Image of walking


Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife and heritage walk


This is a great walk to do on wheels, with a series of numbered and lettered posts marking the route. The chalk downs are home to a rich variety of birds, insects and plants and this site has been an important vantage point to people for over a thousand years.

Sheep on the Downs
National Trust


Route map for Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife walk
© Crown copyright and database rights 2013 Ordnance Survey


Chilterns Gateway Centre visitor car park, grid ref: TL008195


Find the first waymarker in the courtyard facing the car park. Somewhere near here stood a signal station, built in the 1800s when Britain was on high alert against a French invasion.

Read more


Take the path to the windcatcher and follow the surfaced path to your right. Follow the footpath as it winds downhill over the grass area towards Pascombe and Five Knolls.

Read more


Look out for waymarker two. This is where a beacon stood as part of an early warning system in 1588, when England was overshadowed by fear of Spanish invasion during the reign of Elizabeth I. A network of fire beacons stretched from Cornwall to London, and to the east coast.


Continue along the footpath and look out for evidence of the Icknield Way, the ancient trackway that runs along the side of the Downs. It's a wide corridor with several tracks running in the same direction.


As you walk past the lower car park, look out for waymarker B. Skylarks can be heard singing constantly as they soar above the Downs in spring and summer. They nest in medium-length grass, so look where you're putting your feet when off the path! You may also see the occasional red kite.

Read more


As you continue along the route you'll see a sign for grasshoppers - you'll need to stop and listen for this one. In summer, grasshoppers make an almost continuous 'chirrup' sound by rubbing their back legs against their wings as they try to attract a mate.


Follow the footpath and just across the road, where Dunstable Golf Club now stands, stood a prehistoric burial mound. It was ploughed up in the 1880s and the skeletons of a 25-year-old woman and a five-year-old child were discovered. These are now in Luton Museum.


The path descends slightly and you'll find waymarker D. The hawthorn bush provides food for insects and birds. In May, they're a mass of white flowers producing pollen and nectar, and in autumn the flowers give way to red berries for the birds.


You'll see how the footpath runs along the top of the Downs. Waymarker E highlights the important quaking grass and rock-rose which cover the Downs.

Read more


Keep walking along the footpath towards Pascombe Hill. Look out for waymarker 5, which highlights signs of the medieval artificial rabbit warren found in Pascombe Hill.


Keep to the footpath as it descends through a gateway, with a small area of woodland to your left. An information panel highlights the Saxon execution site.

Read more


Turn round and walk back along the footpath you've followed, all the way back to the Chilterns Gateway Centre.


Chilterns Gateway Centre café, grid ref: TL008195

You made it

Following this trail on mobile or tablet? Share your experience.

Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife and heritage walk


An easy  route, following an all-weather, purpose-built pathway that takes you across the top of the Downs to the Five Knolls and back to the Chilterns Gateway Centre. It's suitable for buggies, motorised scooters and wheelchairs.

Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife and heritage walk

Contact us

Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife and heritage walk

How to get here

Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire
By train

Luton station 7 miles (11km), then take Arriva 61 bus

By road

On B4541 west of Dunstable and Whipsnade. Sat Navs use LU6 2GY or LU6 2TY for older equipment

By foot

Footpaths from West Street and Tring Road, Dunstable

By bus

Arriva 61, Luton station to Aylesbury, alight West Street, Dunstable. Daily except Sundays. From here, you can join the walk at the Chilterns Gateway Centre

By bicycle

Public bridleway from West Street in Dunstable and Whipsnade. Cycle parking available at the Gateway Centre

Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife and heritage walk

Facilities and access

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