Outdoor Space

The Chilterns AONB

The incredible Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) covers a vast 324 square miles. Stretching from the River Thames in southern Oxfordshire through Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire to Hitchin in Hertfordshire, it comprises some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a dynamic area of countryside and woodland that has been shaped by working hands for centuries. Based on a chalk escarpment and the gentle cant of a natural “dip-slope”, the landscapes here are characterised by falling valleys, steep ridges, broadleaved woodland and velvety chalk downland which all make for truly breath-taking settings. Two-thirds covered by farmland and one-fifth covered by thick woodland, there is nowhere better for bucolic escapes.  

Peppered with attractive villages home to cute brick and flint cottages, the Chilterns have been both home and sanctuary for many famous names over the centuries. From prestigious artists and poets to world-famous politicians and royalty, just some of the well-known faces to have fallen for this Area of Natural Outstanding Beauty include Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth I, Charles de Gaulle, Enid Blyton and Rupert Brooke. It is even said that in the market town of Hitchin, a young King Henry VIII tried to pole vault across the River Hiz!

If you would like to retrace some of these famous footsteps, there is certainly no shortage of opportunities for exploration. For walkers and cyclists, the quiet valleys etched with sparkling chalk streams, beautiful beechwood forests and sprawling downs provide a wealth of footpaths and trails. Ranging from 1-mile strolls to day-long hikes along the two National Trails the Ridgeway and the Thames Path, there is a trail to suit everyone. A particular favourite, a walk up Coombe Hill rewards walkers with spectacular panoramas from the highest viewpoint in the Chilterns.

For something a little different, you can discover the interactive sculptures along the Talking Trail at Aston Rowant Reserve, or go back in time with a trip to the royal remains of Berkhamsted Castle and Wallingford Castle. Chiltern Open Air Museum is a must for history-lovers, while the Roald Dahl Museum in Green Missenden will be a treat for literary lovers both young and old. To really burn off energy, take to two wheels along the Chilterns Cycleway or scale the trees at Wendover Wood’s Go Ape High Wire Adventure.

As you explore, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife who also makes themselves at home amongst the Chilterns’ countryside too. If you decide to walk up Coombe Hill, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, you’ll notice large bumps on the steep, west-facing slope. These are actually amazing ants nest built be yellow meadow ants! Elsewhere, a kaleidoscope of butterflies populate the area’s wildflower meadows, while Watlington Hill  is one of the best places in the Chilterns for spotting red kites.

Whether you are looking for a relaxing weekend break hopping from country pub to country pub, a week-long country escape far from the noise of city life or a fortnight of Chilterns bliss, a holiday here will leave you refreshed, revived and ready for more.

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