If Kent is London’s back garden, then The Chilterns must be its front lawn.
Just a few miles to the capital’s north-west, it is hard to believe that this designated Area of National Beauty (AONB) is so close to the mayhem of London Town.
Best in Britain
With so much competition from Britain’s glut of rural idylls, the Chilterns claimed a real feather for its cap in 2008. According to a survey carried out by a high street bank, The Chilterns offers the highest quality of life in rural Britain.
Touching five counties (Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire), The Chiltern Hills - to give the area its full title – stretch diagonally for more than 50 miles and are enveloped in patchwork fields, bluebell woodlands and serenely undulating landscapes.
Hiking and walking in the Chiltern Hills
Without beaches, theme parks and the like, The Chilterns offer a genuinely rustic and peaceful alternative. With quaint villages dotted all around the chalky hills, and boasting cosy holiday cottages, B&Bs and welcoming Inns, it is a perfect destination for a walking holiday. The area is teeming with marked routes, varying from short strolls of a mile or so, to gruelling hikes of upwards of ten miles.
For fans of the longer trek there are two long-distance routes in the Chilterns - the Ridgeway and Thames Path National Trails. Both provide ample opportunity to stop off in one of the many wonderful log-fired country pubs for refreshments – be it a soft drink or lovingly-produced ale to wash down the locally-sourced pub grub.
One epic route trumps all, however, in the shape of The Chiltern Way – a 125 mile circular walk orbiting the entire area and passing through all five counties. It can be conquered in less than a fortnight of ten miles a day. If 125 miles isn’t enough for you, one of the three recent extensions - taking the maximum distance to a whopping 172 miles - might be on your agenda.
Food & drink
An abundance of accommodation en route punctuates the hike perfectly, combining to make for a perfect walking holiday. And if it's dog friendly accommodation you're interested in there's no shortage of that too.
The area is a treasure-trove for farm produce and speciality growers who supply the region’s farm shops, pubs and restaurants. Award-winning pubs abound, possibly the most notable of which is The Crooked Billet in Stoke Row. This 17th century boozer came to national attention in 2003 when it hosted Kate Winslet’s wedding reception, but for many country inn devotees and bon viveurs, it was already well-known. Retaining its original features of low-timbered ceilings, flagstone floors and magnetic fireplaces, The Crooked Billet quite rightly enjoys a stellar reputation in the world of foodies and real ale enthusiasts.
Esteemed writers such as Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl wrote many of their books against the picturesque backdrop of The Chilterns, and the BBC has frequently returned to film several of their period dramas. Family favourite The Vicar of Dibley was also predominantly filmed here in the Hambleden valley near Henley on Thames. Clearly The Chiltern Hills has the capacity to inspire, and we think you should come and see for yourself.
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