Background: Prolonged gastro-oesophageal reflux resulting in columnar metaplasia of the oesophagus is the main risk factor for oesophageal adenocarcinoma. Aim To examine the duration of symptoms and associations of different symptoms with the development of columnar-lined oesophagus, dysplasia and adenocarcinoma. Methods UK multicentre cohort study of patients with columnar-lined oesophagus whose date of symptom onset (1082 patients) and/or types of symptoms reported (1681 patients) were documented. Follow-up was examined by analysis of histological reports from the registering centers. Results Symptoms of dysphagia/odynophagia and nausea/vomiting were associated with development of dysplasia. High-grade dysplasia and adenocarcinoma were associated with dysphagia/odynophagia and weight loss. Median duration from symptom onset to detection of columnar-lined oesophagus without intestinal metaplasia: 2.6 years, columnar-lined oesophagus with intestinal metaplasia: 5.0 years, indefinite changes for dysplasia: 19.3 years and low-grade dysplasia: 30.0 years. One tenth of patients had developed high-grade dysplasia at 9.6 years and one tenth had developed adenocarcinoma at 13.8 years from symptom onset. Conclusions In patients with columnar-lined oesophagus, symptoms of dysphagia/odynophagia and nausea/vomiting were associated with a higher risk of development of dysplasia and adenocarcinoma. There is a trend for longer duration of symptoms to the detection of dysplasia.