Dunstable Downs winter walk

Whipsnade Road, Dunstable, Bedfordshire LU6 2GY

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Winter time on Dunstable Downs © Kate Sheard

Winter time on Dunstable Downs

Sheep at a snowy Dunstable Downs © Jon Powell

Sheep at a snowy Dunstable Downs

The Icknield Way runs from Ivinghoe Beacon to Knettishall Heath in Norfolk © Humphrey Bolton

The Icknield Way runs from Ivinghoe Beacon to Knettishall Heath in Norfolk

A warm welcome awaits you at the Chilterns Gateway Centre cafe © Kate Sheard

A warm welcome awaits you at the Chilterns Gateway Centre cafe

Route overview

Step outside this winter and enjoy the beautiful Bedfordshire countryside on
this exhilarating walk across the Dunstable Downs. Along the way, discover diverse
wildlife, Iron Age hill forts and burial mounds. Don’t forget to pop into the Chilterns
Gateway Centre for some delicious food and a browse round our gift shop.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Route map for Dunstable Downs walk
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Visitor Centre car park, grid ref: TL008195

  1. From the car park walk slightly downhill over the grass area, then turn right at the wind catcher following the path along the top of the slope, past the site of the medieval warren, as far as the Five Knolls tumuli.

    Show/HideFive Knolls

    Lying on the edge of the Downs, this Scheduled Ancient Monument is the largest round barrow cemetery in Bedfordshire. Visible as bumps against the skyline, the burial mounds were excavated in the 1850s and 1920s, revealing that they originated in the late Neolithic and Bronze Age and re-used for burial in the Roman period.

    Winter time on Dunstable Downs © Kate Sheard
  2. Continue downhill to West Street, which runs along the line of the Icknield Way.

  3. Cross West Street on to Green Lane opposite, known also as Drovers' Way.

    Show/HideDrovers' Way

    Green Lane at point 3 on the map is part of a network of tracks and paths in and around Dunstable. Traditionally used by drovers to take livestock to market in Dunstable, it's now popular with walkers and horse riders.

    Sheep at a snowy Dunstable Downs © Jon Powell
  4. Continue as far as the crossroads. In the field diagonally to the right, the line of trees mark the rampart of Maiden Bower, an Iron Age hill fort. At the second crossroads, turn left along the Houghton Green Highway into Totternhoe village.

  5. Cross Dunstable Road and follow Furlong Lane, turn left onto Church Road and left again on to Well Head Road. Follow this as far as the Icknield Way near Well Head.

    Show/HideIcknield Way

    The Icknield Way is unique among long distance tracks because it can claim to be "the oldest road in Britain". Extending from Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire to Knettishall Heath in Norfolk, it is 110 miles (177 kms) in length, and consists of prehistoric pathways, ancient when the Romans came.

    The Icknield Way runs from Ivinghoe Beacon to Knettishall Heath in Norfolk © Humphrey Bolton
  6. Cross the road and follow the bridleway opposite as far as the base of the Downs.

  7. Turn right at the end of the bridleway. Follow the footpath at the bottom of the slope, through the fence, until a track is reached on the left. NOTE: for a shorter walk, follow this track uphill and back to the starting point along an ancient hollow way.

  8. Pass through a gate, turn left uphill for 49yd (45m), then turn right onto a sunken way. This path is an old cut way, which would have offered travellers an easier way up the slope. Follow this path as it climbs up the Downs and then back to the bottom.

  9. Join the footpath that follows the bottom of the Downs.

  10. Just before the road, join the bridleway which climbs uphill, looking back views of the Vale of Aylesbury and Ivinghoe Beacon appear.

  11. With the car park on your right, carry on uphill and turn left into a large grass field. Please keep your dogs on a lead in this field as there may be sheep grazing.

  12. Follow the hedge line at the top of the field, with more views of the Vale of Aylesbury on your left. You're following the Ridgeway Link which joins Dunstable Downs to Ivinghoe Beacon. After walking under a number of Beech trees and passing through a bridlegate, the Chilterns Gateway Centre soon appears on the right.

    Show/HideChilterns Gateway Centre

    After an invigorating walk along the Dunstable Downs, take a well-deserved break at the Chilterns Gateway Centre café. Tuck into one of our local specialities, such as the famous Bedfordshire Clanger, or our tasty bacon roll.

    A warm welcome awaits you at the Chilterns Gateway Centre cafe © Kate Sheard

End: Visitor Centre car park, grid ref: TL008195

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 6.5 miles (10.4km)
  • Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • OS Map: Landranger 166; Explorer 181 and 193
  • Terrain:

    Parts of the walk can become muddy and slippery after wet weather, sturdy footwear is advisable. Some stiles and gates. Dogs welcome - under close control please.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: footpaths from West Street and Tring Road, Dunstable
    By bike: public bridleway from West Street in Dunstable and Whipsnade. Cycle parking at Gateway Centre
    By bus: Arriva 61, Luton station to Aylesbury, alight West Street, Dunstable. Daily, except Sundays. From here, join walk at point 2 on map
    By train: Luton, 7 miles (11km). From here, take 61 bus (see By bus)
    By car: on B4541 between Dunstable and Whipsnade

  • Facilities:

    • National Trust car park - closes 6pm in summer and dusk in winter
    • WCs, café & gift shop open daily 10am - 5pm (10am - 4pm in winter), closed on 24 & 25 Dec).

  • Contact us