Bekonscot Model Village & Railway

Warwick Road Beaconsfield Buckinghamshire HP9 2PL

The world's oldest model village is also possibly the planet's most thoroughly English visitor attraction: an acre of Edwardian life in miniature, from fox hunts to boating lakes, all encircled by a narrow gauge railway. The brainchild of wealthy accountant Roland Callingham (boys and their trains…), who designed it to impress his London chums, Bekonscot opened to visitors in 1929 and has pulled in some 14 million since. A narrow pathway threads through a landscape of lakes and mountains, golf courses and fairgrounds, along which visitors walk in single file, peering down on the goings-on below. The trains periodically swoosh past, boats weave through the lakes on wires, and the coal mine endlessly draws black ore from the ground. If it sounds twee, well, it is – but it's also undeniably charming, and children get drawn in by the dinky figures, grown-ups by the absurdly romantic view of church-fete-and-flannels England on display. Photographers in particular will enjoy trying to capture the miniature soap operas going on at foot-level. There's a café, playground, radio-controlled boats and a sit-on 'light railway' that runs a two-minute circuit, too. All profits go, as they have done since 1929, to charity.

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