Dunstable Downs is the highest point in the East of England and one of the best-known viewpoints on the Chilterns ridge. The chalk grasslands of the Downs have miles of footpaths and circular walks to enjoy. This is a fantastic place to fly a kite or enjoy a picnic. You can even purchase your own kite from the National Trust shop.
Watch the gliders taking off from the London Gliding Club at the foot of the Downs and soaring overhead – you too could have a go!
The Visitor Centre run by the National Trust has a cafe, shop and information on what to see and what to do at the Downs.
Much of the Downs is registered commonland with an ancient history: you can explore 5,000 year old burial mounds and the site of a medieval rabbit warren. Follow the National Trust’s Five Knolls Wildlife and Heritage walk to learn more about the history, plants and animals that thrive on the Downs.
Dunstable Downs to Whipsnade Circular Walk (4.5 miles)
Dunstable Downs Circular Walk (6.5 miles)
Whipsnade Tree Cathedral to Dunstable Downs Stile-free Walk (4 miles)
Spot several species of orchid and other scare chalk downland flowers in this rare habitat. Butterflies that can be seen include local and restricted species such as the Chalkhill Blue, Grizzled Skipper and Dark Green Fritillary.
Discover ancient history at Five Knolls which is a Bronze age barrow cemetery at the northern end of Dunstable Downs. Although it is called Five Knolls, the cemetery is actually made up of seven barrows. Throughout history this site has been used for burials starting with high status Bronze Age burials. Since then a Saxon mass execution and burial took place on the site and later gallows corpses were buried here.
Further features include a mediaeval rabbit warren which is revealed in the pillow mounds below the Knolls and mediaeval cultivation terraces (lynchets) are visible at the foot of the Downs. You can see where the ancient route of the Icknield Way passes as well as drover trails and hollow ways.
The custom of orange- rolling on Good Friday down the steep downland slopes flourished from the 18th century. Search on the internet to find photos of this fascinating tradition and be amazed by the crowds it drew!
The Chilterns Gateway Centre is wheelchair accessible and has accessible toilets. There is a wheelchair accessible multi-user route from the Centre over the Downs. Tramper mobility vehicles are available to hire 7 days a week in 2 hour slots. They can be booked in advance by calling us on 01582 500920
Facilities & accessibility
The visitor centre (Chilterns Gateway Centre) offers a wide range of visitor facilities (cafe, shop, information), with spectacular views. It is open all year, 7 days a week, excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Car parking is avaliable on site at a charge of £3.50, or free of charge for National Trust members.
Dogs allowed under close supervision.