- Rolling hills, village frills
- Country life
- Pubbing, boating, rambling
With woodlands fit for a fairytale and country hideaways down almost every lane, Buckinghamshire’s an accessible escape from city life.
With the postcard-perfect Chiltern Hills in the south and the historic Vale of Aylesbury in the north, Buckinghamshire is the epitome of a very English county. Market towns and village teashops abound, and the log fires of the country inns have been warming the feet of visiting city folk for centuries: it’s within easy reach of central London. This is the land of picnics and kite flying and home-made Sunday roasts – it’s a breath of fresh air at the end of the Metropolitan line.
One of the more intriguing relics of the region’s rustic past is the annual ‘weighing in of the mayor’ which is held every May in High Wycombe. This ritual requires the mayor, as well as all his or her officers, to be publicly weighed to establish whether they have ‘grown fat’ while in office, presumably at the expense of local taxpayers. (The tradition of throwing rotten tomatoes at a mayor who’s put on a few pounds over the year has, for better or worse, been lost.)
- In more rural areas, cabs aren’t easily flagged down in the street; try Crystal Cars in Amersham (+44 (0)1494 434949) or Chesham Taxis (+44 (0)1494 784 182). If you're nearer to Aylesbury, Taffs Cars are a family-run company (+44 (0)1296 395003) and Falcon Taxis are one of the largest local operators (+44 (0)1296 580000).
- Tipping culture
- About 12.5 per cent is appreciated in restaurants. Some bills will have a gratuity added automatically, so double check to make sure you don’t double pay.
- Packing tips
- A kite – and it’ll need to be colourful to get noticed among the many that fly through the skies above Bucks on a breezy day. And bring your watercolours: there are rural idylls aplenty.
- Recommended reads
- In Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, the eponymous trio’s journey up the Thames takes them through the Buckinghamshire of 1889. Today’s travellers will find much unchanged in Marlow, ‘one of the pleasantest river centres I know of. It is a bustling lively little town… there are many quaint nooks and corners to be found in it.’ John Milton’s most famous poem, Paradise Lost, was penned in Chalfont St Giles in 1665, after Milton left London to escape the plague – his cottage is now a museum.
- Regional specialities
- Menus are traditional and meat-heavy in many of the restaurants and farmers’ markets. Aylesbury duck is a historic favourite – in the 18th-century, farmers would walk their flocks the 40 miles from Aylesbury to London to be sold. Buckinghamshire is also home to particularly cosy inns and eateries and there’s often an emphasis on local produce: make sure you sample the local brew to accompany your meal – creamy Chiltern Ale and nutty Beechwood Bitter are on draught at many pubs.
- Pound sterling.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for the UK: +44.
- Do go/don't go
- Visit in April or May to catch the bluebells in full bloom and the woodlands are carpeted with flowers: floral hot spots include Penn Wood near Amersham and Ashridge Park near Aylesbury. The summer months can get crowded in the most picturesque villages and country pubs.
Don't go home without...
…getting your heart racing as you speed around the British Grand Prix track at Silverstone (www.silverstone.co.uk). You can drive your own car or rent one of theirs on Track Days: there’s roughly one a month, so check their online calendar and book before your trip.