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Dunstable Downs, Chilterns Gateway Centre and Whipsnade Estate

If the number of kites flying is any indication, Dunstable Downs offers windy walks and wildlife in all seasons. Gliders soar over the glorious landscape and ancient monuments abound on these ancient chalk hills.

The Dunstable Downs and Whipsnade Estate is a 206 hectare (510 acre) area of unspoilt natural beauty and an area of Special Scientific Interest. The aptly named Chilterns Gateway Centre is a good starting point for visitors, right on top of Dunstable Downs with car parking, route-panning maps, local publications and the obligatory kites. The trig point is just a few steps from the car park and all walks start with an easy descent.

Those wanting to climb the hill from the base should start the circular walk in the village of Whipsnade and follow the Icknield Way and the Chiltern Way, shown on local Ordnance Survey maps. The walk can be extended with a detour to the northern peak of Five Knolls.

This National Trust managed area is prime walking country with panoramic views over the Vale of Aylesbury and along the Chiltern Ridge. The Five Knolls Bronze Age Burial Mounds and Norman Rabbit Warren are of particular interest. The London Gliding Club has its base on the Downs; the area is very popular with gliders, hang gliders and paragliders.

From the B489 Aylesbury to Dunstable road, a white lion can be seen cut into the white chalk hills. This was commissioned by Whipsnade Zoo which is nearby. More natural wildlife can be enjoyed as the chalk downs offer the ideal habitat for rare wild flowers such as the Bee Orchid and pretty butterflies including the Chalkhill Blue and the Marbled White.

Although most of the Dunstable Downs are under National Trust management, the adjoining ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is owned by the Zoological Society of London and is home to 6,000 animals in its 600 acres of parkland.

The Dunstable Downs consist of a chalk escarpment which marks the highest point in Bedfordshire at 243m (797 feet) above sea level. This attribute led to a station on the shutter telegraph chain being built and operated here from 1808 to 1814. This primitive method of communication kept lines open between the Admiralty in London and the naval ships moored in Great Yarmouth.

The National Trust organizes a programme of events throughout the year on Dunstable Downs. There is a monthly famers' market and an annual kite-flying festival as well as regular guided walks. It also runs a Gift Shop and an excellent café at the Chilterns Gateway Centre which serves local foods such as the "Bedfordshire Clanger", an all-in-one suet pastry with meat at one end and jam at the other.

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Bus Services:
Arriva 60 from Luton, Centrebus 327 from Hemel Hempstead and Red Rose 343 from St Albans , all Sundays only; otherwise Arriva 61 Aylesbury£Luton to within 1¬½ miles

Bridleway from West Street, Dunstable, and Whipsnade View local cycle routes on the National Cycle Network website.

By Road:
On B4541 west of Dunstable. Sat Nav: use LU6 2GY (or LU6 2TA for older equipment).

By Train:
Luton 7 miles. Luton Airport Parkway 7 miles.

On Foot:
From West Street and Tring Road, Dunstable.

Ordnance survey reference:

Dunstable Downs, Chilterns Gateway Centre and Whipsnade Estate Postcode for SatNav: LU6 2GY


+44 (0)1582 500 920
+44 (0)1582 500 935

Dunstable Road

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