Around the lake at Dorney




6.25 miles (10.1kms)

0ft (0m)
2hr 45min

About the walk

Located in Buckinghamshire's most southerly village, close to the Thames, Dorney Court is a genuine medieval village manor house – its jumble of timber-framed gables has survived intact and unchanged for some 600 years, looking much the same today as when it was first built. Back in the mid-1920s, Country Life magazine described Dorney Court as 'one of the finest Tudor manor houses in England'. Few would dispute that label and what endears the house to so many people is its long tradition of continuous family occupation – more than 450 years.

The first owner was recorded after the Norman Conquest, and after changing hands several times in the 15th century the house was sold in 1504 for 500 marks. By the middle of the 16th century the manor, together with 600 acres (243ha), was owned by Sir William Garrard, Lord Mayor of London. It is through this family that the town of Gerrards Cross got its name. Sir William Garrard's daughter Martha married Sir James Palmer of Kent, and Dorney Court has remained in the Palmer family to this day. One family portrait depicts Jane Palmer, born in 1564 and a forebear of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. The layout of the house has changed little, and in recent years has been a film and television location setting for many period productions, including episodes of Cranford, Poirot, Midsomer Murders, Elizabeth:the Golden Age and many more.

Fruit and honey

The village of Dorney stands on a gentle rise in the Thames flood plain, and is cut off from the river by spacious meadows where evidence of prehistoric life can be found. The name Dorney means 'island of bumblebees' and the local Dorney honey is renowned for its delicate, light flavours.

The large carved stone pineapple standing in the corner of the Great Hall at Dorney Court commemorates the first pineapple to be grown in England. The story goes that the top of a pineapple, imported from Barbados, was sliced off at a dinner in the City of London and given to the Earl of Castlemaine's gardener to plant at Dorney Court. The pineapple thrived, and was subsequently presented to Charles II in 1661.

Walk directions

Exit the rear of the car park and turn right to the Chapel of St Mary Magdalen. Walk in front of the chapel, then turn left and continue downstream along the Thames Path, heading for Boveney Lock. Windsor Racecourse can be seen over on the Berkshire bank. Continue on the tow path, cross Boveney Ditch on a footbridge and bear immediately left at a path junction. The modern Windsor spur road can be seen over on the right. After 50 paces turn left over the footbridge, by the distinctive Sustrans milepost, and veer immediately right on a narrow dirt path. Skirt round the field, keeping the ditch hard by you on the right, and pass a row of houses on the far bank.

Bear left following the perimeter. Look for a waymarked footpath sign ahead (it may be partially hidden in a copse) and turn right to follow it between fields to a stile, which brings you back to Boveney Road. Turn right to follow the road across Dorney Common, towards Dorney village. Pass Wakehams, a timber-framed house with a well at the front. Away to the right is a fine view of Windsor Castle with its famous Round Tower. Keep left at the T-junction, cross a cattle grid and join the pavement. Walk through Dorney, keeping the Palmer Arms on your right. Bear left into Court Lane, follow the path parallel to the road and pass the entrance to Dorney Court. You soon reach the Church of St James the Less.

Continue on the path now on the left side of the lane, and when the road bends right, go straight ahead at the sign for Eton College Rowing Centre. Keep to the right-hand side of the drive and follow the path round to the right, by the low-level wooden waymarker, signed towards Maidenhead. The trail becomes the broad gravel Barge Path, popular with serious cyclists, so be alert as you are walking along here. This leads to the Thames Path.

Turn left here and follow the river, facing Bray Marina on the opposite bank. Further downstream the imposing cream facade of Bray film studios edges into view, its sweeping riverside lawns and weeping willows enhancing the elegant scene. Continue on the leafy Thames Path and you will soon catch sight of Oakley Court across the water on the opposite (Berkshire) bank of the river.

Beyond Oakley Court you'll see the cabin cruisers and gin palaces of Windsor Marina, and next to it lines of caravans and mobile homes overlooking the river. Through the trees on the Buckinghamshire bank is the outline of Eton College's new boathouse and its superb rowing lake, a star of the 2012 Olympics. To gain a closer view, briefly follow a path beside the river boathouse and slipway, go through a gate and walk towards the lake; and then retrace your steps to the Thames Path. On the opposite bank of the river is Windsor Race Course Yacht Basin and ahead now is the Chapel of St Mary Magdalen. Follow the path alongside the chapel to a kissing gate, and about 50yds (46m) beyond it reach a lane. With the Old Place opposite and an avenue of chestnut trees on the right, turn left and return to the car park.

Additional information

Roads, firm paths and Thames tow path; 1 stile

Lowland Thames valley

Lead required in Dorney and by river

OS Explorer 160 Windsor, Weybridge & Bracknell

Car park at Dorney Common, tucked away off Boveney Road

None on route

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About the area

Discover Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire is a land of glorious beech trees, wide views and imposing country houses. Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli savoured the peace and tranquillity of Hughenden Manor, while generations of statesmen have entertained world leaders at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s rural retreat. Stowe and Waddesdon Manor are fine examples of even grander houses, set amid sumptuous gardens and dignified parkland.

The Vale of Aylesbury is a vast playground for leisure seekers with around 1,000 miles (1,609km) of paths and tracks to explore. Rising above it are the Chiltern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covering 308sq miles (798sq km). They are best appreciated in autumn, when the leaves turn from dark green to deep brown. In the southeast corner of the Chilterns lie the woodland rides of Burnham Beeches, another haven for ramblers and wildlife lovers. Although the county’s history is long and eventful, it’s also associated with events within living memory. At Bletchley Park, more than 10,000 people worked in complete secrecy to try and bring a swift conclusion to World War II. Further south, an otherwise unremarkable stretch of railway line was made infamous by the Great Train Robbery in the summer of 1963.


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