Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife and heritage walk, Bedfordshire

Walking trail

Walk with the National Trust on the downs on this all-weather pathway. 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. Ideal for families.


This is a great walk to do on wheels, with a series of numbered and lettered posts marking the route. Suitable for buggies, motorised scooters and wheelchairs.


Route map for Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife walk


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.

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A view of the Dunstable Downs Visitor Centre


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.


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.

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Section of the Icknield way


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.

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A Red Kite over Dunstable Downs


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.

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An Image of Quaking Grass which can grow to 20cms tall.


Keep walking along the footpath towards Pascombe Hill.

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A view of Pascombe Hill on the Dunstable Downs Five Knolls walk


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.

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Walker at Dunstable Downs near Five Knolls


Turn round and walk back along the footpath you've followed, all the way back to the Chilterns Gateway Centre. When you arrive back you must be due a large cup of coffee and something to eat.


Chilterns Gateway Centre café, grid ref: TL008195

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Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife and heritage walk, Bedfordshire


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.

Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife and heritage walk, Bedfordshire

Contact us

Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife and heritage walk, Bedfordshire

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

Centrebus runs a service from Dunstable to St Albans, via Dunstable Downs, Mondays to Saturdays (number 34 and 35). There is no service on Sundays or Bank Holidays. Please check bus services with Centrebus before travelling.

By bicycle

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

Dunstable Downs Five Knolls wildlife and heritage walk, Bedfordshire

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)