Written by Bradt Travel Guides
Together, the Chilterns and the Thames Valley represent a tantalising, fascinating area.The region is populated by the ghosts of those who have made much of our national history, and of some of our greatest writers, and it is also an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Here are just a few reasons why you should travel to this beautiful part of England.
Explore the literary & cinematic landscape
Two Harry Potter films were filmed in the magic landscape of Burnham Beeches © Soulminous, Shutterstock
The scenery of the Chilterns provides a literary backdrop for some of England’s most beloved children’s writers. Enid Blyton, Alison Uttley and Roald Dahl, the creators of Noddy and Big Ears, the Little Red Fox and the Big Friendly Giant respectively, all lived and wrote here.The region has also been synonymous with murder for the past 20 years, thanks to Midsomer Murders, the TV series inspired by Caroline Graham’s novels.
One of the best-selling fantasy authors of the 20th century, Terry Pratchett, worked in High Wycombe as a journalist. D H Lawrence, George Orwell and Oscar Wilde all lived in these parts – and then there’s the pub where Evelyn Waugh used to drink during his brief, unsuccessful career as a schoolmaster. Numerous popular movies and TV series have also flourished in the Chilterns and Thames Valley, using world-renowned studios and the varied local landscapes for filming purposes. Many have featured great fictional heroes such as Robin Hood, Harry Potter and James Bond. Come to the Chilterns and the Thames Valley and you will undoubtedly stumble across somewhere a famous writer or cinematic character has lived, walked or travelled.
See the region’s wildlife
Red kites circle the skies over the Chilterns all year round © Ian Sherriffs, Shutterstock
From grassland to woodland, the varied landscape of the Chilterns supports a wide variety of specialist flora, fauna and wildlife. To most people the biggest attractions here are the orchids, of which the common spotted, pyramidal and bee orchid are the most common. Chiltern gentian is also iconic and grows abundantly at some sites. As you walk through the Chilterns, a piercing whistling sound may cause you to look up and catch sight of a bird which is now a symbol of the area: the red kite, or Milvus milvus.
Feel the festival
The Chiltern Walking Festival brings together over 85 different walking routes © Annette Venters
Recent years have seen the emergence of several special events which span the Chilterns. The Walking Festival brings together over 85 different walking routes, from the leisurely to the brisk and from easy to strenuous, while the Food Festival showcases local producers. The Chiltern Arts Festival organises an annual programme of music, art and literature using some of the most beautiful churches, historic houses and open spaces in the area. A new Chilterns Heritage Festival with a wide range of events, including visits to a graveyard restoration project and trips around Amersham on vintage Tube trains, also launched in September 2018. These festivals are an excellent reason to visit and celebrate the heritage of the region.
Visit places of wealth, power & dissent
The sealing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215 may be the most famous event in British history © Paul Daniels, Shutterstock
No doubt because of its closeness to London, this region is fertile ground for the establishment of places of power, with the best-known examples being Runnymede, where King John sealed Magna Carta, and the royal stronghold of Windsor Castle. From Windsor you can see Eton College, which has educated 19 prime ministers. Here you can also discover the histories of famous dissenters such as the Quakers, the Amersham Martyrs and John Hampden.
Get a taste of the local produce
Wendover market hosts an artisan food market on the third Saturday of every month © Colin Drake
There’s a small army of local independent producers across the region today, working hard to bring you a range of wonderful taste sensations. Local farm shops and markets are an excellent source of artisan food products such as breads and cakes, cheeses, meats, ice-cream and chocolate.
Discover a host of historic houses
Cliveden House boasts some lovely gardens, which are open to the public © Patrick Wang, Shutterstock
The Chilterns is home to some of England’s oldest and most spectacular historic houses, all of which boast famous residents and visitors. Highlights include Hughenden Manor, home of Benjamin Disraeli, and the spectacular houses at Cliveden and Waddesdon. If you’re looking for a day out steeped in history, intriguing stories and beautiful architecture then look no further than the Chilterns.
For more on historic houses in the Chilterns & the Thames Valley, click here.
Want to learn more about the best things to see and do in the Chilterns & the Thames Valley? Check out our comprehensive guide: