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Visiting Coombe Hill in the Chilterns Countryside

The leafy green view of Beacon Hill from Coombe Hill, showing the distinctive white chalk line
Beacon Hill as seen from Coombe Hill in the Chilterns | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

At 852 feet above sea level, Coombe Hill is the highest point in the Chiltern Hills. With extensive views over the Aylesbury Vale, on a clear day you can also see all the way to the Cotswolds. Coombe Hill is a great spot to look out for wildlife, and the play trail makes it a fun place to visit with family and friends. Look out for the anthills as you explore.

Exploring Coombe Hill

The viewpoint on the hill is marked with a monument (not National Trust) dedicated to the men of Buckinghamshire who gave their lives in the Boer War.

Coombe Hill is a designated SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) for its chalk grassland and acid heathland. The diverse habitat is home to over 30 species of wildflower and 28 species of butterfly. Notable plants include rock rose and the butterflies include small heath, meadow brown, ringlet and common blue varieties.

Family fun at Coombe Hill

The natural play trail at Coombe Hill is great for children to explore and to let off some steam, and there’s a picnic area near the car park too.

Walking at Coombe Hill

As an introduction to the area, there’s an accessible 1 mile route that takes in the most interesting features of Coombe Hill. There are also longer, more challenging walks that take you through neighbouring countryside.

A series of ant hills in grassland at Coombe Hill
Ant hills at Coombe Hill | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

Ant hills at Coombe Hill

The large round mounds you’re sure to see are evidence of tiny yellow meadow ants (lasius flavus) left over many decades. Each ant hill is made up of earthy mounds, covered in vegetation, that reach up to 50cm above the chalk rock beneath.

The ant nests create different micro-sites within the grassland ecosystem, each with small differences in soil nutrients, temperature, humidity, drainage and sunlight. This allows a much greater range of grasses, herbs and other flowering plants to thrive.

Helping the butterflies

At Coombe Hill, the yellow meadow ants have a special relationship with the caterpillars of chalkhill blue butterflies. The ants are partial to the substances secreted by the butterfly’s caterpillars, so the worker ants carefully bury the butterfly larvae, and in doing so they unintentionally protect them from predators.

Close-up of red kite in fight over Watlington Hill
Red kite in flight | © National Trust Images / Hugh Mothersole

Birdwatching at Coombe Hill

Bring your binoculars and find a comfy spot to search for these notable birds.

Red kite

Red kites have a reddish-brown body, angled wings and deeply forked tail. Coombe Hill is of the best places to see red kites in the area. Please don’t feed them.

Green woodpecker

If you hear a strange, almost eerie laughing call in an area of woodland or grassland, the chances are you are hearing a green woodpecker. They spend most of their time feeding on the ground and are frequently seen at Coombe Hill feeding on ants, their favourite delicacy.


These are often seen soaring with red kites. They can be seen gliding over wooded hillsides in fine weather or perched on dead trees or fence posts. Buzzards are slightly smaller than kites and have broad, rounded wings, and a short neck and tail.

Low Scrubs

The ancient and mysterious woodland of Low Scrubs was, for many centuries, common land where local villagers managed the beech trees to extract wood for fuel. You’ll find it by following the signed path at the righthand side of the car park entrance. It’s a great starting place for a circular walk through Linton’s Wood, along the Ridgeway and back to Coombe Hill.

Autumn at Coombe Hill

For the best autumn colours at Coombe Hill, visit the beech woodlands at nearby Low Scrubs, or look out for brightly coloured dogwood.

Track through gates at Bradenham Estate during the summer

Discover more in the Chilterns Countryside

Find out how to get to the Chilterns countryside sites, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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Discover the countryside sites of the Chilterns. Find the best viewpoints, walk through ancient woodland or pick a quiet spot to watch for wildlife.

Path leading to the Boer War memorial at Coombe Hill, against a blue sky

History of the Chilterns Countryside 

The countryside of the Chiltern Hills is steeped in history. Explore the past of some of our sites, from royal visits to ancient hillforts.