Totternhoe to the foot of the Downs, Chilterns

A mainly level walk through open farmland to the foot of the Dunstable Downs, with a gentle climb to pick up the Icknield and Chiltern Ways. Great views over the Bedfordshire plain and Ivinghoe Beacon.

Technical sheet No. 29137701

A Totternhoe walk posted on 04/12/22 by Chiltern Society. Last update : 07/12/22
Calculated time Calculated time: 3h00[?]
Distance Distance : 9.57 km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 79 m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 74 m
Highest point Highest point : 184 m
Lowest point Lowest point : 99 m
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Chiltern Hills
Location Location : Totternhoe
Starting point Starting point : N 51.886782° / W 0.57754°
… Today's forecast : Loading…

Download :


Start: Cross Keys pub, Castle Hill Road, Totternhoe (LU6 2DA). Grid ref SP 979 219

(D/A) From the pub car park, turn left along Castle Hill Road for 70m to Chapel Lane. Turn left down the lane for 200m.

(1) Just short of Lane Farm and the duck pond, you will see a stile and path off to the right. Take this path half left through Old Apple Tree Orchard to a footbridge, with two stiles across the stream. Cross the bridge and continue with the hedge on your left to a stile. Go over and continue with the hedge now on your right to cross another stile onto a track. Follow the track for 75m to a path crossroads and go ahead through a gate to continue on the track for 200m to some large farm buildings.

(2) At the farm buildings, turn left along the track (Dyers Lane). As you follow this track there are good views ahead of Dunstable Downs, including the chalk lion at Whipsnade Zoo, Ivinghoe Beacon to the right and Totternhoe Knolls to the left. Follow the track for 1.4km, ignoring several paths to left and right, to the junction with Dunstable Road.

Cross the road and carry straight on down Doolittle Lane to Doolittle Mill (A).

(3) Just before the mill, turn left along a wide but sometimes muddy bridleway for 900m to pass through a bridleway gate onto Well Head Road.

(4) Turn right along the road for 150m to the junction with the B489. Cross with great care and take the bridleway track to the left of the entrance to London Gliding Club. Continue between high hedges for 650m to go through a gate at the foot of Dunstable Downs.

(5) Turn left and follow the path beside the fence, keeping to the left of paths that lead up to the top of the ridge, eventually ascending a short steep slope around the left-side of the hill top.

Look back for views of the Gliding Club, Totternhoe, Leighton Buzzard in the distance and Dunstable Downs towering to the right.

The path narrows behind some back gardens then opens out to a wide open, grassy slope. Follow the left-hand hedge down to the main road, the B489. Cross it at the pedestrian/horse traffic lights.

(6) Turn right as far as the roundabout, then left down the slope to the Green Lane byway. Follow the gravel path, with a housing estate on your right (B). After 1.2km you reach a crossroads by a carved wooden seat and large illustrations of local butterflies. Continue straight on along the byway for 800m, passing Maiden Bower ancient settlement on the right (C).

(7) Follow the main track as it turns left at a waymark post ignoring the path straight on. After 150m bear right to follow a track which climbs gently along the side of a disused quarry and ancient chalk workings (D). On a clear day you will have views of Ivinghoe Beacon to the South and the Bedfordshire plain to the North.

Continue downhill across an offset crossroad. Continue for a further 100m across a further path crossroads to where a path joins from the left (from the National Trust Car Park).

(8) Follow the track round to the right and climb uphill, passing a bridleway on your left just before a metal barrier. Continue for a further 400m and look for a footpath on the left going steeply downhill into a wood.

(9) Take the path downhill into the trees - there is a waymark post in the undergrowth. The path drops steeply, over a number of tree roots, to Castle Hill Road. Cross over and turn right to finish the walk and enjoy a well-earned drink at the pub. (D/A)

We hope you have enjoyed your walk. Please remember to rate the walk and add comments. We are interested in how we could improve the instructions or the route and would like to hear about any issues with paths on the walk.

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 122 m - Cross Keys pub
1 : km 0.27 - alt. 102 m - Orchard
2 : km 1.1 - alt. 103 m - Dyers Lane - Doolittle Mill
3 : km 3.09 - alt. 112 m - Doolittle Mill
4 : km 4 - alt. 126 m - Well Head road
5 : km 4.77 - alt. 159 m - Dunstable Downs
6 : km 6.09 - alt. 169 m - Green Lane - Dunstable weather station
7 : km 8 - alt. 143 m - Bend left - Totternhoe Quarry
8 : km 8.88 - alt. 136 m - Bend right
9 : km 9.26 - alt. 136 m - Steep downhill path
D/A : km 9.56 - alt. 120 m - Cross Keys pub

Useful Information

Start & finish: Cross Keys pub, Castle Hill Road, Totternhoe (LU6 2DA). Grid ref SP 979 219

Parking: Available at the Cross Keys – please contact the landlord on 01525 220424. Alternatively go to the NT Totternhoe Knolls car park off Castle Hill Road, Grid ref SP 986 217. A path through a metal kissing gate from the car park is the path from the left mentioned just before Waypoint 9.

Local transport: Bus Stops at the Cross keys for services 61, 61A and 43 link to Aylesbury, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard. Check timetables for up to date times.

Terrain: Field footpaths and tracks which can be muddy and uneven. Five stiles, no steep hills. Total ascent 135m

Food & drink: Curiositea Rooms, London Gliding Club. A short walk from where the route crosses the B489.

This walk was created for the book "50 Great Walks in the Chilterns" available from the Chiltern Society or from Amazon.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

(A) Doolittle Mill was one of the country’s few combined water and wind powered mills. Each part worked independently of the other. The oldest parts of the current buildings probably date from the 18th century and are Grade II listed. There is evidence to suggest that it replaced two earlier mills known as the Horsham Mills.

(B): Dunstable weather station: To the right of Green Lane is the Weatherby housing estate. In World War II the fields off Drovers Way were the site of a Meteorological Office weather station. In 1940 weather forecasting operations were moved from Kingsway in London to avoid the bombing. Its most important job was to provide the Government with weather forecasts for military operations. It was forecasters at Dunstable who predicted the massive storm in the English Channel that led General Eisenhower to delay the D-Day landings. The site closed in 1961.

(C) Maiden Bower hillfort: Archaeological investigations suggest that this site may have been a Neolithic causewayed enclosure which could date back 5,000 years. These enclosures usually took the form of a roughly circular area enclosed by ditches. The remains of a 2,000 year old Iron Age hillfort are visible today. Maiden Bower is a protected ancient monument.

(D) Totternhoe Quarry: The main product of the quarry was Totternhoe stone, a type of fine-grained limestone sometimes called clunch. The site probably dates from the 12th century, although stone may have been excavated for use in the nearby Roman villa. It was found to be particularly good for carving and was used at Windsor Castle and St Albans Abbey. Eaton Bray church has fine carvings in this local stone.

(F) Totternhoe knolls: around the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle is a particularly fine example of chalk downland. Within it are three Sites of Special Scientific Interest and it’s also a Local Nature Reserve. The downland supports such plants as adder's-tongue fern, autumn gentian, fragrant orchid, restharrow, common spotted orchid, cowslip, twayblade, and yellow rattle.

To visit the knolls, continue on the main track and turn left in about 300m to reach the castle mound

Other walks in the area

For more walks, use our search engine.

The GPS track and description are the property of the author.