With no big cities, most of Buckinghamshire’s residents live in beautiful market towns historic centres.
In this county you can hardly travel a mile without bumping into a distinguished country estate, and many of these are owned by the National Trust or English Heritage so are open to visitors: Cliveden, Waddesdon Manor, Hughenden Manor, Stowe House, the list goes on.
The north of the county is all arable farms and little villages in gentle countryside, while in the south is the Chiltern Range, for challenging walks and rousing lookouts atop Ivinghoe Beacon and Coombe Hill.
Lets explore the best places to visit in Buckinghamshire:
The town of Malow is an exceptionally pretty Thameside community, with resplendent mansions by the water and lots of fun and interesting things happening on the river in summer.
Marlow is one of the towns on the Thames where “swan upping” takes place.
By a peculiar historical law, all unmarked mute swans are the queen’s property, and around late-July the crown takes a census of the swans by rounding them up, tagging them and releasing them again.
Marlow’s bridge is a miniature version of the famous Chain Bridge in Budapest, having been designed by the same man, William Tierney Clark in the late-1820s.
2. Milton Keynes
A “new town” that only came to be in the 1960s, Milton Keynes differs from the other destinations on this list because its charms don’t lie in its distant history, landscape or architecture.
Rather, Milton Keynes is where you can uncover a riveting chapter of 20th-century.
In the southeast of the town is Bletchley Park, where the British codebreakers like Alan Turning cracked the Lorenz and Enigma ciphers in the Second World War.
A couple of streets away is the National Museum of Computing, which has a cache of machines from the earliest years of the computer era, including the Colossus, which helped crack the Lorenz cipher.
Buckinghamshire’s county town has a lovely Georgian centre, with timber Tudor and Jacobean houses sprinkled here and there.
One of these is the King’s Head Coaching Inn, a medieval pub set around a cobbled courtyard where horses were once stabled.
A market still sets up four days a week in Amersham in front of the County Court, which itself dates to 1740. In Aylesbury you really should take the chance to get out into the Chilterns.
Coombe Hill is close by and has awesome vistas that include the Prime Minister’s residence at Chequers.
And nearby Waddesdon Manor looks like it has landed straight from the Loire Valley, and was constructed for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild as a weekend retreat.
A powerful settlement in Anglo-Saxon times, Buckingham was granted county town status as far back as the 900s by King Alfred the Great.
A devastating fire hit Buckingham in 1725, and the rebuild brought us the elegant Georgian streetscapes that we see today.
Right on the high street is the Old Gaol, which looks a bit like a castle for its romantic gothic revival design, and dates to the 18th century.
Inside there’s a neat little museum about Buckingham, also portraying some of the people incarcerated here in the 1700s and 1800s.
The Chantry Chapel is run by the National Trust and one of the oldest buildings here, mostly from the 1400s.
One of the foremost English gardens is minutes away at Stowe, and is spectacular in any season.
5. High Wycombe
In a steep valley in the Chilterns, High Wycombe is an agreeable town with a market that trades on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
A lot of the most beautiful architecture is around the pedestrianised high street, which is mostly Georgian.
Seek out the Pepper Pot, the arcaded market hall designed by the prolific 18th-century architect Robert Adam, and the marvellous Guildhall, also arcaded and from 1757. Just on the northern outskirts of High Wycombe is Hughenden Manor, the grand red brick mansion where the prime minister Benjamin Disraeli lived in the 19th century.
The house has been kept as it was in Disraeli’s day, and his study and library will enthuse any students of Victorian history.
A very picturesque little town in the Chilterns, Wendover is a lovely place to stop while walking through on the Ridgeway National Trail or doing a driving tour of the hills.
There’s a smattering of locally-owned amenities like antiques shops, tea rooms, pubs, delicatessens and chocolate shops.
And the street scenes are a delight, with timber-framed thatched cottages and grand coaching inns.
A short drive from Wendover is the Chiltern Brewery, the oldest independent brewery in the Chiltern range, boasting several award-winning labels.
The Chiltern Brewery welcomes visitors for tours of their brew house, and a combined beer and food tasting experience.
7. Great Missenden
This lovely, well-heeled village has had some very famous residents, including two prime ministers and Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
But none stayed as long as the beloved children’s author Roald Dahl who lived in Great Missenden for 36 years, during which time he wrote his most popular works.
The village has plotted the Roald Dahl Village Trail, which will show you to sights around the village known to have inspired the writer, and also takes in his grave.
Bring the little guys to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, commemorating his stories and characters, and introducing them to a new generation.
8. Princes Risborough
The small but well-preserved market town of Princes Risborough is well worth an afternoon of exploration.
On the high street is the 17th-century red brick market hall, capped with a cupola.
And if you poke around the side streets with wrought iron lanterns you’ll stumble upon timber-framed houses and a handful of inviting country pubs.
The Ridgeway National Trail runs close by on the way to Ivinghoe Beacon, and adorning the local Whiteleaf Hill is Whiteleaf Cross: This is a monumental chalk carving of a kind often found in the West Country, and has been dated to at least the early 1700s but could be much earlier.
A very well-to-do market town, Beaconsfield has lots of independent shops and pubs to peruse, as well as some eccentric attractions that you won’t find anywhere else.
One of these is the Bekonscot Model Village and Railway, officially the oldest model village in the world.
It is the work of an accountant called Roland Callingham, who made the whole thing in his own back garden from 1929 onwards.
A minute or two outside Beaconsfield is the Royal Standard of England, which claims to be the oldest pub in the country, with a history that can be traced back 900 years.
Among the many important figures to cross the threshold was Charles I in the English Civil War.
A terminus of the Metropolitan Line, Chesham has the rare quality of being a country town on London’s Underground.
And it’s not just any location either, as the Chess River has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Chilterns.
The Chess Valley Walk is easy to get to from Chesham and wends along the banks of this chalk river, known for its crystal clear waters, kingfishers, red kites and adorable little villages.
11. West Wycombe
An endearing rural town with the southern Chilterns as a backdrop, West Wycombe’s past is inextricably linked with the Dashwood Family.
One member of the clan, Sir Francis Dashwood was a notorious libertine and bon vivant, inauguating the pagan Hellfire Club in the mid-1700s.
He excavated 500 metres of galleries in the chalk beneath the town where the Hellfire Club would meet for banquets, rituals and all sorts of other debauchery.
After almost two centuries of dereliction the caves were restored after the war and are now a visitor attraction.
The same goes for Dashwood’s pleasure palace, West Wycombe Park, an imposing mansion in the Palladian style.
12. Stony Stratford
In the northwest of Milton Keynes is an agreeable old town that stands in stark relief against the modern townscape close by.
This community was one of the main stops on the road from Chester to London until it was bypassed by the railways in the 19th century, helping to freeze the town in time until the 20th century.
Stony Stafford has pubs, tea rooms, restaurants and artisan shops in prim Georgian properties.
Scenes from the 1987 comedy Withnail and I were shot a few establishments around the picturesque market square.
And, as if to underline Stony Stafford’s rural credentials, there’s a folk music festival every June on the Horsefair Green with bands from the region.