Things to do and where to eat – 48 hours in Buckingham

Buckingham is a beautiful market town located in the North of Buckinghamshire, and as my aunty recently relocated to the town, Jake and I headed down for the weekend to visit her and my nan, and explore the area.

We paid £80 for two nights in the Travelodge, and found the two hour drive from Staffordshire to be smooth via the M6, M42 and M40. Everything is fairly close by, with a petrol station, McDonald’s, Lidl and Beefeater all on the same stretch of road.

The County Town’s high street is a short drive away, with ample car parks – most of which are free. Jake and I managed to get a space every time we needed to, and it was a lovely five minute walk into the main stretch in the sun. The buildings around Bucks are gorgeous, with lots of Georgian architecture to enjoy, from the old goal to the Chantry Chapel, famous for being the oldest building in the town.

We spent just under 48 hour in Buckingham, and managed to pack quite a lot into our stay between drinking lots of tea with my nan, and nattering with my aunt. We were able to discover some amazing independent restaurants, caught a movie and shopped at the nearby Bicester Village.

It’s a very small town, and perhaps not known for being a tourist hotspot, but me and Jake were never short of something to do. Home to Britain’s first modern independent University, a 600-year-old market and dozens of hidden gems, here’s how I recommend spending 48 hours in Buckingham.

Coffee#1

After parking the car our first port of call was a cuppa and a bite to eat, so we ducked into Coffee#1. The small chain is somewhere between The Lounges and Costa in terms of vibe, with cosy chesterfields and mismatched furniture and vintage style lighting, with a small selection of pre-made, packaged toasties, paninis and soups. I ordered a chai latte while Jake opted for a cappuccino, as I ordered soup and bread for lunch.

Service was pretty quick, and the carrot, coconut and coriander soup was hearty, with very delicious warm, toasted bread. The chai latte was perfectly spiced and aromatic, and Jake rather enjoyed his coffee while we people-watched and hatched a plan for the evening. I say people watched, I really mean dog-watched, as there were three pups in the canine-friendly cafe.

Our order, which ended up being three drinks, soup and a slice of Victoria sponge came to around £16, which was pretty reasonable. The menu isn’t huge but chances are you’ll find something you like. The cafe also has a scheme where they bag up and give away their spent coffee grounds for the community to use as fertiliser in their garden, which I thought was pretty sweet,

Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity shop

The charity shops in Buckingham are absolutely fantastic. I spotted an Oxfam stocked with Hobbs and Joules, where I bagged a pair of brand new leather heeled sandals for £4.99, and nearly took home a rare Rolling Stones vinyl. There’s also a Scope and RSPCA shop, but the real goldmine, in my opinion, is the Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity shop.

The store opened last year and exclusively stocks vintage and retro gems and antiques – and I could have spent hours trying on all of the dresses. I was eying up a pink 60s floral Laura Ashley dress in the window and the impeccably dressed volunteer was extremely helpful with sizing and dating the dress as she took it off the mannequin for me to try on.

I fell in love with it and was stunned that it was only £14, when you’d pay upwards of £60 for a dress of this age and quality at an online boutique. Located in a Grade II listed building, the treasure trove store makes for the perfect place to add something beautiful and unique to your wardrobe, while supporting a worthy charitable cause.

Prego Italian Restaurant

Established in 2003, Prego has been serving up authentic Italian dishes for nearly 20 years on Buckingham’s high street. The independent restaurant offers a selection of pizza, calzone, pasta, risotto, salads and chicken dishes, and is open seven days a week from 10am until late.

The relaxed restaurant sees colourful tiles and plates decorating the walls, with a range of tables for couples and larger parties. They’re famed locally for their thin and crispy pizzas, with a great selection of gins, wine and cocktails on the menu.

To start, me and Jake shared the dough balls and arancini – which are risotto balls filled with mozzarella and tomato that have been deep fried and served with a tangy tomato dip. Having seen a number of pizzas leave the kitchen, Jake went for a classic pepperoni pizza for £10.50, and I ordered the Rosso calzone for £12.65. The folded pizza included chicken, chorizo, red onions, peppadews and mozzarella in tomato and garlic sauce and was absolutely beautiful. But neither of us were able to finish the meal, and realised we’d have been better off sharing a pizza.

The portion sizes at Prego are generous, the atmosphere was lovely, and everything just felt really friendly and quintessentially Italian.

Read more: How to spend a weekend in York | River cruise, York Ghost Merchant, tour, Minster and more

The Film Place

While nearby Milton Keynes has a huge Cineworld and shopping complex, Buckingham has an adorable independent one-screen cinema showing some pretty recently released films.

The Film Place is a real community affair, run by volunteers as a not-for-profit. There are films on twice a week, on Fridays and Saturdays, and transforms the large lecture theatre at the University of Buckingham’s Chandos Road Building into a 160-seat cinema.

Tickets cost £6.50 for adults and £4.50 for children and students, and there’s even free parking just across the road. Since opening in November 2005, they have screened more than 1,000 films to over 30,000 people.

Jake and I went to see Last Night In Soho, featuring Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith, and had a great time. We bought some cans of Diet Coke from the tuck shop, and really enjoyed the movie. Some of the other films being shown in the coming weeks include Quant, Encanto, House of Gucci, Spencer and West Side Story, all of which still feel very fresh off the big screen.

Buckingham Tea Room

At Buckingham Tea Room, Jake and I sat by a window overlooking the Old Gaol as we browsed the menu at Buckingham Tea Room. My nan had raved about the venue having been for Afternoon Tea for her birthday just weeks before, so we decided to try it out for breakfast.

After paying upwards of £13 for full English breakfasts in York, the £8.60 at Buckingham Tea Room felt rather humble. Jake’s meal arrived with bacon, sausage, eggs, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomato and two doorstop slices of white toast, served with a cup of tea in a quaint China tea pot.

Meanwhile, I had a St Germain sprits (elderflower liqueur and prosecco) for £5.95, and the waitress was pretty generous in her pouring of fizz, practically filling the balloon glass containing the elderflower. To eat, I ordered a croissant au gratin – a toasted croissant filled with ham and creamy cheese for £6.95, served with tomatoes. It was beautifully done and really tasty, and the setting of the table and the decor was fab.

While some might consider the decor to be dated, I thought the dial up telephone on the table, vintage napkins and delicate China was lovely, as was our server, who made sure everything was just right for our meal.

Buckingham Tea Rooms is open six days a week from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9.30am to 4.30pm, and I can’t wait to go back and try their famed Afternoon Tea.

Buckingham Market

Buckingham has been a market town since the time of Mary Tudor, and has a market located on, of course, Market Hill every Tuesday and Saturday, with a flea and antiques market joining on weekends at the nearby Old Cattle Pens.

Located along the high street and around the Old Gaol, it’s a brilliant way to while away an hour on a sunny Saturday, with fruit and vegetables, bakery goods, olives, gents clothing, tools, DVD’s and games, flowers, plants and much more on offer.

The historic market was bustling during our visit, and traders are more than willing to offer you a good deal. The flower stall gave me two bunches of long stem daffodils for £1, half price their usual tag, and a bunch of tulips for an extra £2, which is cheaper than you’ll find in most supermarkets. They were beautifully wrapped up and my nan loved them.

The flea market is a really fascinating trip back in time, and Jake and I had fun pointing out some of the more unusual items for sale. I imagine if you had the time for a good rummage, you’d find some brilliant pieces.

Bicester Village

Bicester shopping village is a 20 minute drive from Buckingham, and I recommend setting aside some spending money to take along with you. Set in the Oxfordshire countryside, the site first opened its doors in 1995, and now has more than 160 boutiques lining the Village’s beautifully landscaped streets.

The open-air venue is relatively flat and wheelchair accessible, as well as being dog friendly, so we were able to take my nans little dog, Bill. It also offers free parking with plenty of spaces when we arrived at midday on a Saturday.

For those who have previously visited Cheshire Oaks, it’s a very similar concept, only as well as having brands like Benefit, Levi’s and Paul Smith, they also have Vivienne Westwood, and even more luxury brands like Oscar de la Renta, Fendi and Gucci.

I bought some new brushes from the Spectrum stall, as well as some discounted makeup from The Cosmetics Company Store, with £11 off the Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation. I also bagged two new Mac lipsticks and a setting powder, while my nan treated herself to some new jewellery.

There are plenty of places to eat too, and we tried out La Tua Pasta and found the food to be really nice, but if you don’t want a sit down meal there’s also places like Pret, as well as grab and go stalls dotted throughout.

Read more: Nine things to do around Deansgate, Manchester in just 24 hours

BINN Smokehouse

If you’re after a cheap dirty burger then BINN Smokehouse is the one for you. Actually named the Buckingham Inn, the eatery is located in a small but vibrant pub that’s clearly a hit with the student population.

The casual diner offers a selection of loaded burgers for around the £7-8 mark, as well as some great sides/small plate options like nachos and mac and cheese. For those with an even bigger appetite, they even do huge sharing meat trays – and you can get two for £24 on Tuesdays.

Other weekly offers include 2-4-1 burgers on Mondays and Bottomless Wednesdays with all you can eat wings and mac and cheese.

As I say, this is a very casual eatery and very much has a student vibe, with laidback seating, cheap food and a good range of drinks. It was busy when we arrived, and there were a few mix-ups with our food and bill that all worked out in the end. The food was great and was just what we were looking for – but don’t expect fine dining, it’s not that kind of restaurant. They also have live music on from around 9.30pm most weekends so you can really make an evening of it here.

Buckingham Old Gaol

You can’t miss the Old Gaol – it stands proudly right in the centre of the high street, almost as though everything else was built around it. Having been built in 1748, it was one of the first purpose-built county gaols in England after the holding at the church became too insecure.

The building now doubles as a museum showcasing the rich history of Buckingham, with displays ranging from the Jurassic period through to the Viking occupation, with part of the £1.35m Lenborough Hoard also on show, and also contains the local tourist information office.

The Gaol is only open Monday to Saturday, and as we’d left it until Sunday to visit, we weren’t able to go inside but could admire it from the paved area outside. The next time we visit, though, we’re going to make it a priority to pop in.

Adult tickets cost £3.50, and families can enter for less than £10, so it’s well worth a visit.

The King’s Head

Our final stop of the trip was The King’s Head pub for some brunch before hitting the road, where two full English breakfasts with drinks cost just £15.70.

The pub reopened in 2016 and offers a stylish and relaxing spot for breakfast all the way through to evening drinks. And who says drinks are just for the evening, with 2-4-1 cocktails all day, every day.

For breakfast there’s choice of small regular or veggie breakfasts, full breakfasts, both veggie and regular, as well as a huge King’s full English which is, well, fit for a king. Jake and I opted for the medium sized full English, with two herby sausages, two bacon, a fried egg, hash brown, Portobello mushroom, tomato, baked beans and toast with a drink for £7.85.

The breakfast was everything you want from a fry up, cheap and cheerful, and definitely filled a gap. They also have a fab little beer garden I’m sure is a real suntrap in summer.

Have you ever been to Buckingham – if so, what are your must-visit spots?

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