The Chilterns AONB

Fingest Valley, The Chilterns - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Bucks
Fingest Valley, The Chilterns AONB - ©

The Chilterns – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located in south east England in the counties of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire. Designated a AONB back in 1965, the AONB covers 324 square miles of scenic English countryside located from the River Thames in Oxfordshire across Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire up to Hitchin in Hertfordshire. The area is known for being home to some of the finest landscapes in England landscape, the area is both a living and working area of countryside, farmland accounts for close to two thirds of the AONB whilst woodland accounts for one fifth the area.

There are a number of scenic villages located in the AONB known for their cottages located in quiet valleys. The area is important for local wildlife, visitors can see red kites in the mid and southern Chilterns. The site is important for nature conservation and is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

The area is popular for horse riding, wildlife viewing, boating, mountain biking, gliding, adventure activities, day trippers and walkers and cyclists with a number of routes to explore. Visitors can enjoy the unspoilt natural scenery, landscapes and tranquilly experiencing the best in the great outdoors.


The Chilterns AONB are located in south east England across four counties. The area offers visitors a scenic landscape providing a haven for visitors in the built up south east region of England. The area covered under the AONB covers the vast majority of the Chiltern Hills, the location means the AONB is easily assessable from southern England, the Midlands and is approx 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes from London, taking it assessable as a day trip destination from London and much of southern England and the Midlands. The area offers a scenic natural attraction showcasing the famous hills that includes some of the finest elements of the English landscape and countryside.

The area provides a place here visitors can enjoy open spaces in the great outdoors relatively close by to a number of built up urban areas with large towns and cities, ensuring the importance of the AONB. The Chilterns Conservation Board is an independent statutory authority charged with conserving, maintaining, enhancing and improving the area. The area is noted for its hills, a chalk escarpment where the chalk rock underlying the Chilterns provides hillsides of velvety chalk downland. The area is home to a number of charming villages known for the brick and flint cottages and historic market towns.

The special qualities relating to the areas landscape, cultural heritage, range of habitats and nature conservation make the Chilterns AONB a special place. The local economy includes farming, forestry, agriculture and horticulture in addition to tourism.

Local accommodation includes a mix of historic and contemporary hotels, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses and charming cottages, there is accommodation available in the nearby towns of Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, Hitchin in Hertfordshire, Marlow in Buckinghamshire and Tring in Hertfordshire all of which are located close by to the area of the AONB.

Visitor attractions in the area include Hughenden Manor; the country home of former prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. Located in High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, the impressive manor has plenty of charm, heritage and history for visitors to explore. There are guided tours available where visitors can learn more about the fascinating history of the manor and its famous occupants. Inside the house rooms of not include the drawing room and the library, the scenic gardens provide a great opportunity to enjoy a stroll in scenic surroundings whilst the surrounding woodland and parkland offer the chance to enjoy woodland walks, see the summer orchids and see the local wildlife.

Stonor Park is located a few miles from Henley-on-Thames in the AONB. The historic manor house includes scenic gardens, it is a popular heritage attraction that retains its charm and elegance. Dating back to the 12th century the house is well know or its impressive collections of ceramics, bronzes, tapestries and portraits. The impressive art collection includes family portraits from the 16th to the 20th centuries and includes a range of drawings, pictures and sculptures. The Chapel is one of the best recognised buildings at Stonor, dating back to the 13th century it is built of flint and stone, mass has been celebrated for many years at the Chapel and is still done so today. Stonor includes a range of wildlife including red kites, owls, woodpeckers and buzzards.

Chiltern Open Air Museum is located in Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire located approx 11 miles from High Wycombe. The open air museum has been established since 1981 and includes an impressive collection of historic buildings, a traditional working farm, living history events and workshops. Visitors can explore the historic buildings that include traditional houses, barns and farm houses and learn more about Tudor and Victorian life. There are a number of events that are held here with historic battles and living history events brought to life, they provide a fun and educational way of learning more. There is a tea room where visitors can enjoy tea, cakes, pies, hot meals and more using locally sourced ingredients.

TheZSL Whipsnade Zoo is located in Dunstable in Bedfordshire in the east of the AONB. The zoo is among the largest in the UK, featuring in excess of 2,500 animals. The zoo is one of the largest wildlife conversation parks in Europe, located in excess of 600 acres of scenic Bedfordshire parkland. The zoo is home to over 200 species of animals, including rhinos, zebras, lions, giraffes, tigers, hippos, chimpanzees, penguins and many more. The zoo hosts a number of events throughout the year with workshops and talks, visitors can also see feeding of the animals and learn more them with the informative talks. The zoo has established itself at the forefront of animal conversation. There are a range of eateries at the zoo, serving a choice of hot and cold food, snacks and drinks.

Nature Reserves are located in the area, including the Warburg Nature Reserve located in the Chiltern Hills, a few miles from Henley-on-Thames. Known for its remote, wild tranquillity, visitors can see woodlands in the valleys along with grasslands at the bottom of the valley. There is a visitor centre and picnic area on site, the area is known for its range of habitats where a wide range of species reside. Visitors can see bluebells and wood anemones in the spring with pyramidal orchid and aromatic wild marjoram and thyme in the summer. In addition the reserve is famous for its orchids and includes a number f seasonal guided walks where visitors can learn more about the area.

Local Villages include Hambledon in Buckinghamshire, located a few miles west of Marlow, the village includes a number of charming historic cottages. Local attractions include St Mary's Church that dates back to the 14th century, whilst the village post office also houses a shop and cafe. The village of Bradenham dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, located in Buckinghamshire a few miles north of High Wycombe, the village is located in a broad valley among the surrounding Chiltern Hills. The scenic village includes a village green with cottages located around it, historic buildings include the 17th century manor house, Bradenham Manor is known for its gardens and red bricks.

Market Towns are located close by to the AONB, Henley-on-Thames is located on the River Thames, the town provides a gateway to the Chilterns and is famous for the being synonymous with rowing hosting the Henley's Royal Regatta and Festival of Music and Arts. The town has a choice of restaurants, eateries, shops and local amenities. Visitors can enjoy a number of riverside walks in the affluent town.

Marlow in Buckinghamshire is conveniently located for exploring the Chilterns, historically a favourite destination of the Edwardians who enjoyed both the scenic Chilterns and the River Thames. The town retains its charm and elegance and includes a number of historic Georgian buildings, there are a choice of restaurants, cafes and shops for visitors to explore.

Tring is located in Hertfordshire in the north of the Chilterns. The town includes a number of historic and distinctive buildings including those attributed to the Rothschild family. The town centre includes a number of cafes, restaurants and independent shops. The grounds of Tring Park include a fine place to enjoy a number of walks, incorporating parts of the Ridgeway National Trail and the Grand Union Canal. The town is located close by to a number of local nature reserves.

Boating is popular in the Chilterns, visitors can enjoy a relaxing cruise on the River Thames or the Grand Union Canal. There are a choice of cruises available from a number of providers, visitors ca enjoy lunch or dinner on cruises whilst relaxing and seeing the sights. For those that like to be more hands on, there are a range of boats available for hire from rowing boats, canal boats and traditional boats with captains visitors can see the sights, sounds and attractions of the Chilterns up close.

Adventure Activities are popular in the Chilterns, visitors can go to Go Ape and experience tree top adventures with high wires, rope crossings, swings, segways and much more, perfect for those that like to live in the fast lane. Horse Riding is a popular activity in the area, the Red Barn Horse riding School in Marlow offers horse riding lessons and holiday activities.

Guided Walks & Activities are available throughout the year including a number of guided walks and a range of activities appealing to a range of interests. The activities and walks offer visitors the opportunity to learn more about the AONB in an informal environment. There are several popular walks in the area for visitors to try, these include The Ridgeway National Trail, The Chiltern Way and the Thames Path National Trail.

Cycling is a great way to explore the Chilterns in an environmentally friendly way, get fit and see the attractions and places of interest, landscapes and wildlife up close. There are a choice of cycle routes in the area, the Chilterns Cycleway is a circular cycle route that is over 170 miles long that goes across some of the finest landscapes in the area. The route is sigh posted offering some great views and the chance to visit National Trust properties, charming market towns and villages and enjoy a choice of local food and drinks in a choice of traditional country pubs.

Visitors can enjoy a trip to the Chilterns AONB; the area offers a scenic haven with open spaces, a scenic landscape, charming villages and towns and tranquil location. The area provides a great place to relax and get away from it all and enjoy the great outdoors and a range of outdoor pursuits.

How to Get There

The Chilterns are accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

The own of Henley-on-Thames is located next to the AONB, Henley-on-Thames is located approx 37 miles from central London. From London, take the A4 then the M4 then the A404(M) then the A4130 that goes to Henley-on-Thames. The approx journey time is 1 hour depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

The train station at Henley-on-Thames has regular services with London Paddington station, the journey time is approx 1 hour.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular buses available from London Victoria Coach station to High Wycombe via Hemel Hempstead. The approx journey times are 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours. Coach services to High Wycombe via Hemel Hempstead are provided by services are provided by National Express.

Contact Details

The Chilterns AONB
Conservation Board Office
The Lodge
90 Station Road
OX39 4HA

Telephone: +44 (0)1844 355500

Website: The Chilterns AONB


For Local Search and Directions see: The Chilterns (AONB) Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to the Chilterns ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the AONB, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

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