Saturday 10 May 2014

Windsor Eton Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.6 km (3.5 miles), terrain: flat

For a run through Windsor Great Park, see the Great Park Route.
For other running routes, see Route List

Windsor is so wonderfully English: its impressive castle, amazing parkland, beautiful Georgian homes, the inviting old pubs, the swans floating on the River Thames, the horse-race track... There's a definite old-fashioned charm to the place. And one more thing that adds to the charm is Eton College, just across the river from town. Eton is over 550 years old, has graduated 19 British prime ministers, and is one of the few boys' boarding schools still operating in England. Even princes William and Harry went there. 
School outfitter on Eton High Street
There are some scenic old buildings at Eton, there are plenty of rowing teams out on the river, and the whole place has a bit of Hogwarts flair about it. And the village of Eton itself is really scenic. So this route takes us across the river and loops through the area: running along the Thames, past the racetrack, then cutting back through the fields of Eton Common to the college and then the rest of the village.
Rowing students along the Thames
So, if you're ready, let's get running. This route starts in the middle of Windsor Bridge, over the Thames. Facing south, you see the castle looming above Windsor. To the west, there are the boat houses for the Eton rowing teams, and probably a few boats (and a lot of swans) in sight along the river. And facing you on the north side of the river is Eton village.
Trail through the Brocas
Run north into the village on Eton High Street, but then turn left at the first side-street. Run past the left side of the old pub called the Waterman's Arms, and continue west into the open field along the Thames. This field is called the Brocas. There are just dirt ruts to run in here, or just run right along the river bank further to the left. This trail is part of the much longer Thames Path that goes for 30 miles along the riverside.

There is scenic parkland across the river in Windsor, and motor-boats tied to shore.

When you leave the Brocas, you run under the brick arches of a railroad viaduct. Along this section, when I was there, there were a few students on bikes with brass megaphones yelling fairly unwanted advice to their colleagues in the rowing boats.
Bicyclist with megaphone, managing the rowers
You'll go over a couple of little bridges as streams empty into the Thames from the north.

Then you go under a big car bridge for the A332 road. After coming out on the other side of the bridge, the main path turns north, away from the river, while a smaller path continues right along the water. You can take either trail: the bigger one is a short-cut avoiding a coming dog-leg in the river. But the waterside trail is more scenic, I think. I took that one. They both come back together in just 200 meters.
Fork in the trail: the left side stays along the water
You are now running opposite the horse-track, across the river.

Just after where the two trails join again, you cross the wooden "Chinese Bridge" over a side-stream. You'll have a big meadow to the right side.
Swans at the Chinese Bridge
You'll see several signs for public footpaths leading through the meadow to the right. Wait until the third footpath, just before the little footbridge, with the sign for the bicycle route to Slough, and turn to the right. Keep to the right as the trail soon splits.
Turn right here towards Eton Wick!
You are running towards a small church in Eton Wick, across the meadow. Run to the street-corner at the church, where Sheepcote joins into Eton Wick Road. Run north on Sheepcote, passing a few small apartment buildings and continuing northwards along the paved street through the fields of Eton Great Common.
Eton Common public footpath: cross this field!
You'll see a sign for a public footpath pointing to the right through the commons meadow, with its metal entrance stile. Turn right, and run across the field. It's hard to find a real trail in that field, you just have to run in the direction of the arrow, with the little stream (Colenorton Brook) to your left side. We're now heading back towards Eton Village.

The field ends at the A332 road again, where you go through another stile and run under the bridge through some mud. It's the one lonely bit of the run.

After the bridge, you'll have the brook to your left and the back yards of some houses to your right.
The last part of the trail as it enters the college
You'll run under the brick railway viaduct again and then continue across a last field, with Eton College buildings standing on the other side.

The trail merges into Common Lane, with classroom buildings and dormitories to either side.
Ice-cream truck at the Eton library on Common Lane
Common Lane runs into High Street right at the heart of the college, at the domed school library. Now turn right and head south along High Street all the way back to the staring place at the bridge. The main college buildings are to the left, just after Common Lane, with the main halls and the college chapel. It all feels really steeped in tradition.
Entrance to the main courtyard, with statue of Henry VI, the school's founder
High Street is lined with old-fashioned school outfitters, pubs, restaurants and book shops. A nice end for a very nice little run!
At Eton Chappel

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