There are footpaths on both sides of the River Thames.
Walk the Course
The Course Map shows transport links and gives an overview of the area, with notes on the footpaths below. For more about transport please see the main page. For more about the areas, see our local maps: The Start Map, Middle Map (The Surrey Bend) and The Finish Map. The notes below the map describe the footpaths which follow the Course on both sides of the river - some parts paved, some parts muddy.
Whatever the weather, a pair of solid shoes or boots are vital for walking any section of the Boat Race towpath! Not forgetting raingear and enough layers of clothing to cope with changing conditions. Since the race should take about 17 minutes, you should plan where would be your best vantage points.
Along the course are fourteen pubs and restaurants which might well serve your purpose. From the two on the Surrey side of the Start area, through the Hammersmith and Chiswick riverside pubs on the Middlesex bank, to the Finish at "The Ship" in Mortlake, there are plenty to choose from. Each page on the race sections has details of these.
You can follow the river right the way to the finish at Mortlake on this southern side. The first mile from the starting point at the University Stone beneath Putney Bridge to the Mile Post is rich in the history of the Boat Race and rowing in general. Glide past the first of the many pubs on either side of the river, the "Star & Garter" and the "Duke's Head", and the towpath leads alongside any number of school and college boat houses.
It's worth continuing past Barn Elms Boat House for 5 minutes, with Fulham's Craven Cottage on the far bank, to reach the Mile Post. It's marked by a memorial to a famous Steve of rowing, not Redgrave, but Fairbairn. A nineteenth century Cambridge rower, he founded another famous race on the Thames, "The Head of the River."
If you were prepared to miss the start but have a fine view of mid-race, one tactic would be to walk this path early till the green of Hammersmith Bridge looms before you, about 2 miles in all. Cross here (bear in mind that the Bridge is closed to pedestrians while the Race passes) then take up position on the Hammersmith bend for what is often a decisive part of the race. And there is refreshment aplenty awaiting on the Lower and Upper Malls.
For the closing stages if taking the Surrey side, Barnes and Mortlake are the destinations. Barnes Bridge station brings you to the embankment with about a quarter-mile left. The path here is mostly pavement rather than the more rural feel up to the first Mile Post. But there's the promise of food stalls and pubs that have hosted a century and more of Boat Races.
To take in the finish itself, go straight to Mortlake Station and after a short walk down to the High Street perhaps relax at "The Ship" with the winning post in front of Emanuel School Boat House on the opposite bank.
There are occasional detours from the river's edge on this northern bank, but they take only a few minutes.
To enjoy the atmosphere of the start, come down off Putney Bridge and into Bishop's Park. From the grounds of Fulham Palace you have a grandstand view of the preparations on the tideway. The University Stone that marks the start is on the far bank. Follow the gardens along the river till the path reaches Fulham Football Ground. The detour here at Craven Cottage is minor, taking you out of the park and onto Stevenage Road.
Once past Craven Cottage the path returns to beside the Thames. Another detour, and again of a few minutes, is around the back of the "Crabtree" pub and Palace Wharf in Fulham. The scene is a contrast to the Surrey side, more urban with houses and the Riverside studios near Hammersmith Bridge. For entertainment there should be plenty going on.
If you wanted to stay on the north bank, Hammersmith Bridge and its neighbourhood is as good a spot as any. The Upper and Lower Malls plus the Dove Pier close by on the far side of the Bridge have food and drink while the race is nearing the 2-mile mark, a little under halfway. For transport look to Hammersmith or Ravenscourt Park tubes and then a short walk to the riverside.
Once through Hammersmith the Thames Path takes you into Chiswick Mall. Still an urban feel to this side, but the mood is changing as you approach the Riverside Sports Ground. There's plenty of greenery and a promenade along the bank, but you'll probably need to bring your own refreshment unless food stalls set up camp.
The Thames Path takes another detour from the river around Barnes Railway Bridge and back past boat houses such as Thames Tradesmen. Only the foolish, or perhaps a journalist writing about the Boat Race course, would try to walk along a track right next to the river! Your shoes and legs are probably guaranteed a mud bath at any time of the year!
Perseverance brings the finish and Chiswick Bridge in sight. Crossing the bridge takes you into Mortlake with the choice of Mortlake or Barnes Bridge rail stations as transport.
There are cycle paths on both sides of the river. Surrey offers the clearer run, though the mudguards will be useful at times. On the Middlesex or northern bank there are brief areas where cyclists are requested to dismount, such as through some residential sections of Chiswick Mall. Yet remember that the riverside will hardly be empty on race day, so anyone on a bike can't expect to zip around at will!
Aside from conveniences offered by pubs and restaurants along the course, there are two public toilets, both at or near the start: in Bishop's Park on the Middlesex bank by Putney Bridge, go into the Park and look for "The Aviary." If in doubt consult the Park plan where the toilets are marked - they're within a couple of minutes' walk. On the Surrey bank, once you're walking up from the start there is a toilet some 10 minutes away on Putney embankment, in between the Recycling Centre and the Wandsworth Youth River Club.