Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, meaning that whether you’re single or in a relationship, now is the ideal time to get in touch with your tender side. Fortunately, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire are blessed with a multitude of fairytale locations, with these constituting the perfect spots to explore with a loved one (or simply experience the romantic vibes). We hope you’ll fall head over heels for our picks…
Chalfont St Giles
Located on the edge of the Chiltern Hills and part of the group of villages known as The Chalfonts, Chalfont St Giles is a picture-postcard Buckinghamshire village complete with shops and a duck pond, as well as a village green and a church. It is situated just 20 miles from Charing Cross and was a haven from the capital for the 17th-century poet John Milton, who came to Chalfont St Giles with his third wife in 1665 to escape the plague in the city. The writer completed his epic poem Paradise Lost at his cottage on Deanway, with this property now one of the oldest writer’s house museums globally.
The village of Bray in Berkshire (occasionally Bray on Thames) has previously been selected as one of England’s most beautiful villages. Described as “a pretty riverside parish with a three-mile frontage on the Thames”, the Maidenhead suburb is undoubtedly a charming location, with plenty of chocolate-box buildings to admire. The village also has the enviable status of being home to two of Great Britain and Ireland’s eight three Michelin-starred restaurants – Alain Roux’s The Waterside Inn and Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck. Another of the latter’s eateries, The Hind’s Head, is also located in Bray and has one Michelin star.
This showstopping French Renaissance-style château, situated near Buckinghamshire’s county town of Aylesbury, was constructed by Ferdinand de Rothschild in 1874 to house his fine art collection and to entertain the fashionable world. The Rothschild Foundation manages it on behalf of the National Trust, and it has also been used as a filming location in a number of productions, including the 2020 Netflix film Rebecca. Waddesdon is home to an admirable British portrait collection, with paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds. There are also Victorian-style gardens with statues, fountains and seasonal bedding, plus a Rococo-style aviary.
Hungerford sits alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal, with Hungerford Wharf being a fab location to begin exploring the waterway. However, the Berkshire market town is best known for its antiques shops and fairs, though other unique stores and boutiques can be found in the town centre, and a number of pubs, tea shops and restaurants also have the potential to tantalise the tastebuds.
Interestingly, Hungerford is also the only place in the country to have continuously celebrated Hocktide or Tutti Day. Tutti Day, held on the second Tuesday following Easter, is Hocktide’s most well-known day, with “Tutti-men” and “Tutti-women” visiting around 100 homes and businesses with poles decorated with flowers, ribbons and an orange.
The Georgian town of Marlow in Buckinghamshire has been described as “without a doubt one of the loveliest locations on the River Thames”. A popular tourist destination with Georgian and Victorian architecture, its list of residents over the years includes T. S. Eliot, Mary Shelley and her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. The Thames plays an important role in Marlow’s identity, with the town’s key landmark being its suspension bridge over the water (which helps link it to Berkshire) and Marlow Town Regatta and Festival featuring rowing on the river. Marlow is also home to the Michelin-starred restaurants The Hand and Flowers and The Coach, which are both part of Tom Kerridge’s restaurant collection.
Overlooking the Lambourn Valley, the 14th-century Donnington Castle near Newbury in Berkshire has an interesting history behind it, with both King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I thought to have stayed here. Built by Richard Abberbury, the Crown later owned it, though it was damaged during the English Civil War, and Parliament voted to demolish it in 1646 – with only the two-storey gatehouse left standing. Ideal for walks, the castle is under the care of English Heritage, which says that the gatehouse “serves as evidence for the luxury and privacy enjoyed by Richard Abberbury, whose private quarters would have been situated within this part of the castle”.
Situated in the Chiltern Hills close to the Oxfordshire border, Turville is an idyllic Buckinghamshire village used as a filming location in various movies and TV shows. It served as the village of Dibley in the BBC sitcom The Vicar of Dibley, and it has also appeared in films, including the romantic comedy-drama Bride and Prejudice. Here, you can admire the village’s charming features, including the 16th-century cottages and the 12th-century church, and enjoy a drink or something to eat at the pub, The Bull & Butcher. Turville is also overlooked by Cobstone Windmill, which was used in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Langley Park, or Langley Park Country Park, has been described as “one of Buckinghamshire’s best-kept secrets”. The 130-acre park – part of the Colne Valley Regional Park – dates back more than eight centuries, and notable people who have been linked with it include King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria. Parkland trees like Wellingtonia, English oak and cedar of Lebanon, plus the serpentine lake next to the mansion house in the park, reflect the space’s development stages, with influences by the landscape architect Capability Brown. Offering splendour and colour across the year, it also boasts a wide variety of habitats for wildlife.
Not only is this country house and estate near Newbury in Berkshire the home of The Great British Bake Off, it also has a past linked to royalty. The site of the current house and church once held a monastery in the care of the monks of Abingdon until the dissolution of the monasteries on the order of King Henry VIII, who kept Welford as his deer-hunting lodge before granting it to courtier Thomas Parry. The current house is inhabited by James Puxley and his wife and children, with the family welcoming guests during the year for special events. For decades, Welford Park has hosted thousands of visitors for its snowdrop season, which covers the month of February.
The village of Sonning near Reading in Berkshire (occasionally called Sonning-on-Thames) was once described by the writer Jerome K. Jerome as “the most fairy-like little nook on the whole river”. With its pretty brick arch bridge linking it to the hamlet of Sonning Eye (which is actually located in Oxfordshire), it cannot be denied that there’s something magical about this place. Walk along the towpath at Sonning Lock or admire the scenery surrounding the village. In Sonning Eye, you could also consider a visit to The Mill at Sonning – the only dinner theatre to be found in the UK.