With the Chilterns Tourism Network
ADJACENT to the neo-classical landscaped West Wycombe gardens, cobbled coaching inns archways and the sweetest of traditional sweet shops, West Wycombe village 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.
Uniquely, the village of West Wycombe is owned and maintained by the National Trust, noticeable by the well-preserved facings of original 16th- to 18th-century buildings lining the High Street. The Traditional Sweet Shop is a popular fixture among the local shops, along with The Apple Orchard for its one-of-a-kind gifts and homewares.
The Church Loft is the oldest remaining medieval structure in the village; within its bell turret, the original clock mechanism dates back to 1668 chimes.
Some of the original timber framing, sourced from local Chiltern woodland, can be seen along this important coaching stop on the historic route to Oxford. No fewer than seven inns and alehouses thrived in a village that had only 67 houses!
Today there are three, and notably The George and Dragon offers good ales and pub meals to weary visitors. They might also tell you a ghost story if you didn’t get your fill at the caves.
Rake and reprobate Sir Francis, 2nd baronet of the Dashwood family, puts the modern ‘gap year’ to shame, having returned from his grand tour of continental Europe with an insatiable taste for expensive art, sumptuous architecture and mysterious drinking rituals.
Regularly used as a location for lavish period films and TV productions, including Downton Abbey, West Wycombe Park and its Palladian mansion belonging to the Dashwoods are often described as one of the most theatrical estates in England.
Both the park and house are managed by the National Trust. Admire the neo-classical style of the house with its striking portico, fine marble interior, and Borgnis frescoes. Alternatively, choose the ‘grounds only’ ticket and meander through the perfectly preserved rococo gardens to spot an assortment of stone temples, follies and statues and watch swans glide across the ornamental lake. Go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/west-wycombepark-village-and-hill/
“A temple built aloft in air, that serves for show and not for prayer.” (Charles Churchill), on the imposing Church Hill, junction of the Wye and Saunderton valleys and once home to an Iron Age settlement, stands the striking if not flamboyant Dashwood Mausoleum and Golden Ball.
The impressive hexagonal structure of the mausoleum is open to the skies and its design was based on the Constantine Arch in Rome.
For more ideas and autumn inspiration on what to see and explore nearby, visit www.visitchilterns.co.uk.