Famous for the mysterious chalk cross carved into the hillside above the town, Princes Risborough has many countryside escapes to offer.
The Kop Hill Climb, held in September, commemorates and preserves the heritage of the hill climb races held here in the early 1900s, when thousands flocked to see Malcolm Campbell, Raymond Mays, Henry Segrave and Archie Frazer-Nash in their cars, and Freddie Dixon on his Douglas motorcycle – the fastest man up the hill. The fixture now attracts over 400 historic vehicles running the hill with a further 200 on display.
Princes Risborough is well-served with cafés, pubs and several restaurants and a nice mix of specialist craft shops to M&S Simply Food, a street market on Thursdays, with larger Farmers' markets on the third Thursday each month. When enjoying this mellow little town, spare a word of thanks for Clyde 'Sparky' Cosper of the US Air Force, who died in 1943 as he steered his stricken bomber away from Princes Risborough to save the town. He is commemorated on a plaque outside the library.
Local artist Barbara Shaw creates Chilterns art in textiles, using fabric like paint to construct collage pictures, like the one included above of the Princes Risborough market square. By hand-stitching or bonding, many small pieces of fabric together in layers, she creates her desired effect. We think her pictures really show off the Chilterns, and you can enjoy her work as she frequently exhibits; find out where.
Into the countryside
The Phoenix Trail, a 5-mile shared-use path for walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users and horse riders. The trail follows the line of a disused railway through the countryside between Princes Risborough and Thame, with artworks and lovely Chiltern views along the way. The Three Horseshoes at Towersey provides refreshment at the halfway point.
The Chilterns Cycleway – Princes Risborough is a gateway town to the 173-mile, circular cycleway, which takes in so many highlights of the Chiltern countryside. Download details of six, one-day mainly off-road rides from Risborough ranging from 10–13 miles. The Princes Risborough/Henley South Loop of the Cycleway can be covered comfortable in a two-day ride. Short Breaks section has more details.
The Ridgeway National Trail passes just ½ mile from Princes Risborough station, so walkers along this branch of the Chiltern Line can leave the car at home. Heading south west, Saunderton is a 2½ mile walk, with an extra 2 miles to the station. The return journey by train takes 7 minutes. Heading north east, Wendover is 6½ miles away, with the route climbing up to Coombe Hill for superb views over Chequers and the Vale of Aylesbury. There is no direct train service for the return leg, but the walk is well worth a taxi back.
What to head for further afield
Wendover – 6 miles from Princes Risborough.
Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway – 4.7 miles from Princes Risborough. Part of the old Great Western branch line from Princes Risborough to Watlington, the railway operates standard gauge steam and diesel hauled services on a 7 mile round trip from the station in Chinnor – a replica of the original which stood on the site. The route follows the line of the Icknield Way, giving lovely Chiltern views.
The Lyde Garden – 3½ miles from Princes Risborough. This delightful secret garden is part of the Carrington Estate in Bledlow, owned by former Tory minister Lord Carrington. Steep slopes cradle a pretty section of the little River Lyde, which originally supported three watercress beds. Winding paths lead down the banks, now planted with primulas, astilbes, gunnera and hostas. Team this with a visit to The Lions of Bledlow - a short walk beyond the village church, familiar as a setting for dark deeds in Midsomer Murders. The Ridgeway runs through the woods, just half a mile above the pub.
Lacey Green Windmill – 3 miles from Princes Risborough. The oldest smock windmill in the country was rescued and restored by volunteer members of The Chiltern Society. The picture on their website illustrates the daunting scale of the task!
Whiteleaf Hill and Brush Hill Nature Reserve – 2 miles from Princes Risborough. Just a couple of miles up the hill from Princes Risborough, Whiteleaf Hill and Brush Hill Nature Reserve offer panoramic views over the surrounding countryside. The Ridgeway National Trail passes through the site and this is a great starting point for walks and rides.
The Horse Trust in Speen – 4½ miles from Princes Risborough. The long-established charity provides an idyllic, rural home of rest for retired military, police and other working horses and sanctuary for ill-treated and rescued horses, ponies and donkeys. There is a tea-room and you can walk around the grounds to see the horses.
West Wycombe Park – 6.7 miles from Princes Risborough. Sir Francis Dashwood created these perfectly preserved Rococo gardens in the mid-18th century, inspired by his Grand Tours of Europe. The landscaped park sets off the striking style of his fine Palladian mansion, often described as the most theatrical and Italianate house in England. The house is lavishly decorated using fine marble, with painted ceilings by Borgnis and pictures, furniture and sculpture dating from Sir Francis's time.
West Wycombe's one main street is lined with cottages and inns of varying styles, dating from the 16th-18th centuries. Climb West Wycombe Hill to reach the Church of St Lawrence with its Golden Ball and the vast, roofless Dashwood Mausoleum, inspired by the Emperor Constantine's Triumphal Arch in Rome.
The Hell Fire Caves – 6.7 miles from Princes Risborough. These caves on the West Wycombe Estate were dug out by hand in the 1750s and funded by Sir Francis Dashwood to provide employment for out-of-work farmhands. The caves became a meeting place for his Hell-Fire Club, which was legendary for its debauched and ritualistic antics. Said to be haunted, the chalk passages of the caves wind deep beneath the hillside to the scene of the former revels in the Banqueting Hall and Inner Temple.
Wycombe Museum – 9 miles from Princes Risborough. This is the place to learn about High Wycombe, and the Chilterns, as the 19th-century chair making capital of the world. Bodgers working in the beechwoods crafted parts for the famous Windsor chair, one of several different styles of regional chairs on display here. The collection also displays tools used by the bodgers and in local factories and workshops, together with documents and catalogues illustrating Ercol, G-Plan and other well-known ranges of furniture.