Like Berkshire, Buckinghamshire can be divided into two for the country-house buyer: this time, north and south. In between lie the sweeping hills of the Chilterns, acting as a dramatic natural barrier between the commuting towns and villages of the south, easily reached from London, and the more rural but less accessible countryside of the north.

The south tends to have a more fluid population than the north, and a better supply of country houses, but prices are inevitably higher; the completion of the M40 has, however, seen prices in the north rise. The new town of Milton Keynes has also boosted the economy of the north, and has a commuter market of its own.

Buckinghamshire’s diverse countryside gives rise to an unusual variety of soils and building materials, including brick, flint and timber. The county crosses the agricultural Vale of Aylesbury, renowned for its duck, rises over the Chilterns and drops down into the Thames Valley; on the fringes of London, the scenery is gentler.

The areas most in demand are in the south, with good commuting links to the capital; they include the Hambledon Valley and the riverside areas of Marlow.

Major towns

Buckingham, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Stokenchurch, Chesham, Beaconsfield, Amersham.

Transport links

Train: Marylebone to High Wycombe 30min, Network StayAway £12 return; Aylesbury 53min, Network StayAway £13.70 return; Milton Keynes 36min, Network AwayBreak £15.20 return.

Car: High Wycombe is 27 miles from central London, via the M40; Aylesbury 36 miles, via the A41; Milton Keynes 52 miles, via the M1.

Public schools

Beaconsfield High School (01494 673043). Girls only, age range 11-18, day. www.beaconsfieldhigh.bucks.sch.uk

Caldicott School, Farnham Royal (01753 646214). Boys only, age range 7-13, day and boarding. www.caldicott.com

Pipers Corner, Great Kingshill (01494 718255). Girls only, age range 4-18, day and boarding. www.piperscorner.co.uk

Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe (01494 524955). Boys only, age range 11-18, day and boarding. Assosiated preparatoryschool. www.rgshw.com

St Mary’s School, Gerrards Cross (01753 883370). Girls only, age range 3-18, day. www.stmarys-gx.org

Stowe School,near Buckingham (01280 813164). Co- educational, age range 13-18, day and boarding. www.stowe.co.uk

Wycombe Abbey, High Wycombe (01494 520381). Girls only, age range 11-18, boarding. www.wycombeabbey.com

Leisure

Golf courses: Gerrards Cross (01753 883263); Denham (01895 832022); Harewood Downs, Chalfont St Giles (01494 762308); Ellesborough, Aylesbury (01296 622114).

Hunts: The Vale of Aylesbury, the Oakley.

Fishing: river Thames.