The road winds northwest via the small Quaker-founded town of Woburn and through pleasant countryside into Buckinghamshire. Here, you’ll pass the new city of Milton Keynes, which was built on green fields in 1967. The buildings here are low, spread out, and surrounded by plenty of greenery, so that it hardly seems like a city at all. The A422 Cakes you to Buckingham, once the county town. Center point of this attractive little town is the traditional market square (formerly the cattle market), where open-air markets are still held twice a week. At one side of the square is the old County Gaol, now a museum. Since 1976, Buckingham has been home to the only independent university in Britain.
A few miles north of the town are the 500 acres (200 ha) of the Stowe Landscape Gardens, designed in the 18th century by “Capability” Brown and William Kent for the Duke of Buckingham, and surrounding his stately home (now an independent school). Particularly attractive is the octagonal lake with its Palladian bridge.
On the border with Northamptonshire, is the raceway of the Silverstone Circuit, venue for the annual British Grand Prix.
From Buckingham, the A413 heads southeast, passing through the small market town of Window with the attractive Window Hall. A right turn down a small country lane brings you to Claydon House, a fine 18th-century rococo mansion with a Chinese Chippendale room, family portraits, and memorabilia of Florence Nightingale, who was a frequent visitor here. The red brick house was supposedly built by Sir Christopher Wren around 1700.
The Vale of Aylesbury
The country surrounding Aylesbury is rich, green and fertile, and has for centuries been the home of many famous beef and dairy herds. Aylesbury itself is a bustling market town. At its center, a conservation area, is the Parish Church of St. Mary (13th century) with an unusual steeple; the spacious market square, and numerous restored half-timbered houses. Near the church is the Buckinghamshire County Museum, with a collection of local antiques, the Aylesbury Gallery, and the Special Exhibition Gallery.
Not far away is The King’s Head pub, whose most famous “regular” was King Henry VIII when he was courting Anne Boleyn. A century later, Aylesbury became an important garrison town for the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War, and the same public house was visited by their leader Oliver Cromwell.
From Aylesbury, you can make several interesting excursions. West along the A41 is the village of Waddesdon, and Waddesdon Manor, a magnificent French Renaissance-style chateau built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the 1870s. It contains 18th-century furniture and tapestries, Sevres porcelain, manuscripts, and paintings by Rubens and Gainsborough.
Railway enthusiasts will not be disappointed by a detour northwards to Quainton and the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, home to a plethora of steam locomotives.
Northeast of Aylesbury, just outside the village of Wing is another Rothschild home, Ascott House. Originally a hunting lodge, it was extensively rebuilt at the time of James I. The art collection includes works by Rubens, Hogarth, Gainsborough and Stubbs.
The Chiltern Hills
Leaving Aylesbury in a southeasterly direction, the A413 enters a delightful river valley at Wendover, where among the well-preserved half-timbered houses is Anne Boleyn’s cottage.
The road now climbs the gentle, thickly wooded slopes of the Chiltern Hills which rise to around 850 feet (260 m). The beech woods here are among the most beautiful in all England and have long attracted ramblers. These rich stocks of trees have resulted in a flourishing furniture industry in the region’s towns such as High Wycombe, for centuries a furniture-making center. The Wycombe Local History and Chair Museum provides some interesting insights into local history, as well as the process of, and tools required for, making chairs.
North of the town, on the A4128, is Hughendon Manor, the Victorian NeoGothic home of Benjamin Disraeli, one of the most important Prime Ministers of the last century.
South of Amersham is the village of Chalfont St. Giles with the small house of the poet John Milton (1608-1674) and the Chiltern Open Air Museum which displays, among other things, a replica Iron Age house and a Victorian farmyard. South of the village, at Jordans, is the barn where William Penn and his followers used to convene before the Quaker Meeting House was even built (1688), and before Penn went overseas to the region that was later to become known as Pennsylvania.