Wilkes Walks is based in Berkhamsted alongside our first walking holiday called The Charming Chilterns. Our hotel there is the classic coaching Inn called The Kings Arms, now one of the family of Oakman Inns Pubs, Restaurants and hotels. Earlier this year Oakman asked us to write a series of promotional touristic itineraries for a long weekend at some of their hotels. Royston is the first in a series based from their hotel there, called Banyers House.
This is also an example of the experiences on offer on some of the Wilkes Walks tours:
Royston – a town on an ancient crossroads
Situated in the north east corner of Hertfordshire, Royston sits at the crossroads of two ancient ways: the Icknield Way running east-west; and Ermine Street, built by the Romans, running north-south. Today these crossroads are marked by the Roisia stone, the symbol of the town, and from which it gets its name. Also situated here is the famous Royston Cave, medieval in origin and steeped in mystery. Royston is an ancient town where people have stopped and rested a while before traveling on. The hunting lodge of King James I still stands in Kneesworth Street opposite the town’s eclectic museum. The centre of town has many other historic buildings, apart from Banyers House. A Town Trail leaflet will introduce you to all these places via a pleasant amble. Stop at a café to sample some homemade delicious cake and coffee, then finish your tour by delving deeper into Royston’s mysterious past with a visit to the famous Royston Cave, a monument today to her importance in bygone times.
DAY TWO – Imperial War Museum or Wimpole
The Imperial War Museum at Duxford is only 15 minutes away by car on the A505. Within this two-acre site is a live airfield and several old Aircraft Hangers, converted into elements of the museum and housing classic planes from the past. A Spitfire, two Hurricanes, and an airworthy Boeing B17 Flying Fortress are amongst those on display. It was from here that these planes took to the skies to fight in the Battle of Britain. There are lots of interactive activities, including the chance to sit inside a Mark 1 Spitfire or to go up in one of these classic aircraft and take the controls. It may be possible to time your visit to coincide with an air show or one of their ‘flying days’.
If planes don’t float your boat, then Cambridgeshire’s largest stately home, Wimpole Estate is just 20 minutes north. Encompassing Hall, Gardens, and a working farm, the estate was bequeathed to the National Trust by Elsie Bambridge, the second daughter of writer Rudyard Kipling. It has a long history dating back to before the Romans. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed here for two days in 1843 at the invitation of the then owner, Vice Admiral Charles Yorke, the 4th Earl of Hardwicke. There is a lot to do here, including a visit inside the Georgian mansion and a walk around the grounds. Partly landscaped by the famous landscape gardener Capability Brown, there is a serpentine lake, a Chinese bridge and a Gothic Tower to explore. Other facilities include cafes, a restaurant, toilets, and a shop selling local produce where you can buy organic beer, bread, and oats from Wimpole’s own farm.
DAY THREE – Cambridge
A day in the university city of Cambridge is an obvious choice from Royston, as it’s only 30 minutes’ drive away on the A10 or just 15 minutes by train, and full of rich experiences and discoveries. There is so much of interest here that it’s hard to know where to start. An official guided tour of Cambridge city on foot brings the city to life while you take in all the sights, like the famous view of Kings College Chapel. If you like museums, then Cambridge has some of the best collections in the UK including The Fitzwilliam Museum with its ancient artefacts and its collection of Monet and Rembrandt, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the Museum of Zoology. Some would say that a punt on the river is the most iconic thing to do in the city, or there are rowing boats for hire. Either way, don’t forget to bring something to feed the ducks! If the weather is good you could enjoy a picnic by the river, otherwise there are plentiful lunch options to be found in the city’s restaurants and cafes. Why not head for the food stalls on the market and, if you like Chinese food, try the dim sum? If gardening is your thing, then enjoy a walk round the Cambridge University Botanical Garden. It has one of the best winter gardens for colour and fragrance in the country.
FINAL DAY – Therfield Heath
Royston is on the chalk escarpment that forms a natural geological ridgeway through the centre of England. It is home to beautiful countryside, plants, and flowers, and Therfield Heath is just 15 minutes’ walk from Banyers hotel. Alternatively, there is free parking by the sports ground to the west of town. Enjoy a healthy walk through the beautiful countryside of Therfield Heath and Greens. The walking options are varied, depending on the time you have available, from 45 minutes to three and a half hours, with the longer walk taking in the chocolate box village of Therfield and lunch at the Fox and Duck pub. An alternative to the pub is the Heath Bar at the end of the walk and next to the car park, where you might also enjoy lunch before continuing with your day.