Buckingham is a strange place. The historic town hall astride the High Street, the Old Gaol that stares back at it from the bottom end of Market Hill give the town the feel of a National Trust site. Indeed the town is a historic market town, royalty have had dwellings here in the Tudor times. There was once a wooden castle, where now there sits a church, and that is the second to be built on that site. There are windy streets, though minus the cobbles thankfully, and buildings narrow and placed at random it would seem. The main bars in the town are renovated barns, it really does fee like rural England.
But there is very little to do. The High Street (so called because everyone on it seems to be stoned) has a couple of charity shops and an M&Co. clothes store, but not much else. Well perhaps I am selling it short, there are two pubs (which I will talk about in a moment) a Subway and a Tesco Express, to compliment the store at the top end of London Road, about half a mile away. There is also a small Boots, and opposite a smaller Jardines pharmacy. Not to mention the Lloyds pharmacy two minutes walk away in Cornwall Place. In fairness there are three Doctors Surgery's, and a small hospital for X-Rays and maternity based activities. There is also a small library just off the high street, past the court house, and next to the oversized hair salon "Brown's". There are an additional five places to keep your hair in check on or in the immediate vicinity of the high street, catering to both male and female clientele. There is a Butchers, a Travel Agents, and many more charity shops located immediately around the High Street, along with a Post Office and a rather amazing sandwich shop called Golden Crust. Overpriced admittedly, but the best sandwiches in Buckingham by a long way. No doubt it will soon be out of business thanks to the Subway down the road. There are four banks/building societies, each with a cash point. There are two Italian restaurants, opposite each other, with virtually the same menu, and virtually the same name, Prego's and Prezzo's. Both are quite good though, and serve the best food in Buckingham. There is a kebab shop called Roosters on the main drag, by the entrance to Cornwall Place, but eat in there at your peril. My stomach still hasn't recovered from my last ill fated visit. Even worse is Desperate Dan's Kebab Van. It is as bad as it sounds.
Then there are the pubs. Let us start with the Mitre, on Mitre Street, about ten minutes from the centre of town. Local amenities include a Londis newsagents, which sells sweets and porn as far as I can tell. The Mitre attracts an older clientele, mostly as a result of it's location outside of the town centre. It is reasonably priced, and the back garden is a pleasant place to be in the summer. Needs redecorating though. We move on to the New Inn. Unfortunately. Located at the top of a hill which leads to the River Ouse, Chandos Park, and Ford Meadow, the home ground of Buckingham Town Football Club, this is another place that needs desperate refurbishment, but does have an Internet cafe downstairs. The inside is grotty and small, the beer garden is much the same. And it is expensive. They do have live music fairly regularly though. We then come to the Woolpack. The Woolpack is situated just the other side of the River Ouse from the New Inn, there is a helpful bridge to get you across. The Woolpack is a personal favourite of mine, nice looking inside and out. Comfortable, with a large beer garden, heated smoking area and plenty of seating this well priced pub is in a great location two minutes from the centre of town. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, the food is excellent and the guest ales are a rare treat. Geographically the next pub is The White Hart, which is also a hotel and restaurant. The restaurant is great if you like wetherspoons food, otherwise it is quite terrible. The drinks are expensive, the bar staff are fairly incompetent and the seats are old and uncomfortable. The tables are dirty and the floor is sticky, but over the last few years dramatic improvements have been made. The rear entrance to the beer garden is beautifully designed and rendered, and the beer garden itself is sunny and comfortable. Pity it currently looks over a building site rather then the river it did a few years back. The toilets have also been improved, they are now clean, smell human, and look fantastic. There is no more comfortable or spacious cubicle in which to pass out on a Saturday night. Next up is the Villiers, or more specifically Henry's bar at the Villiers. The Villiers is the name of the Hotel, and is a wonderful fifteenth century building next to a (shock horror) hair salon, and a DVD rental shop. The drinks here are expensive and the range is limited, but that keeps an exclusive feel about the place. Original features have been kept, such as the beamed ceilings and large open fireplace. The place is comfortable, formerly a stable, so plenty of room to enjoy yourself. They show live sports too, which seems in contrast to the overall ambiance of the bar. Next on the list is smack bang in the middle of the High Street, and is the first of the two I mentioned earlier in this locale. It is called the Whale, and is traditionally associated with the older men of the town. Inside it is dingy and dirty, but the booze is cheap, especially the spirits. The tables are clean, despite their appearance to the contrary, and the toilets have recently been refurbished. There are plasma screen televisions suspended from the ceiling and mounted on walls, which seems completely out of character with the feel of the place. There is also a fruit machine, for the high rolling Buckingham residents, who play for the big money. A few paces down the high street, on the corner opposite Prezzo's is The Kings Head, another personal favourite. It is small, dark (it has "mood" lighting) and the beer garden is really a patio with a heat lamp and a park bench. But there is often live music, and there is always music playing in the background with an indie or rock theme. The regulars are a good and chatty bunch, and the Guiness is the best in the town by a country mile. The prices are reasonable, and the food here is surprisingly good and very well priced. Lastly, on the edge of town near the expensive BP garage is the Grand Junction. It does not really live up to it's billing. On a weekday it is a rather pleasant place to be. There is a play park in the beer garden, the decking outside has sofa's and is covered by a roof. There are heat lamps everywhere to protect smokers from the cold. The toilets are disgusting, but that is understandable considering the weekend clientele. Inside there are comfortable seats everywhere, the tables are clean, the bar staff friendly, if a little busy, and there are large plasma screen televisions showing live sports. There is also a fruit machine and an IT box, addictive little bugger. However on weekends the scum of Buckingham come here to feed. The place smells of cheap perfume and adolescent desperation, as the locals try and seduce each other out of boredom, or lack of alternatives. Many are going back to tried and tested partners, others are probably related. But they do have some of those "irresponsible" drinks promotions Gordon Brown is warning us about, with all house spirits and mixers £1 from 7pm to 10pm Friday and Saturday nights, and Fosters is £2 a pint on the same days until 11pm. The music is terrible, but at least the pool tables aren't moved anymore to make space for a dance floor. Instead the barn outside is used as an additional bar and dance space, with a DJ, a disco ball and some "Bangin' tunes". It is very Aunty Muriel's wedding. Stay clear of there if you wish to chat, hit it up if you wish to dance with your cousin, and then kiss him outside.
Perhaps it is these terrible pubs which taint my view of this pretty town. It really is very picturesque as you walk along the river bank, looking at the willows weeping into the water. Until a chav jumps you from behind smelling of cheap cider asking for money for cigarettes.
Buckingham is a small market town located within north Buckinghamshire and its countryside. The surrounding area is extremely green and rural and scattered with scenic villages. The town itself is also very picturesque, numerous Georgian buildings line the streets and there is a small castle in the centre. It well deserves the title designated by the local authority as ''The jewel in the crown of Aylesbury Vale'. Its population is growing with the extensions of the major outlying estates and now stands at about 10,000. 'Quaint' and 'Charming' are the adjectives tourists most frequently use about the town at the end of their visit, usually just prior to heading off for the more heady excitement to be found at nearby Milton Keynes (15 miles away). The central Norman castle/gaol now functions as an information centre and a museum. There are numerous small shops along the high street and other pedestrianised areas. The shop lack variety and there are virtually no clothes shops to be found. The town centre has suffered since the opening of a large Tesco store out of town. Parking is limited, especially since the square was revamped and pedestrianised. A small market runs on Tuesdays and also Saturdays when an even smaller antiques market accompanies it. There are several hotels that vary in facilities and atmosphere. The Four Pillars Hotel is located out of the town centre and its food and accommodation are nothing to shout about, but it does possess a swimming pool. The Harvester (also known as the White Hart) is slightly more expensive but is right in the centre, has an excellent restaurant and is home to the town's most popular bar. For a small town, Buckingham possesses an extraordinary number of pubs, which are mainly small but cheerful. Particular favourites include the Harvester, the Junction and the Kings Head. The traditional atmosphere of the time prevents any sort of nightlife after the pubs
close, except for the annual visit of the fair in October. Restaurants include Chinese, Indian and Italian and there are numerous coffee shops and cafes. The town boasts several schools, including the Royal Latin School, one of the oldest in the country. It is also home to the country's only private University, which attracts students from all around the globe, introducing a multicultural element to the town that is rarely found in the rest of this area. Nearby attractions include Silverstone racing circuit and Stowe Landscape gardens that are free to National Trust members and well worth a stroll in even if you are not. Stowe School itself is also open to visitors, however it is owned by English Heritage and opening times are sporadic to say the least. Stowe is two miles away and runs a number of events throughout the year, which include memorable open-air black tie firework and classical music evenings. Also of note are the two Roman Burial mounds in nearby village of Thornborough, alongside the only surviving medieval bridge in the country.