Exploring The Stunning NT Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire
The National Trust Dunstable Downs & Whipsnade Estate is a vast chalky grassland area in Bedfordshire situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with breathtaking views over the Vale of Aylesbury. The Downs are 243m above sea level and the highest point in Bedfordshire.
On a clear day, you will have sight of four counties (Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire).
Look to the skies and on any given day you will spot a variety of flying objects from magnificent Red Kites to all manner of colourful flying kites. You will also see gliders passing by as the London Gliding Club is located right next to the Downs.
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Where is Dunstable Downs?
The Downs are located in the southern part of Bedfordshire right on a ridge of the Chiltern Hills.
London to Dunstable Downs by car
If you are coming from London by car, the easiest route is to take the M1 and leave at Junction 9 and take the A5183 via Markyate, Kensworth and Whipsnade. You will see it sign posted at Whipsnade. Information on parking is below.
Dunstable Downs address: Whipsnade Road, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 2GY.
London to Dunstable Downs by train
You could also visit the Downs on a day trip from London by train. Take the Thameslink train from London St Pancras to Luton and from there you can take Centrebus B from the train station to the centre of Dunstable and change to the Centrebus 40.
What is there to do at Dunstable Downs?
There are lots of things to keep you entertained here including some special Dunstable Downs events. It is a great place to come and enjoy a day outdoors. Here are some of our favourite things to do there.
Dunstable Downs is very popular with kite fliers. Due to its location on the top of a chalky escarpment in the Chiltern Hills, you’ll find the perfect kite flying conditions. There are two designated kite flying areas and you need to make sure to stick to them because there are power lines running across the property.
During the summer there is a resident kite expert who can help with kite repairs and give advice on kite flying. There is also a kite flying school which offers kite making for little ones and kite flying lessons for older kids. If you don’t have a kite, you can buy them from the shop in the visitor centre (check for opening times).
There is usually a Dunstable Downs Kite Flying festival each summer but this has been put on hold for the time being.
The Downs are very exposed so be prepared for windy (and cooler) conditions.
Dunstable Downs Chute Wood is the perfect place for children to explore. It is a woodland area set back from the Visitor Centre and offers a natural playground for kids with wooden climbing frames and picnic areas.
Next to the wood is a wildflower meadow which is the perfect spot to lay out your picnic rug.
Dunstable Downs walks
There are a number of walks around the area, many of which take in the most incredible views.
One of our favourite walks in Hertfordshire is from the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral (park at the small but free car park) along the Icknield Way Path and up to Dunstable Downs. We take in the views, have a quick refreshment at the café and a walk through the woods and then loop back.
This walk is around 3km in total and is a buggy friendly walk, making it a fairly easy and family-friendly walk.
If you are looking for a longer walk, take a look at this Dunstable Downs map which highlights the whole Icknield Way loop, starting and finishing at the Visitor Centre.
Dunstable Downs Easter Egg Hunt
You pick up an Easter Trail pack from the Visitor Centre for £3.00, follow the Easter Egg Trail and pick up an Easter Egg reward at the end. Little ones are encouraged to bring their own Easter Bonnets. We had a lot of fun making ours!
Points of interest
While visiting the area you will not miss the Five Knolls, a very prominent hill that stands out against the otherwise flat vista. It is a burial site that dates back to the neolithic and Bronze Ages.
A little less obvious than the Five Knolls is the white lion carved into the chalky hills (commissioned by neighbouring Whipsnade Zoo) which you can spot along the B489 Aylesbury to Dunstable Road.
Facilities at Dunstable Downs
Dunstable Downs Visitor Center
Chilterns Gateway Center houses the Dunstable Downs café which has incredible views over the surrounding countryside. There is also a gift shop and toilets.
Parking at Dunstable Downs
There is a large car park with space for up to 2000 vehicles. The Dunstable Downs parking charges are £3.50 for the day or free for National Trust members.
Things to do near Dunstable Downs
If you are in the area, you really should pay a visit to Whipsnade Zoo, one of the best attractions in the UK.
Whipsnade Tree Cathedral is also just a short walk from the Downs.
Pubs near Dunstable Downs
The Old Hunter’s Lodge is a beautiful old country pub serving pub-style food. There is also a lovely beer garden for summer visits.
The Alford Arms is a little further but one of our favourite pubs in the area, serving really great quality food.