10 Awesome Things to See and Do in Aylesbury, England

Waddesdon Manor is the only stately home in Britain to be specifically designed in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French chateau
Waddesdon Manor is the only stately home in Britain to be specifically designed in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French chateau | © Susie Kearley / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sarah Marian Whitmore
20 August 2020

Ask anyone outside of Buckinghamshire where Aylesbury is and you are likely to be faced with a blank stare or a scratch of the head. Situated deep in the home counties, Aylesbury is more than just miles from the sea. Read on for all the adventures you can have in this ancient market town.

King’s Head

Bar, Market, British, $$$
Map View
In the centre of town sits King’s Head, a former coaching house dating back to 1455. While the stables are now used as a National Trust exhibition, The Farmer’s Bar is very much still a hubbub of social activity. The bar is well stocked with draught ales from the local Chiltern Brewery – a pint of Beechwood Bitter proving to be the most popular – and wines from the Rothschild Estate (home to Aylesbury’s most prominent family). The Tourist Information Centre is also situated in the courtyard – a perfect place to sit and read up on the history of Aylesbury. If reading while drinking proves too taxing, then the friendly bar staff are always happy to regale tales of local interest.

The Chiltern Brewery

Brewery, Shop
Map View
For more serious beer lovers, The Chiltern Brewery offers a wonderful tour of the brewhouse, finishing with a beer- and food-tasting experience. The Chiltern Brewery is the oldest in Buckinghamshire; it has a fascinating history and some magnificent buildings to explore. Complimentary beer is served on arrival, and combined with the beer tasting at the end, chauffeurs may be required! Along with the beers, the brewery shop offers a selection of cheeses, chutneys and pickles, making it a perfect pre-picnic stop off at the foot of the Chiltern Hills.

Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery

Church, Museum
Map View
Buckinghamshire County Museum and Roald Dahl Children's Gallery, Church St., Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom. Image shot 2009. Exact date unknown.
| © Greg Balfour Evans / Alamy Stock Photo
Children and adults alike will enjoy this museum, designed to encourage an interest in science and history through Roald Dahl’s characters and stories. A visit to the gallery has often been described as walking into a giant pop-up book and it’s impossible to leave without a smile on your face. So, whether you want to climb inside a giant peach, crawl through Mr Fantastic Fox’s tunnel (not recommended unless you’re small) or simply pay homage to The Twits, this gallery is well worth a visit.

Friars

Aylesbury may give the impression of a sleepy market town, but it was once home to one of the most famous music venues in Britain. The Friars’ Club, which formally opened in 1969, regularly hosted the biggest names in music – David Bowie, Otis Redding, Pink Floyd, The Clash and Genesis, to name just a few. Although the club officially closed in 1985 when many of the bigger names in music weren’t touring, Friars is still responsible for promoting great music in Aylesbury and hosting concerts at various venues around the town. Among others, rock band Marillion was formed in Aylesbury, the town which inspired their first hit single, Market Town Heroes.

Hartwell House and Spa

Spa Hotel, Guesthouse, Bed and Breakfast
Map View
View across parkland to Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire. Hartwell House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa, is part of the Historic House Hotels group.
© The National Trust Photolibrary / Alamy Stock Photo
On the outskirts of Aylesbury sits the very beautiful Hartwell House and Spa. Despite being leased to the National Trust, the grounds aren’t currently open to the general public and can only be viewed if you are a guest of the hotel. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you have to stay overnight – coffee in the Great Hall is the perfect excuse to visit. The gardens were originally laid out by Capability Brown, an English landscape gardener, known better for his work at Stowe. Hospitality at Hartwell is fantastic and it is one of the finer places to pop into for morning coffee, lunch or afternoon tea. Throughout the year the house hosts spectacular entertainment such as the History Tour and Luncheon. With an on-site spa, it’s a perfect place to spend a relaxing day.
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Waterside Theatre

Theatre
Map View
Until 2010, the only theatre in Aylesbury was the small but perfectly formed Limelight Theatre at the Queen’s Park Centre. Although responsible for excellent annual pantomimes, venue capacity and infrequency of shows had long left a gap in the market when it came to theatrical entertainment. The Waterside Theatre was designed by architect Norman Bragg to represent a whale, and there has been much debate whether the theatre is a thing of beauty or an eyesore. Whatever the conclusion, there is no denying it was a much-needed addition to the town. Interesting architectural features grace the foyer and café and it is well worth stepping into the whale’s mouth to have a look.

Queen’s Park Centre

Music Venue, Park
Map View
Possibly Aylesbury’s best-kept secret and tucked away in a quiet residential street, Queen’s Park Centre (QPC) is the very definition of an “off the beaten track” find. A centre that is run and funded by its members, by day it is host to a range of creative courses and clubs. The facilities are amazing and there are regular short courses (some as short as an hour) that anyone can book onto – including stained-glass, pottery or jazz saxophone lessons. By night the centre transforms into a music venue with regular spoken-word events and folk and open-mic nights, and it also hosts incredible acts from around the UK. The range and quality of acts is astounding and the venue is accessible and affordable for all.

Waddesdon Manor

Historical Landmark
Map View
The only stately home in Britain to be specifically designed in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French chateau, Waddesdon Manor is one of the most visited houses in Britain. Although a property of the National Trust, it is managed on its behalf by the Rothschild Family Trust and houses the family’s impressive wine cellars. The grounds are extensive and varied, including spectacular sights such as the Victorian aviary, home to an impressive array of tropical birds. With plenty to see at Waddesdon, more than one visit is required to really explore both the house and gardens.

Stoke Mandeville Stadium

Stadium, Sports Center
Map View
The National Spinal Injuries Unit at Stoke Mandeville was set up in 1944, at the end of World War II, to aid with the rehabilitation of war veterans. In 1948, Dr Ludwig Guttmann organised the first sporting event for disabled athletes, planting a seed which aided in the eventual establishment of the Paralympics. Stoke Mandeville Stadium is today a thriving sports centre and fantastic venue to go and see competitive sports. Although the sports facilities are available to all members, they are still largely used by recovering patients. It’s a great place to see the science of rehabilitation in action.

Chequers Court

Historical Landmark
Map View

No visit to Aylesbury is complete without a walk in the surrounding Chiltern Hills. There are plenty of walks to choose from, but one of the most popular is a circular walk incorporating the Chequers Estate – the official country residence of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – and Coombe Hill (once part of the estate until it was bequeathed to the National Trust). There are fantastic views covering the whole of the Aylesbury Vale and sightings of red kites overhead are virtually guaranteed. Nestled in the valley is the spectacular Chequers House; although not open to the public, most local walks incorporate the edge of the grounds. Many a rambler has stopped in the driveway to try and catch a glimpse of the Prime Minister, but with the exception of sheep, it’s rare to see another living soul.

Chequers is the official country residence of Britain’s Prime Ministers | © Jason Ballard / Alamy Stock Photo
These recommendations were updated on August 20, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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