Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon
In the 1870s, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild built an opulent, 16th-century-style chateau to entertain his friends and display his art collection. It was opened to the public and gifted to the National Trust in 1957, although the Rothschild family remains closely involved. Visitors can explore 45 rooms. The collection includes paintings by Gainsborough, Reynolds and Dutch Old Masters. The gardens, too, are a joy.
Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire (01296 653 226; waddesdon.org.uk ). Admission to house and gardens: adults £13.20 weekdays, £15 weekends.
The Chiltern Brewery, Aylesbury
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Chiltern Brewery is an independent family concern, founded by Richard and Lesley Jenkinson and now run by the next generation. This award-winning microbrewery prides itself on using natural ingredients and age-old brewing methods. Sample a glass of nutty Beechwood bitter or velvety 300s Old Ale at the Farmers’ Bar of the King’s Head in Aylesbury – the brewery’s showcase. Then stock up on these and other specialist beers and beer-related gourmet products at the Chiltern Brewery’s shop nearby.
The Chiltern Brewery (01296 613 647; chilternbrewery.co.uk ; shop – Nash Lee Road, Terrick, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire; pub – The Farmer’s Bar at the King’s Head, King’s Head Passage, Market Square, Aylesbury).
Shakespeare House, Grendon Underwood
The great Bard himself used to stay at this former coaching inn between Stratford and London, and legend has it that on one of his visits he gained the inspiration for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With its timber framing and old brick, the Tudor building may look little changed since Shakespeare’s day, yet internally it is a chic haven, with eight comfortable bedrooms. It is dreamily set within gracious grounds, complete with parterre garden.
Shakespeare House, Main Street, Grendon Underwood, Buckinghamshire (01296 770 776; shakespeare-house.co.uk ) Doubles from £70, including breakfast.
Bicester Village, Bicester
Enjoy retail heaven. From Armani to Yves Saint Laurent, there are 130 luxury outlets at this designer shopping mall, with big discounts available. Come for a day out and stop on site for lunch at Villandry or Carluccio’s. Services include personal stylists and a regular shuttle bus from Bicester North station (£2.20 each way) and an express coach from central London (£19 return).
Bicester Village, 50 Pingle Drive, Bicester, Oxfordshire (01869 366 266; bicestervillage.com ).
Hartwell House, Aylesbury
This property was home to the exiled Louis XVIII and his court in the early 1800s. The Grade I-listed building is set in 90 acres of rolling parkland. It has 30 bedrooms in the main house and a further 20 in the adjoining riding school and in the adjacent Old Rectory. Facilities include a spa and a restaurant. Since 2008, it has been owned by the National Trust and run as a hotel on its behalf by Historic House Hotels.
Hartwell House and Spa, Oxford Road, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire (01296 747 444; hartwell-house.com ) Doubles from £260, including breakfast.
The Royal Standard of England, Beaconsfield
This pub has been serving ale to travellers for more than 900 years. With its rambling rooms and exposed beams, it is a place of living history. Enjoy some Cotswold Wheat beer beside a roaring fire, with fare such as goats’ cheese salad or steak baguette.
The Royal Standard of England, Forty Green, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire (01494 673 382; rsoe.co.uk ).