We will be monitoring the roads for closures etc, right up to the big day, but the route below is the one we will be following for 2020. A few changes from previous years, but still the great mix of quiet roads, classic Chilterns scenery and outstanding hospitality along the way.
Rest assured it will still begin at the Alford Arms near Berkhamsted and end at the Royal Oak in Marlow. In between we will be pulling in at the Old Swan in Swan Bottom, nr Great Missenden and the Old Queens Head, Penn.
If you’ve entered Pedal of Honour before then you might be thinking that we will be missing out the mighty Whiteleaf Hill. Well, you will be wrong because that is is still our keynote climb of the day. However, the route change does also allow us to add in an ascent of mysterious Chiltern classic, The Crong in the first section. Lucky you!
We’re also doing the same number of miles (100 km or 65 miles ish) with around 1000 metres of elevation.
This is the Main Route we will be signposting on the day.
It doesn’t necessarily mean everyone has to follow the main route. We want everyone to enjoy their day and ride within their capability. If that sounds like you and you might need something a little shorter or a little less steep, then please get in touch and we can sort that out.
Also, there is support all through the event, so if you need a breather or a shortcut, we can do that too.
Frithsden to Swan Bottom
The first section of the main route takes riders from the Alford Arms in Frithsden to the Old Swan, nr Great Missenden. It’s the longest section at just under 30 miles, but you’ll be full of energy, so no worries.
Within a mile of the start, a short climb brings the splendid Ashridge House into view. Home to the Dukes of Bridgewater, including the ‘Canal Duke’ Francis Egerton who built the Manchester Ship Canal and the nearby Grand Union Canal. The house is a gothic masterpiece with gardens by Capability brown, including the Golden Valley opposite the second green of Ashridge golf course. Henry VIII chased wild boar round the surrounding forest, as well as Anne Boleyn by all accounts. Numerous films have been shot in the woods around the house including Harry Potter, Les Misererables, Robin Hood and the Dirty Dozen. The fairy wall seen in Stardust, was created along the Golden Valley.
The bluebells of Dockey Wood might be past their best as we wend our way up towards Ivinghoe Beacon, but you’ll still be able to get a sense of the amazing blue carpet between the trees. It’s a magical sight, as well as a major tourist attraction.
One of the highest points of the Chilterns with views across the Vale of Aylesbury, Ivinghoe Beacon sits 233 metres above sea level. And as every local school kid studying geography will tell you is a classic example of a chalk escarpment. Our road up to the Beacon is long and winding, but not too steep. The road down is fast and twisty and a lot of fun. Watch out for the cattle grid at the bottom though!
From the cattle grid at the bottom of the Beacon, we turn right and follow a short section of the B489. Not much to see except … the giant chalk lion carved into the hillside in the distance marking the location of Whipsnade Zoo. A left turn leads down into another fast descent into Ivinghoe Aston.
From Ivinghoe Aston we travel under Bridego Bridge near Mentmore. It’s not much to look at, but it’s where Ronnie Biggs, Buster Edwards et al offloaded all the moolah after the Great Train Robbery of 1963. Stop for a selfie if you like, but it’s just a bridge.
Heading back uphill through Drayton Beauchamp (pronounced Beecham) we take the road down into Tring but before the high street proper take a right into Duckmore Lane. This leads into Dancers End Lane and onto infamous Chilterns climb – The Crong. The road twists, turns, narrows and dips before leading into the crux of the climb – a steep, narrow hairpin and a fierce ramp to the top. The road is not in great shape to be honest so you’ll need your best bike handling skills. Otherwise it’s a tough, but mercifully short challenge.
From the Crong it’s just a few minutes to our first stop of the day at the Old Swan in Swan Bottom. And a very welcome sight it is too.
The Old Swan to the Old Queens Head
Not long after you leave the Old Swan, you pass through The Lee. In 1900, this quintessentially English county village became the home of Arthur Lasenby Liberty who bought the manor and built a new manor house on the outskirts of the village. As you head round the green and onwards, you may spy a splendid ship’s figurehead in a small shelter on the left. This is a likeness of Admiral Richard Howe taken from HMS Howe, which was renamed Impregnable, before being scrapped by the Royal Navy in 1919, and purchased by Liberty in 1926. He used the timbers of this ship to refurbish, in Tudor revivalist style, the interior and frontage of his famed Liberty’s department store in London. The Liberty family have continued to reside at The Lee to the present day.
Onwards to Great Missenden, which apart from having an Abbey, was also the home of famed author Roald Dahl for 36 years, until his death in 1990. He once wrote: “I have never lived in a town or city and I would hate to do so.” His home, Gipsy House, an 18th century farmhouse on the edge of the village, is not open to the public, but there is a museum dedicated to his life and work, which also features the writing hut where he penned Charlie and the Chocolate Factory et al
You won’t have much time to see this as you speed through the dip after Longdown Hill, but on the left is the Plough, where famously PM David Cameron left his daughter after a lunchtime visit (c’mon, it could happen to anyone!) and later, had a pint and fish ‘n chips with Chinese president Xi Jinping. No sure what Xi made of our traditional Brit hospitality, but the Plough has become a bit of a pilgrimage for tourists ever since and is now reportedly in Chinese hands.
From the top of Hatches Lane it’s a fairly straightforward jaunt across to our next stop, The Old Queens Head. The OQH and its legendary hospitality has been part of Pedal of Honour since the beginning and represents the final leg of the journey.
The Old Queens Head to the Royal Oak
The third and final section of Pedal of Honour takes us from the Old Queens Head on a loop to avoid the congestion of High Wycombe and a route that crosses the mighty Thames twice.
The Royal Standard of England
Riders dive down Paul’s Hill and head past the Royal Standard of England, routinely described as one of the oldest freehouses in Britain at 800 years. Charles II reportedly hid in the rafters of the pub after he lost the Battle of Worcester, which is where it got it’s strange name from. You’ll not want to stop though, because Marlow is calling.
We get our first chance to cross the Thames at Cookham and it’s a magnificent sight – definitely worth a selfie or two. There wasn’t always a bridge here, but a ferry instead, which must have been quite a nuisance for the locals. Nowadays, Cookham is, well, a bit posh as you can see from the size of of some of the houses on the riverside. Make sure you turn right into the High Street, because if you go straight on you end up in Maidenhead – and nobody wants that.
Quarry Wood Road
Not much interesting about this bit of road except its a fabulous descent back down towards the banks of the Thames. Just remember there’s a pretty severe hairpin halfway down. Just console yourself with the thought that at least you aren’t climbing up the other way.
Marlow’s iconic suspension bridge brings riders across the Thames in great style. Look out for our photographer and give hime a victory wave because all you have to do now is navigate Marlow’s busy high street and one last winding hill to Bovingdon Green and the welcome embrace of the Royal Oak.