This large area, north west of London, is defined on its north west by a long line of hills, none very high, stretching from Hitchin in north Hertfordshire to Goring-on-Thames in south Oxfordshire.
The area is bounded on the south by the river Thames, and a line through Hertfordshire, using parish boundaries. The countryside is renowned for its sweeping chalk grasslands and wild flowers, its magnificent beechwoods, sparkling chalk streams, deeply wooded valleys, and quiet lanes just made for walking.
Visitors can enjoy swathes of bluebells in spring or the autumn woodland colour, making a walk or drive memorable. There is wildlife in plenty, with red kites wheeling overhead in many areas, a sight to see on a windy day, and several nature reserves to visit.
There are only two towns of any great size, High Wycombe to the south and Luton to the north. Otherwise, there are many smaller towns, villages and hamlets to see, and everywhere older buildings with the local warm red brick, perhaps with flintstones embedded, an ancient building material occurring naturally, some thatch still, or slate roofs, some timbering, to offset more modern buildings.
Within the AONB, most new building is designed to harmonise with what is there already. Great houses and smaller properties are often hidden in the hills, but the National Trust list offers many open to view. Notable village churches abound, often with carvings, wall paintings or other features illustrating their age and place in the history of the area, even of the nation. Many towns have Tourist Information Offices offering special guides for the visitor.
The map below shows the Chiltern area. Each part has its special attractions and viewing points, and much to see on a walk, drive, cycle or horse ride. The pubs of the Chilterns will revive the inner person, and there are plenty of them still, offering good food, beer and wine.
Most bookshops and Tourist Information Offices stock a wide range of books and leaflets for walkers and riders, including those not so agile – or you can phone the Society office on 01494 771250, ask for our catalogue and order from there, or visit our online shop, which includes Chiltern Society Footpath Maps (see map below). The Chiltern Way books, by member Nick Moon, are especially helpful, as are the various Pub Walks series.
Come and visit the Chilterns – they're closer than you think!
To print out the map below, click here to load it into a new window in your browser, then select 'print' in your software.
Hear what makes the Chilterns so special
To find out what makes the Chilterns so special, listen to an edition of BBC Radio 4's Open Country, when they visited the Chilterns. The programme is just under 28 minutes. Click this link to hear to the broadcast.