The school holidays are almost upon us but this year holidaying will be different due to Covid-19 restrictions. Many indoor attractions are still closed and people are looking for leisure days out and short breaks closer to home. With its beautiful rolling hills and woods, the Chilterns offers an accessible landscape with a huge network of walking and cycling routes and outdoor attractions, from historic parks and gardens to countryside pubs, outdoor cafes and open-air museums. You can swing from the trees at Go Ape, hire a paddle boat on the River Thames, go on a bug hunt or find that perfect spot for a picnic. See below for inspiration. Please note that most attractions and pubs require pre-booking with timed entry slots. Check opening times and any restrictions before you set out #Know before you go!
Walking and cycling
We have just launched a series of social distance friendly walks, some of them start on commons or at recreation grounds with lots of open space, ideal for families and friends to combine with a picnic, allowing the kids to run around safely. Here are some suggestions for leisurely walks under 3 miles:
Downley Common and Hunts Hill near West Wycombe. A 2.8 mile gently undulating stile-free walk. You will pass through a variety of habitats including ancient woodland. and catch a glimpse of Hughenden Manor in the distance.
West Wycombe woodland walk A 2.5 mile stile-free walk through woodland with some far-reaching views from the top of West Wycombe hill. Explore the historic West Wycombe village on your return with its charming shops.
Ballinger and the Lee near Great Missenden. A stile-free route on footpaths and tracks through fields and woodland, visiting the picturesque village green
Peppard Woodland Walk A gentle 2 mile walk which starts on Peppard Common and follows Dog Lane, a wide tree-lined track, towards Rotherfield Greys. The route loops back through Crowsley Park Wood. at The Lee. There is a 2.5 mile option.
Pub Walks: Le De Spencer Arms on Downley Common, the Red Lion on Peppard Common, the Full Moon at Cholesbury and the Cock and Rabbit on Lee Common are just some of the wonderful country pubs along our walking routes. The pubs are part and parcel of the Chilterns experience, many are situated in beautiful locations with large gardens, located next to commons, in the woods or perched on a hillside with sweeping views.
Family cycling: For safe off-road family cycling try the Phoenix trail which follows an old railway line, from Princes Risborough to Thame. Or head for the hills, Wendover Woods has a hilly off-road cycle trail through the woods.
There are lots more walks and rides listed on our interactive map.
Stonor Park is an historic country house and deer park near Henley-on-Thames. The park, exquisite gardens and Wonder Woods adventure play area are all open this summer. There are street food vendors in the grounds, or you can bring your own picnic and enjoy eating out in the most beautiful setting.
The National Trust parks and gardens at Waddesdon, Hughdenen Manor and Greys Court are open. There are longer walks which take you through the Estates so you can enjoy the wider landscape.
Chenies Manor near little Chalfont will be opening their gardens in August, and tea and cake will be available to purchase and enjoy in the garden.
The Chiltern Open Air Museum near Chalfont st Giles contains more than 30 historic reconstructed buildings from the Chilterns. The gardens and extensive grounds are open (though access into the buildings is still restricted). Book a ticket this July for just £5!
Bekonscot Model Village & Railway in Beaconsfield is the oldest original model village in the world. Stuck in a 1930s time warp, see England how it used to be and discover a wonderful little world tucked away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With over 90 years of history, a huge model railway, 1.5 acres of lovely gardens and finely detailed model buildings, Bekonscot is a great day out for everyone
Visit Whipsnade Zoo for a safe outdoor experience where you can see amazing animals and reconnect with nature. Kew Little Pigs in Amersham is a must for pig lovers, they breed miniature pigs and you can book ‘Pet and Play’ and experiences enabling you to get inside the petting pens, groom and interact with the pigs. Odds Park Farm near Beaconsfield is another popular day out with the kids.
Go Ape at Wendover Woods– There are plenty of thrills for the kids (and adults!) at Go Ape. Their tree-top adventure has intricate crossings, wobbly bridges and zip wire rides, all designed with the younger family in mind. There is a challenging tree-top challenge too with high rope crossings and a cracking 85-metre zip wire finale!
The River Thames flows through the southern Chilterns, twisting and turning through meadows, wooded hills and flowing past market towns and villages. There are lots of walks along the River Thames (including the Thames Path National Trail) and Marlow, Henley, Pangbourne, Goring and Wallingford are all attractive riverside destinations and gateways to the Chilterns, see here for visitor information.
Hiring a boat, canoe or paddle board is a wonderful way to explore the Chilterns, a chance to enjoy the tranquillity of the river and see lots of wildlife along the way. Some of the self-drive boats are electric boats. You can hire boats at Benson, Henley (Hobbs of Henley and Henley Canoe Hire), Wallingford and Marlow.
There are boat trips along the Grand Union Canal operated by the Little Boat Trip, from Aylesbury Basin.
Have a sleepover! Campsites in the Chilterns
You don’t have to go far to find adventure, a camping holiday just a few miles from home can seem like another world. The Chilterns has campsites in fabulous locations, from hilltop locations with panoramic views to riverside locations. There are campsites on working farms and in market towns. Here is a selection of family friendly sites:
Hedsor Campsite is a pop up site on a working farm, open 24 July – 17 August. It is children, dog, BBQ & fire pit friendly. It is surrounded by ancient woodland, wildflower meadows with beautiful views. Bell tents available.
White mark Farm is a camping and caravan site in Watlington, located on the Ridgeway National Trail and at the foot of the hills. It is just a few minutes walk into the historic market town of Watlington.
There are several campsites by the River Thames. Bridge Villa campsite is located near the River in the historic market town of Wallingford. And Swiss Farm Camping is located on the edge of Henley on Thames, a few minutes walk from the River.