Risborough's go-ahead community spirit has created two outstanding annual events that attract ever more locals and visitors to the town.
The Risborough Walking Festival, held in June, explores the rich rural heritage of the Chiltern countryside in six days of guided walks, starting and finishing in the town centre. There are walks of different duration, distances and interests for everyone from families with buggies to serious ramblers. All start and finish in the town centre.
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.
Risborough itself is well-served with cafés, pubs and several restaurants and a nice mix of the usual and less usual facilities, ranging from specialist craft shops to M&S Simply Food. Craft shops include beading at Queenbeads, sewing and knitting at Sally’s Sewing Box and Patchwork, Felting and Embroidery at Cretan Cotton Industries. There is a street market on Thursdays, with larger Farmers' markets on the third Thursday each month.
What to see in Princes Risborough
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.
In 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. Our 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.
Princes Risborough Circular Walk – download details of this 6 mile walk through the mature beechwoods and chalk grasslands of the Chiltern Hills above the town. Part of the walk follows The Ridgeway to pass above Whiteleaf Cross, carved into the hillside.
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. Special events and attractions take place throughout the season, including cream teas and wildlife-spotting on the move. The station at Chinnor has a buffet and a newly refurbished shop selling gifts and toys.
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!
Lacey Green Maize Maze – 3 miles from Princes Risborough. Weather permitting, a maze is created on a different pattern every year, to open between July and September with additional activities for families on site. The maze is then harvested and fed to the cows.
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 Park and village are both owned by the National Trust.
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.
The Aylesbury Waterside Theatre - 8½ miles from Princes Risborough. A dynamic and relatively recent addition to the entertaining, cultural scene. Its live performances of electrifying West End productions, unparalleled comedy, stunning dance and top-class children's shows are staged in a landmark building of architectural interest and acclaim, inspired by the materials and landscapes of the Chiltern Hills.