Historic Market Towns and Villages

Where to start?

Our historic market towns and villages are an excellent place to start your exploration of the Chilterns and depending on how you are travelling - by train or car - will determine this. 

Each market town has a distinct character, especailly those alongside the River Thames as they offer on-water sightseeing or alongside walking if you prefer. Many have excellent local museums and self-guided trails to help you get the best of your visit. High streets are not full of the high street chainstores, in fact we have many where the shops are almost all independently owned and run, so worth supporting if you are hungry or looking for gifts and treats. 

Each of these towns listed below links to a dedicated page where you find out about transport links, accommodation, food and events. 

Amersham, Buckinghamshire
National Rail symbolLondon Underground symbol

Its broad High Street with half-timbered houses, cottages and the handsome Market House makes Old Amersham one of the most-photographed of Chiltern valley towns. The choice of restaurants and pubs is excellent and there's a very tempting cluster of elegant shops selling mainly clothes, with some antiques, jewellery and food. Accommodation includes the 16th century King's Arms and the Crown Hotel, used as a location for Four Weddings and a Funeral. There's more browsing nearby, close to the station at Amersham-on-the-Hill.


Bekonscot Model VillageBeaconsfield,Buckinghamshire National Rail symbol

Beaconsfield is a town of two halves; there is historic Old Beaconsfield with its elegant wide streets lined with coaching inns and grand houses, offering a tempting array of shops and eateries. And New Beaconsfield, which grew up around the railway station, a stone’s throw from Bekonscot model village, the first model village in the world and now a popular visitor attraction. There are walks and rides galore in the beechwoods surrounding the town and some great country pubs.

Berkhamsted CastleBerkhamsted, Hertfordshire National Rail symbol

Chic restaurants, the 1930s art-deco Rex Cinema and an engrossing mix of familiar and independent shops combine to give Berkhamsted's broad high street an uplifting buzz. The historic framework includes imposing remains of the Norman motte and bailey castle and the collegiate buildings of Berkhamsted School, whose Graham Greene festival honours its most famous pupil. The superb countryside of the National Trust's Ashridge Estate and exhilarating Ivinghoe Beacon are close by.

Chesham in the snowChesham, Buckinghamshire London Underground symbol

A Walkers Welcome town on its own branch of the Metropolitan Line, Chesham decants its visitors straight from train to trail. Walks lead directly out into the pretty Chess Valley, and from old-world Church Street up the grassy slopes of Lowndes Park into the fields and lanes of restful Pednor vale. The Museum in the Market Place traces the story of this quirky town of beer, boots and brushes. The pedestrianised High Street provides cafés and coffee stops galore.

The weir at GoringGoring, Oxfordshire National Rail symbol

Catch the Thames at its most dramatic here, as it carves its way through a deep gap between the Chiltern Hills and North Wessex Downs. The two attractive little towns of Goring and Streatley face each other across the river, linked by the bridge which spans a small wooded island and the pretty lock and weir. The Thames Path and Ridgeway National Trails meet at the bridge, a natural magnet for photographers.

Great MissendenGreat Missenden, Buckinghamshire National Rail symbol

Roald Dahl lived and worked in this attractive village and is buried beside its 14th century church. The narrow main street, with its half timbered and Georgian houses, shops and pubs, inspired many easily recognized features of Dahl's books. The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre now enjoys pride of place and the gardens of Gipsy House, Dahl's former home, also open periodically.

Hambleden Valley, Buckinghamshire

The beautiful Hambleden Valley is 3 miles from the market towns of Henley and Marlow, yet feels a million miles from anywhere. Watch red kites soaring overhead and walk by the sparking Hambleden Brook, or head for the hills. There are lots of historic villages and the choice of country pubs is excellent, or join a vineyard tour and sample some local wines and beers. There are many picturesque villages to explore and many  have featured in films and TV, including Midsomer Murders.

Henley-on-ThamesHenley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire National Rail symbol

The international home of rowing enjoys a scenic setting on a broad and beautiful stretch of the River Thames. Henley's Royal Regatta and Festival of Music and Arts are the flagships of a very stylish town, where an excellent mix of shops and restaurants, boating and riverside walks create an air of relaxed affluence. The lovely Hamble Valley is just 3 miles from the edge of town.

St Mary's Church, HitchinHitchin, Hertfordshire National Rail symbol

Nikolaus Pevsner ranked this medieval market town as "the most visually satisfying in Hertfordshire", second only to St Albans. The compact town centre has a pretty river frontage and streets full of historic interest radiating out from the parish church. There are some well established independent shops amongst the high street names and the traditional open market is the largest in the Home Counties.

MarlowMarlow, Buckinghamshire National Rail symbol

Edwardians came here by the boatload to enjoy the beauty of the River Thames against the backdrop of the Chiltern Hills. Now Marlow combines natural beauty with contemporary chic. Georgian buildings, a graceful suspension bridge and the picturesque lock and the weir set the scene for prosperous shops and some highly-acclaimed restaurants. The Thames Path National Trail adds another, energetic option.

Pangbourne MeadowPangbourne, Berkshire National Rail symbol

Pangbourne's links with the idyllic world of The Wind in the Willows are easy to see. Kenneth Grahame lived here in Church Cottage and these stretches of the river inspired E.H. Shepard's much-loved illustrations of Ratty, Mole and friends. The well-heeled little town is linked by a toll bridge to the village of Whitchurch, where the Thames Path climbs up through the churchyard and old high street to the woods and farmlands beyond.

Princes RisboroughPrinces Risborough, Buckinghamshire National Rail symbol

Another very pleasing country town, with a prosperous little high street and traditional market house. An annual walking festival makes the most of Risborough's lovely setting, where the Ridgeway National Trail crosses a gap in the Chilterns on the route to Chequers. Vintage viewpoints include the Chinnor & Princes Risborough heritage railway and the slopes above the town which host the recently-revived historic Kop Hill Climb.

TringTring, Hertfordshire National Rail symbol

The super-wealthy Rothschild family chose Tring Park as the first of their many Chiltern homes. They left a legacy of distinctive buildings amongst the shops and cafés in the high street, alleys and lanes of this intimate town centre. Chief amongst them is the splendid Victorian edifice which houses Lionel Walter Rothschild's collection of rare and unusual animals, now part of the Natural History Museum. The grounds of Tring Park provide fine walks, including a stretch of the Ridgeway National Trail, and the Grand Union Canal and flagship nature reserves are close by on the edge of the town.

WallingfordWallingford, Oxfordshire

Familiar to millions as the original Causton of Midsomer Murders, Wallingford grew up in the 9th century on a wide stretch of the Thames. Its layout has changed little since then and the town still boasts extensive Saxon earthworks and remains of the 11th century castle in meadows beside the river. The old Corn Exchange in the Market Square, antique shops, the museum and heritage trains on the Bunk Line railway to Cholsey give a still-unhurried air.

WatlingtonWatlington, Oxfordshire

Said to be England's smallest town, ancient Watlington appears remarkably untroubled by the pace of modern life. Its mellow centre is understandably a popular location for filming, including many scenes from Midsomer Murders. The Chiltern Hills rise just behind the town, with the Ridgeway National Trail and the Oxfordshire Way just half a mile away. A number of speciality shops provide cheeses, wine and other goodies for a perfect picnic on the summit of Watlington Hill, a well-known vantage point for watching Red Kites.

WendoverWendover, Buckinghamshire National Rail symbol

Hills and rich woodlands are the peaceful backdrop to this relaxed and unspoilt Chiltern town. The route of the Ridgeway actually follows the high street here, passing the door of the 16th century Red Lion hotel and shops selling antiques, clothes, gifts and chocolate. The plateau of Coombe Hill can be reached on foot, rewarding the climb with panoramic views over Chequers and the Vale of Aylesbury. There's plenty more activity, adventure and simple escapism in the 800 acres of nearby Wendover Woods.

West Wycombe ParkWest Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Blink and you might miss it! This lovely, tiny, one-street medieval village of West Wycombe is a real Chilterns gem. Adjacent to the neo-classical landscaped West Wycombe gardens, cobbled coaching inns archways and the sweetest of traditional sweet shops, West Wycombe villages sits above a network of chalk caves renowned for debauchery and mysterious rituals led by Sir Francis Dashwood and his 18th century Hell-Fire Club.  

Interactive Map of the Chilterns

Interactive map featuring a host of things to do and places to visit