The county town of Buckinghamshire is on the edge of the Chiltern Hills in the Aylesbury Vale’s verdant farmland.
Aylesbury has some strong regional attractions like the County Museum, along with a state-of-the-art theatre that opened in 2010. The children’s author Roald Dahl was a Buckinghamshire resident and is remembered with a wonderful hands-on children’s gallery, attached to the County Museum.
Aylesbury has a place in pop history, as the Friars Club here welcomed some of the biggest music acts of the 70s, and was where David Bowie performed as Ziggy Stardust for the first time.
There’s a lovingly rendered statue for Bowie under the Corn Exchange on the Market Square.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Aylesbury:
1. Buckinghamshire County Museum
This museum explores many strands of Buckinghamshire’s human and natural history, and is housed in a row of beautiful flat-fronted buildings on Church Street.
The oldest portion of the complex is a timber-framed guildhall from the 16th-century, with rare murals intact.
The museum has exhibitions for archaeology, industrial history, textiles, agriculture and geology.
One of the key pieces is a Cubitt car, manufactured in Aylesbury in the 1920s and one of only six surviving models in the world.
There’s also a small but valuable collection of Egyptology, as well as Prehistoric stone tools, Roman coins and Medieval pottery.
The costume collection is vast, spanning 500 years, and there’s an ever-changing exhibition of British painting and sculpture in the Buckinghamshire Art Gallery.
In the coach house behind the museum is the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery, which we’ll cover later.
2. Market Square
This long, rectangular square in the heart of Aylesbury has fine buildings and interesting pockets of history all around.
On the southeast end, beside the striking Corn Exchange is the Aylesbury Crown Court, which shut its doors for the last time in 2018. This Palladian building was completed in 1740, and in 1963 was where the culprits of the Great Train Robbery were sentenced.
In front of the court is a statue for the soldier and politician Charles Cavendish, 3rd Baron Chesham, who served in the Second Boer War.
The bronze lions beside his statue come from the Rothschild estate at Waddesdon Manor and have been here since 1888. At the opposite end of the square there’s a narrow passageway through to the King’s Head Inn, one of the oldest pubs in the South of England.
Aylesbury’s market trades on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and there’s a Vintage & Craft Bazaar on Tuesdays.
A miniature Château de Chambord in the Aylesbury Vale, Waddesdon Manor is a neo-Renaissance mansion built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild between 1874 and 1889. In 1957 the estate was bequeathed to the National Trust by his great-nephew James de Rothschild and was named Large Visitor Attraction of the Year by “Visit England” in 2017. Baron Ferdinand used the house to show off his invaluable collections of 18th-century French furniture, Beauvais and Gobelins tapestries, Sèvres ceramics, exquisite panelling, Savonnerie carpets and paintings by Reynolds, Gainsborough and 17th-century Dutch masters.