ship Pub on the right, and keep in front of Mortlake Brewery.
9.0 Nine miles is reached just past the White Hart Pub.
9.1 Go under Barnes Bridge. If you have crossed Barnes Bridge, come down the steps, cross the road and turn right.
10.0 Ten miles is reached opposite the Church on the north bank.
10.9 Go under Hammersmith Bridge
11.0 Eleven miles is past Hammersmith Studios on the other side of the river, and before the Harrods Furniture Depository on the right.
11.6 Pass the monument to the right to Steve Fairbairn.
12.0 Just past South Bank Sailing Club.
12.5 Pass Putney Pier on the left, and the Universities Stone marking the start of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat race. Follow the path up to the road, and up to Putney Bridge.
12.6 Turn left on Putney Bridge, cross the Bridge, and turn left down the steps on the other side. Go through the underpass and straight ahead.
12.9 Go through the gate labelled “Willow Bank” and turn right into Ranalegh Gardens.
13.0 Finish at Putney Bridge Station.

Sights and history

As you come out of the underpass under Putney Bridge, glance to your right at All Saints Church. There has been a church on this site since 1400, though the current church was rebuilt in 1800. Fourteen Bishops of London are buried in the graveyard.

Putney Bridge marks the start of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, which covers the 4½ miles from Putney to Mortlake each spring. It was first raced in 1829 in Henley, moving to Putney in 1845. The start is marked by the Universities Stone on the South Bank.

To the right is Fulham Palace. This was the summer residence of the Bishop of London from 704 to 1973. The palace dates from the 16th Century. The first magnolia to be grown in Europe was grown in the garden.

Craven Cottage stadium is home to Fulham Football Club. It is named after an 18th Century cottage in Hammersmith, which burnt down in 1888.

Riverside Studios in Hammersmith has been the home of two theatres and an art gallery since 1977. The building was originally an iron foundry, and was a BBC TV studio between the wars.

Furnivall Gardens are named after Dr F J Furnivall, a 19th Century social reformer, whose sculling club was based by Hammersmith Pier.

The sixteenth century Dove Inn is a famous London pub, which has held a licence for 400 years, though the present building is only two hundred years old. Charles II and Nell Gwynne met here. In the 18th Century it was a coffee house, where Thomson wrote the words to Rule Britannia in an upstairs room.

Kelmscott House on Upper Mall was home to the poet and novelist George Macdonald, and then William Morris, who lived there from 1878 to his death in 1896.

The front gardens along the river along Upper Mall are privately owned, but are open to the public once a year under the National Gardens scheme.

The 17 houses along Hammersmith Terrace were built in the mid 18th century, when all around were fields, market gardens and strawberry fields. Sir Emery Walker, the antiquary and typographer who collaborated with Morris at the Kelmscott press, lived at no. 7. Sir Alan Herbert, the writer and advocate of the Thames, lived at 12 and 13.

Chiswick Mall is one of the most attractive groups of 18th century houses in London. Walpole House was the home of Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, Charles II’s mistress, who died here in 1709. In the 19th century this became a school, with Thackeray among its pupils.

Fuller’s Griffin Brewery, on the right, is London’s oldest brewery, dating back to the 17th Century.

As you turn left at the blue sign, pause to look at the Charles Hadcock sculpture to your right, entitled Couplet. Behind it is the parish church of St Nicholas. The list inside traces the vicars of the church back to 1225. The tower dates back to 1436 – the rest was rebuilt in 1884, including the decorative windows. In the Cromwell family vault are three coffins, the shortest possibly holding the headless body of Cromwell, exhumed from Westminster Abbey and rescued from Tyburn in 1661. William Hogarth’s grave is marked by a pedestal and urn with an epitaph by David Garrick. The tomb of the artist J M Whistler is nearby.

Strand on the Green is another historic terrace of houses. The Bull’s Head is 350 years old, and the City Barge pub – so named because the Lord Mayor’s barge was moored nearby – has a 15th century charter. Lord Cudlipp, the famous owner of the Mirror, lived at No.15. Dylan Thomas lived at Ship House Cottage. Nancy Mitford, the writer, lived at Rose Cottage. John Zoffany, the artist, lived at No. 65.

Over the river, Kew owes its heritage to the nearby Richmond Palace. The large Georgian houses were built in the reign of George III to house the royal court.

The unattractive Public Records Office on the right after Kew Pier is home to government records including the Doomesday Book, Guy Fawkes’s confessions, Captain Cook’s charts and Bligh of the Bounty’s records.

The Ship pub in Mortlake dates back to the 16th Century, and a wooden post nearby marks the end of the Boat Race. Stag Watney’s Brewery occupies land which was part of Mortlake Manor, once a residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury and later Thomas Cromwell. Mortlake was famous in the 16th century for its salt glaze pottery. In 1619, James I established a tapestry workshop staffed by Flemish weavers, and 17th Century Mortlake became famous for its tapestry.

Barnes retains a village atmosphere. Gustav Holst lived at No.10 before the first world war. The Bulls Head is one of London’s best known jazz pubs.

Running on Barnes riverside pathThe terracotta Harrods Furniture Depository, a famous boat race landmark, dates back to 1890. It is now being converted into flats, as part of the Harrods Village development.

Barn Elms Reservoir to the right is the site for a new wetland wildlife sanctuary to opened soon. There is a memorial stone, marking a mile from the start of the boat race, to Steve Fairbairn, oarsman and coach who founded the Oxford Head of the River race.

Members of Ranelagh Harriers may be interested to know that the estate of Barn Elms, to the right, was the home for the fashionable Ranelagh Club from 1884 to 1939. Earlier in the 19th century, the grounds were used by William Cobbett for a variety of agricultural experiments, including growing maize.

St Mary’s Parish Church, at the bridgehead on the south side of Putney Bridge has been restored after a fire in 1977. The 15th century tower and chapel were preserved when the church was rebuilt in 1836. Oliver Cromwell held a council of war around the communion table here in 1647.

Owen Barder