Walk in the steps of history giants at Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire

Walking trail

This National Trust walk begins and ends with elevated views from Dunstable Downs. Find out how people in prehistoric times, right up to the recent past, lived in this unique landscape. Visit the Armada fire beacon, Pre-historic mounds and site of the Admiralty Signal station.

Suitable for active families.

Map

Route map for walk in the steps of history giants walk

Start:

Chilterns Gateway Centre, Dunstable Downs, grid ref: TL008193

1

The first section of the walk is on an easy path with a hard, smooth surface, suitable for both wheelchairs and buggies. If you are unable to continue when you reach the end of this easy path, you can see the remaining features of interest from points along the path.

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2

Set off down the path towards the windcatcher, turn right and follow the path until you reach the exisiting beacon. The Armada fire beacon was close to this spot.

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The Windcatcher on Dunstable Downs provides ventilation for the visitor centre.

3

As you continue along the path you will be walking along the route of the Ickneild Way, thought to be the oldest road in Britain.

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Section of the Icknield way

4

Further along the path you will pass close by a variety of humps, bumps and hollows. These date back from pre-history to more recent times. Some are remnants of the golf course when it was on both sides of the road, some from old quarrying sites while some are of unknown origin.

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5

When you reach a fork in the path take the left-hand branch. Pause here to look down the slope to where, many years ago, Orange Rolling took place. To find out more about this event visit our website at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunstable-downs-and-whipsnade-estate/features/orange-rolling. Also, at the bottom of this hill, there used to be a rifle range from the 1860s. For more information on this - https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunstable-downs-and-whipsnade-estate/features/rifle-range. If you leave the path here and take a short detour to your left, you will find two pillow mounds.

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

6

Carry on walking until you reach the end of the easy path, Five Knolls is on your left.

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7

Head down the slope to the road and carefully cross the B489/Tring Road and go slightly to the right into Green Lane, also known as the Drovers Way. The walk can again be shortened here by turning left before reaching the road onto the path that follows the bottom of the Downs. If continuing along the orignal trail continue along Green Lane.

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Image of Drovers Way Dunstable on the Walk in the Steps of History Giants walk

8

When you reach the second crossroads on the track, turn left onto the Houghton Green Highway, a track leading you south-eastwards towards the village of Totternhoe. On reaching Dunstable Road, cross the road, turn left and walk a short way passing some houses and turn right onto a track. Keeping the hedge on your left follow the track as it curves to the right then passes through an allotment area. You are now on the edge of the village of Totternhoe.

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Totternhoe Knolls near to the Walking in the steps of History Giants walk

9

Continue following the bridleway and turn left into Wellhead Road. Follow this road with care as it lacks a separate paved path in places.

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10

Well Head road leads you towards the Tring road. Cross the road with care and follow the bridleway opposite towards the Downs. On your right you will see the London Gliding Club.

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An aerial view of the London Gliding Club

11

At the end of the bridleway, pass through a gate onto the Downs, turn right and follow the footpath at the bottom of the slope through a fence until a track is reached on the left. Follow this track up the slope to the top then head back to the beacon from where you will see the visaitor centre. Alternatively at the end of the bridleway, turn right and follow the path at the bottom of the Downs until you reach the B4540, turn left and follow the bridleway up the hill until you see a path until your see a path to the left. Turn left onto this path and follow along untill you reach the Chilterns Gateway Centre.

End:

Chilterns Gateway Centre, Dunstable Downs, grid ref: TL008193

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Walk in the steps of history giants at Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire

Terrain

This trail begins with an easily accessible surfaced path with gentle slopes. The walk then includes grassy, undulating terrain as well as stone tracks and concrete surfaces. There are also some moderate slopes and a steep gradient towards the end of the walk. Whilst there are opportunities to shorten the walk, the full route crosses the busy B489 Tring road and care is needed while crossing. The grassy parts of the walk may be wet or muddy, so sturdy footwear is essential. Please keep dogs under close control.

Walk in the steps of history giants at Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire

Contact us

Walk in the steps of history giants at Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire

How to get here

Address
Chilterns Gateway centre, Dunstable Road, Whipsnade, Dunstable, Beds, LU6 2GY
By train

Luton, 7 miles (11km). From here, take 61 bus (see By bus)

By road

On B4541 between Dunstable and Whipsnade

By foot

Footpaths from West Street and Tring Road, Dunstable

By bus

Arriva 60 from Luton, Centrebus 327 from Hemel Hempstead railway station and Red Rose 343 from St Albans railway station, all Sundays only; otherwise Arriva 61 Aylesbury to Luton railway station to within 1.5 miles

By bicycle

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

Walk in the steps of history giants at Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire

Facilities and access

  • Parking : National Trust car park (£3.50 per day) closes 6pm in summer and 4pm in winter
  • WCs, café & gift shop open daily 9am - 5pm (10am - 4pm in winter), closed on 24 & 25 Dec)