Days out in Buckinghamshire
Never short of places to go and things to see, Buckinghamshire has a full itinerary of activities, attractions, and fun things to do. With no city, Milton Keynes, together with the central county town of Aylesbury and other historic towns, including Bletchley, Buckingham, High Wycombe, and Amersham, all make Buckinghamshire a great place to visit all year round.
Popular and modern, there are plenty of fun things to do in Milton Keynes, whatever your interests. At the Xscape Centre, skiers and snowboarders can enjoy the indoor real snow slopes at Snozone, while budding skydivers can experience the 12ft wind tunnel at iFly indoor skydiving centre. For outdoor fun, Gulliver’s Dinosaur Farm Park is full of rides, attractions, and activities. Plus there are over 180 miles of bridleways, footpaths, and cycle tracks to explore in and around the town.
Nearby Bletchley Park lets you explore the heritage of the infamous codebreakers of over 70 years ago, and its National Radio Museum gives a fascinating look at the history of radio and communications. And take in the exhibitions and displays, and book a tour, around the home of British motor racing at the Silverstone Experience.
Any Roald Dahl fans in the family – of any age – will welcome a day out, first to Aylesbury, for the amazing sights, sounds, and exhibits inspired by the classic stories, at the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery. And just outside the town, in Great Missenden, the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre is packed with activities and things to do, as well as photos, notes, and manuscripts.
A visit to the 18th-century Hellfire Caves, home of the infamous Hellfire Club, in West Wycombe will take you half a mile underground as you make your way through a series of winding passages and rooms, carved into the rock of the Chiltern Hills.
And those same Chiltern Hills are part of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that covers almost all of the south of Buckinghamshire. With plenty of wildlife and wildflowers, this amazing, protected area is a haven for walkers and cyclists alike and offers plenty of trails, pathways, and routes to follow, as well as the longer routes of The Chiltern Way and The Ridgeway National Trail.
Claydon is a mid- and late-18th-century landscape park and woodland, now in divided use. The parkland around Claydon House covers about 100 hectares. Further garden development took place in the late-19th century.
West Wycombe Park
West Wycombe Park has an 18th-century rococo landscape garden of 18.5 hectares, situated within a larger landscape park occupying about 135 hectares. The gardens are associated with an agricultural estate of about 2000 hectares, which is now in separate ownership.
Topography, geology, and climate
Much like its home county neighbours, Buckinghamshire is a perfect blend of farmland, hills, and open countryside, especially in the south of the county with the Chiltern Hills AONB. This gives all its towns a rich and diverse landscape providing a range of different land qualities and fertile soil types.
Much of the north and central areas are made up of the slow permeable, seasonally wet, and slightly acid, base-rich loam and clay soils which are common across the south-east. But in the far north, similar loam and clay soils are more lime-rich. In the south, across the Chiltern Hills and beyond are highly fertile soils, predominantly mildly acid, loam and clay with areas of shallow, lime-rich soil over chalk or limestone.
Like the southern landlocked counties around it, Buckinghamshire’s climate is temperate across the year and isn’t prone to any extreme weathers one way or the other. Average temperatures can reach a high of around 20ºC (68ºF) in the summer months, and a low of around 3ºC (37ºF) during the winter months. Rainfall can be on the high side, but annual averages for Buckinghamshire are around 800mm (31”).
Buckinghamshire’s parks and gardens
Alongside Buckinghamshire’s stunning open countryside, there’s an excellent selection of parks and gardens to enjoy for the whole family. With such a rich and historic landscape, naturally, there are many National Trust properties to explore. But there are also more than a few hidden gems and it’s safe to say each offers a relaxed and inspirational, family day out.
- North Buckinghamshire
As one of the finest examples of Georgian landscape gardens, the National Trust’s Stowe is a true Buckinghamshire standout. The Grade I listed house is surrounded by 250-acres of rolling gardens with swathes of perfectly positioned shrubs and trees, serene lakes, and iconic temples and monuments. Take in fabulous views on one of the many pathways walks around the gardens and surrounding open parkland, that include areas designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
Claydon House in Middle Claydon, near Buckingham, has fantastic surroundings to enjoy. Originally designed by James Saunderson, a pupil of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, Claydon’s classic serpentine garden includes typically-18th century sweeping parkland with trees, a lake, and a church. But closer to the house, a more formal set of 19th-century gardens have been added. Now Grade II listed, they feature a kitchen garden, a rose garden, a greenhouse, and beautiful herbaceous borders.
Ascott Gardens, in Wing, near Leighton Buzzard, is a stunning destination featuring a mixed style of formal and informal gardens with extensive lawns. Featuring many focal points, including fountains and sculptures, the gardens have a stunning planting scheme of vivid bedding plants alongside beautiful herbaceous borders, a Madeira walk, a Dutch garden, and an intricate topiary sundial. There’s also a fine collection of specimen trees including oaks, cedars, and horse chestnuts.
- South Buckinghamshire
For a country park near High Wycombe, the West Wycombe Park is not to be missed. Designed as a Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown-inspired landscape garden, its 45-acres feature plenty of surprises in the form of small temples and garden follies, including the lake’s island music temple, alongside a mix of open parkland and woodland. A stunning wedding venue, West Wycombe Park is also a perfect place to explore for all the family.
The Lyde Garden is a beautifully compact and peaceful garden in the village of Bledlow, near Princes Risborough on the cusp of the Chiltern Hills – it’s also a real hidden gem. As part of the Carrington Estate, the gardens are tucked away and accessed through a wrought iron gate, but they’re certainly worth searching for. Pathways lead you through a natural landscape of ponds and springs as well as diverse planting schemes including primulas, astilbes, gunnera, and hostas. Not to be missed.
High Wycombe is home to yet another wonderful example of formal gardens in Hughenden Manor. Once home to Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, it was his wife, Mary Ann, who created the original formal garden designs in a distinct Italianate-style featuring terraces and borders filled with colour. The walled garden is also a working garden, with many varieties of fruit trees and vegetables. Beyond the gardens, the surrounding pleasure gardens include an arboretum with plenty of shrubs and specimen trees which can all be enjoyed along the many woodland walks.