Car-free adventures aroundAylesburyBuckinghamshire
Two people can visit Waddesdon Manor for the price of one when you arrive by train, where the opulent rooms and rolling gardens make a memorable day trip. Nearby Aylesbury is an interesting destination, with markets, museums and a monument to David Bowie. Frequent train services from London Marylebone through the Chilterns make this area perfect for a day out: an hour’s train ride from London and a half hour walk takes you high into the wooded hills. Here is a choice of car-free day trips in the area: the chateau-style manor house hung with 18th-century art, kids’ galleries celebrating Roald Dahl’s stories, simple strolls in the woods, hefty hikes along the Ridegway, or a pub crawl past the birthplace of the Paralympic movement. Scroll to the bottom for some tips on buses, bikes and places to stay if you’re planning a staycation in Aylesbury.
1. Train through the Chilterns
If you’re heading out of London, the adventure stars soon after you leave Marylebone station as urban ugliness gives way to rolling countryside with grassy hills and beech woods. Two railways out of Marylebone converge on Aylesbury, meaning a day return to the town is a clever way to access the Ridgeway (see 4 below).
- Heading up the railway via Wendover, look out for lakes and rivers around Rickmansworth: the railway crosses the Colne, the Gade and the Grand Union Canal.
- Great Missenden, three stops before Aylesbury, is home to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, offering two tickets for the price of one to visitors who can show a train tickets with this voucher. See 3 (below) for more about Roald Dahl. Follow Good Journey’s directions. Wendover, the next stop, is a charming town and a great base for walkers.
- Aylesbury itself has several weekly markets, the county museum and a monument, called Earthly Messenger, celebrating the many faces of pioneering singer-songwriter David Bowie.
- Bowie introduced his alter ego Ziggy Stardust at the Friars music club in Aylesbury in 1972. The life-size bronze sculpture is under an archway near the lions on Market Square and has speakers above it to play a Bowie song every hour.
2. Waddesdon Manor
In rooms draped with red silk or lined with gilded panelling is a world-ranking collection of Sèvres porcelain, ornate French furniture, and paintings by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Watteau, Boucher, and Cuyp. Outside, the landscaped grounds of Waddesdon Manor are colourful in every season from the gold of the Daffodil Valley in spring to the copper-leaved chestnuts in autumn. And look out for the Winter Light Trail to brighten the gloomier times of year.
- How to get to Waddesdon by bike: One great new way to get to Waddesdon Manor is to get the train to Aylesbury Parkway and then cycle along the Greenway.
- How to get to Waddesdon by train and bus: Follow Good Journey’s directions.
- Stroll towards the mansion’s entrance or take a turn through the rolling park, past the elegant rose garden and the exotically leafy aviary full of red-crested, yellow-green touracos and blue-crowned laughing thrushes.
- Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, art collector, banker and MP, built Waddesdon, in the style of a French Loire chateau. The house was finished in 1889, but lots of the paintings and furniture inside it are much older. Don’t miss the amazing wood panelling from 17th-century Paris or the Renaissance-style Smoking Room with its collection of Tudor portraits.
- There may be a summer shuttle bus, or at other times of year, you can still get there by bus from Aylesbury, Monday to Saturday.
3. Roald Dahl country
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda … Roald Dahl wrote many of his popular children’s stories in Great Missenden, the little Buckinghamshire village where he lived for 36 years. His writing hut is still on display in the museum there, which is right opposite the station. You can also follow a Dahl trail through the village and nearby countryside.
- Aylesbury also pays tribute to the writer with an educational Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery in the Bucks County Museum open in the school holidays and on Saturdays in Summer.
- Crawl into Mr Fox’s tunnel, live upside-down with the Twits, blast into space in Willy Wonka’s glass elevator, and see magnified minibeasts inside the Giant Peach.
- The main museum is free and includes changing exhibitions. The permanent displays include a Tudor house, complete with beams and painted walls, and a Cubitt car, built here in the 1920s, in its own glass garage in the museum’s walled garden.