Cliveden Reach Canoe Trail

Cliveden, Taplow, Maidenhead, Buckinghamshire, SL6 0JA

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Explore one of the prettiest stretches of the Thames © National Trust / David Watson

Explore one of the prettiest stretches of the Thames

View of Spring Cottage on the Cliveden Estate, former home of Stephen Ward © National Trust/Liz Ward

View of Spring Cottage on the Cliveden Estate, former home of Stephen Ward

Cliveden House © National Trust/John Waxman

Cliveden House

Route overview

Between Maidenhead and Cookham, Cliveden Reach is one of the classic scenic stretches of the River Thames.  An out and back trip from Maidenhead provides a five or six mile paddle suitable for all in kayak or open canoe in normal river conditions.

Before you set out make sure you have the right skills and equipment for this trip and that you have checked the river and weather conditions, click here for more information on paddling safely and responsibly. This is an easy trail in normal river conditions.

Information correct as of December 2014.

Access points

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Cliveden reach canoe trail map
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Boulter's Lock (not NT)

  1. Boulter's Lock - Just across the road from the car park and towards the upper end of the lock the bank is dropped to provide an easy launch. Put in above the lock and start paddling upstream.

  2. Paddling upstream towards Cookham, the entrance to the upper Jubilee River comes into view almost immediately on the right and is easily identified by a barrier system to only allow canoes and small craft to pass through.

  3. Paddling along the Thames, the steep wooded hillside of Cliveden is followed for 1.5 miles past a series of small islands.

    Show/HideCliveden Reach

    In Chapter 12 of Three Men in a Boat (1889), Jerome K. Jerome describes Cliveden Reach as 'unbroken loveliness this is, perhaps, the sweetest stretch of all the river'. The River Thames may take its name from the Sanskrit Tamas meaning 'dark' as its waters are often dark and cloudy. Another thought is that it is named after the Roman words 'tam' meaning wide and 'isis' meaning water.

    Explore one of the prettiest stretches of the Thames © National Trust / David Watson
  4. Spring Cottage is set on the river below Cliveden's gardens, it is a private residence so please do not land here.

    Show/HideSpring Cottage

    Spring Cottage was the former home of osteopath Stephen Ward, who introduced Christine Keeler to Secretary of State for War John Profumo in 1961. The ‘Profumo Affair’ changed the course of political history when they rocked the nation with their confessions in 1963. Set on the banks of the River Thames, Spring Cottage takes its name from a spring that emerges from nearby cliffs.

    View of Spring Cottage on the Cliveden Estate, former home of Stephen Ward © National Trust/Liz Ward
  5. Cliveden House sits above the wooded slopes on the eastern bank of the Thames.

    Show/HideCliveden House

    The first female paddler appears to have been the Duchess of Sutherland who lived at Cliveden in the 1850s and 1860s. She wrote to John MacGregor (developer of the Rob Roy sailing canoe) asking how she should ballast her canoe so that she could enter it in the bulky dresses that were popular at the time.

    Cliveden House © National Trust/John Waxman
  6. When you arrive at Cookham Lock the river divides into three channels. The right hand channel leads into the backwater of Hedsor Water that is now open to public navigation. Landing in Hedsor Water and portaging the weir at the top end is not possible as all the banks are private, requiring a return to Cookham Lock. The middle channel which will take you up to Cookham Lock and the portage at the lock is on the right hand side.

  7. Cookham Lock - There is a landing point and grassed area for breaks by the public moorings at Cookham Lock and another by the weir at the head of the backwater to the left of the lock cut entrance; and closer to the toilets on the lock island. It is also a short walk from this point into Cookham village for pubs and shops.

  8. On the return to Maidenhead, there is the Jubilee River to visit if you want to extend your trip. The half mile or so tranquil tree lined backwater leads to Taplow Mills where there is no egress and necessitates returning to the Thames.

  9. Return to Boulters Lock - you have the option to stop off at the portage point for Boulters Lock to view the British Canoe Union flume on the weir for freestyle paddlers. Take the channel just to the left of the lock cut entrance and the portage is just at the top of the island beyond the weir. The portage point is on the island public park and it is a short walk through the gardens to the café and toilets. If you are not going to look at the flume then take the right channel back to your original entry point.

End: Boulter's Lock (not NT)

 © National Trust/John Waxman
  • Trail: Canoeing
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Water Type: River
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Time: 2 - 3 hours
  • OS Map: OS Explorer 172
  • Launch and Recovery:

    This return trip is best started at Boulters Lock, Maidenhead where there are pay and display public car parks. (not NT) Boutlers Lock car park (height restriction 1.9m). Postcode SL6 8JN, OS SU902825. Riverside Gardens car park (no height restriction) SL6 8NP, SU901818. A Canoe England membership or Environment Agency (EA) licence is required. Rowing boats are available to hire from Cliveden, at various times between April and October. Mooring at Cliveden is £9 for 24 hours, available for half a mile downstream from Cliveden boathouse.

  • Safety:
  • How to get here:

    Boulters Lock

    From Maidenhead Bridge on the A4, turn into the A4094 to Cookham and the car parks (not NT) are on the left on the left.  Riverside Gardens car park is about half a mile before the lock and Boulters Lock car park is about 100yds after the lock.


  • Facilities:

    Toilets and a café (not NT) can be found in the Riverside Garden car park and in the park and gardens on the island behind Boulters Lock.

  • Contact us