Great Walks in the Chiltern Hills, UK

The Hambleden Lock is on River Thames in Berkshire, England
The Hambleden Lock is on River Thames in Berkshire, England | © Dylan News Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Callum Davies
30 October 2020

Stretching across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Herefordshire and Oxfordshire, the Chiltern Hills are defined by a chalk escarpment formed millions of years ago. It was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1965 and has been a popular destination for walkers for even longer. Easily reached from London, this area of the UK offers a wide variety of different walking routes with varied and interesting scenery. Here are some of the best ones.

Hambleden Lock

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There are various places in the Chilterns where you can meet and follow the Thames, but Hambleden Lock is one of the most picturesque. Starting from the lock itself, which has stood there since the 18th century, you can take a gentle walk to Mill End, where you’ll find a mill and the remains of a Roman villa. If you’re lucky, you might spot Egyptian geese on the water and the Flower Pot pub is a great place to stop for a spot of lunch and a drink along the route.

Brush Hill Nature Reserve

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Brush Hill Nature Reserve, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, UK
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Spanning 14ha (36 acres), Brush Hill is well worth a visit if you want a walking route immersed in nature. It has been owned and operated by Chiltern Society since 2013, and contains both open fields and ancient woodland, with plenty of interesting flora and fauna to spot. You can take a 10km (6mi) circular route between Brush Hill and neighbouring Whiteleaf Hill Nature Reserve, keeping an eye out for rare birds. The route will also take you past Chequers Estate, a 16th-century stately home which has been designated as the countryside retreat for the Prime Minister.

Deacon Hill

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Another area of natural interest, Deacon Hill sits on the outskirts of Pegsdon in Bedfordshire and the surrounding 35ha (86 acres) are designated a nature reserve. At 127m (417ft), it isn’t the tallest hill, but the relative flatness of the surrounding landscape means that the views are quite expansive. The 8km (5mi) route from Pegsdon takes around two hours and offers walking through woodland as well as open fields, and the chance to spot buzzards and other birds of prey which frequent the area. Tackle the walk on a summer evening and you might even get a light show, courtesy of the local glow-worm population.

Warburg Nature Reserve

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There is an easy, 6km (3.7mi) route around this nature reserve near Henley-on-Thames, taking you through the ancient beech woodland that has become synonymous with the Chilterns. The reserve spans 107ha (264 acres), so you can easily extend your route further if the mood takes. It’s a great place to spot bluebells and wood anemones, as well as several species of rare and colourful butterflies and even stoats, badgers and lizards if you’re particularly lucky. The Five Horseshoes and Quince Tree pubs can also be worked into the route if you’re in need of a midway refuel.

Coombe Hill

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Bucks Chiltern Hills at the monument on Coombe Hill - winter sunlight - blue sky - walkers - dogs - families - enjoying view
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If you’re after some of the best views over the Aylesbury Vale, Coombe Hill is a great choice for walks. Starting from nearby Wendover, you can take a 4k (2.5mi) circular route which will lead you right to the peak of the hill, 260m (853ft) above sea level, and then back down again once you’ve taken in the scenery. There’s a war memorial at the topmost which is dedicated to 148 men who perished during the Second Boer War at the turn of the 20th century. You can also head through Wendover Woods either on the way up or down to get some more forested scenery to go with the views over the Oxford plains.

Christmas Common

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Bluebells, Christmas Common, Oxfordshire. Image shot 05/2009. Exact date unknown.
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Christmas Common is a hamlet in southeast Oxfordshire which is surrounding by rich woods and countryside, making it an ideal starting point for a Chilterns walk. Tracing the edge of the hills, you can head through Fire Wood and Queen Wood, catching spectacular vistas of the Oxford Vale along the way. It also takes you along the boundary bank, the fault line between the Watlington and Shirburn parishes. Most of the circular routes you can take here end at the Fox and Hounds pub, which with its French-style food and fireplaces, is a perfect end-of-walk destination.

These recommendations were updated on October 30, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.