Milton Keynes: The Unlikely City

Human statue in Milton Keynes' shopping centre
Megan Mahoney

It has been announced recently that Milton Keynes is the only city in the UK with no guide books written about it. This article will uncover why this is the case and offer suggestions as to what Milton Keynes has to offer apart from having 130 really annoying roundabouts.

Milton Keynes holds a special place in my heart. It is the place I met my childhood hero Jacqueline Wilson and got so excited I puked all the way home. 

This was also probably due to driving round Milton Keynes’ excessive number of roundabouts. For people from Luton or other surrounding towns, MK provides an oasis of calm and capitalism on a Saturday afternoon. 

Therefore, why is Milton Keynes the only UK city with no guidebooks?

To answer this simply, Milton Keynes only became a city in 2022. This was celebrated recently with an appearance from none other than King Charlie himself.  

Coincidentally, he delivered a speech in the same room I met Jacqueline Wilson, proving that Milton Keynes is a great host to the nation’s icons. 

Milton Keynes was granted city status after campaigning for years. It cited its large green spaces, diversity, heritage, pioneering education and proximity to London as reasons it should be elevated from a town to a city

Therefore, in this short time it has been a city, no one has had the opportunity to write an entire guidebook. 

If someone was to write a guidebook about Milton Keynes, why would they?

It was the first place in the UK where you could get your Nandos delivered to your door by an ABBA-singing robot. It probably still is, as this has a very niche target audience.

But, Milton Keynes has been a pioneer in many other fields. 

It is the birthplace of the Open University which has been providing distance learning for millions of people since 1969, when its first campus opened in Milton Keynes. 

This gave people the opportunity to pursue a higher education degree who would not have had the ability to otherwise and was a major step forward in modernising education. 

a massive service station but with heritage and excessive roundabouts.

Furthermore, it is home to the first ever multiplex cinema in the UK which opened in 1985 but has sadly been closed for nearly a decade. Boo Netflix.

More importantly, its Bletchley Park was the site of Alan Turing’s genius code breaking that is thought to have shortened World War Two by two years. This also coincided with Bletchley being the birthplace of Information Technology. Therefore, cementing MK as an important site of British heritage and technology. 

Why is it a site of capitalism?

As aforementioned, Milton Keynes provides an ‘oasis of calm and capitalism’. This is due to its obsession with shops. As a child I was convinced no one lived in Milton Keynes and its only purpose was to shop and of course, host Jacqueline Wilson.

Its main shopping centre, aptly named The Centre: MK, was opened in 1979 by Maggie Thatcher. 

It was the most modern shopping centre in the UK at the time and in 1997 was named the longest shopping mall by the Guiness Book of World Records. 

Now, it is facing a painful demise, gripped by the perils of online shopping. But, it is trying its best to revert to its former glory by recently building a 75,000sq ft Primark. That should do the trick. 

It is also home to the fattest ASDA one has ever seen. In fact, this ASDA has recently gone viral on TikTok, with its in-house Greggs, Leon and Cinnabon adding to its charm. 

Milton Keynes also hosts the only IKEA in the region, providing a safe space every September for prospective freshers to convince their parents to spend lots of money on throw cushions and fake plants. 

Then, why is it also a site of calm?

No one living in Milton Keynes is further than half a mile away from an open green space. This is a phenomenal statistic, as the city boasts a large 300,000-strong population and many new build estates. It is described as being a ‘city in a forest’

With Milton Keynes being a mere forty minutes from the big smoke on the fast train, it is the perfect commuter refuge with a slower pace than London. 

Although Milton Keynes deserves a guidebook or at least a guide leaflet, it remains the more boring older sister to its more fun and scandalous nearby Luton. 

MK is pretty much halfway between Surrey and Nottingham so if you ever wish to have a bite to eat and a quick shop on the journey back to university, then Milton Keynes is the ideal destination. 

I think that sums up Milton Keynes quite well. Like a massive service station but with heritage and excessive roundabouts.

Megan Mahoney

Featured image courtesy of Brian Tomlinson via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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