Watlington Hill

Watlington Hill boasts fine views over the Oxfordshire Plain to the north and west. To the south, you'll see beech and ash woodland that cloaks the slopes of the nearby hills.

Watlington Hill is well known for the triangular, chalk, 'white mark' which can be seen for miles around. This unusual feature was carved into the hill in 1764. Along with the neighbouring Pyrton Hill, Watlington Hill is part of a larger Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Wildlife

The hill has top quality chalk grassland that is heavily rabbit grazed, giving the turf a 'golf course' like appearance over much of its slopes. Up to 25 species of butterflies can be found here, including chalkhill blues, silver spotted skipper, brimstone, small tortoiseshell and dark-green fritillary. It is also rich in downland flora, of which rock rose, yellow wort, eyebright and twayblade are just a few.

Male adonis blue butterfly
Male adonis blue butterfly
Male adonis blue butterfly

Like most of the National Trust downland sites, the varied scrub content of the hill is extremely important to nesting birds in the spring. Come the winter months and this same scrub provides a bounty of food to winter visiting birds like redwings and fieldfares.

The hill is one of the best sites in the Chilterns for viewing red kites. Look carefully and you may see buzzards soaring amongst them and if you're really lucky, maybe a raven or two.

Red kite at Watlington Hill
red kite
Red kite at Watlington Hill

Please do not feed the red kites

We welcome any visitors who come to see, photograph or video the red kites at Watlington Hill, however we ask you not to offer them any sort of food.

Red kites can survive well in the Chilterns without artificial feeding as there is plenty of natural food, so it is not necessary to supplement their natural diet. Providing additional food can prevent the growing population from spreading naturally, so the birds learn to cluster in large numbers where food is offered.  In fact it is possible that putting out food could ultimately lead to an unsustainably high population of red kites, reliant on human hand-outs.

There is also growing evidence that providing food for kites can change the kites’ behaviour, leading to some individual birds losing their natural wariness of humans so they become a nuisance to people. The birds cannot differentiate between food that is deliberately put out for them and visitors’ picnics.

The National Trust, the BTO, the RSPB and the Chilterns Conservation Board all urge the public not to feed red kites. We believe they should be left to feed naturally, thus enabling them to establish a naturally sustainable population level, and to maintain a nutritionally balanced natural diet.

Things to do when you visit

You only have a 200 metre walk from the car park to reach the open grassland and wonderful views laid out before you. If it's a sunny day there may be butterflies flying around the hill, how many can you spot? Take the binoculars as there are nearly always red kites not far away and while you're at it bring a kite of your own.

Watlington Hill
Watlington Hill
Watlington Hill

Planning your visit

  • Free parking is available in the National Trust car park at the top of Hill Road.

  • OS Map grid reference for parking: SU702934

  • For SatNav users, please use postcode OX49 5HS

  • Watlington Hill car park is located 1.5 miles up Hill Road from Watlington town center on the right hand side.