I'm going to level with you here: until today, if you'd asked me to make a list of my least favourite words, then 'Dunstable' and 'down' would have been on that list. Why? Well, Dunstable and I fell out with each other some years ago (for relatively trivial work-related reasons that I won't go into), and down is not the cheeriest word in the English language.
As a result of this, I've probably been avoiding Dunstable Downs, or Dunstable Downs and Whipsnade Estate to give the place its full title. But I got out of the car in Bedfordshire today and the view literally took my breath away - it was not what I was expecting at all. I was genuinely astonished by it.
In fact, I was so taken aback by the spectacular views that I failed to take a picture of the bumps that cover the Neolithic burial grounds. Dunstable Downs has seven round 'barrows', which are believed to be the resting places of kings or chiefs. Over 90 skeletons from various periods have been found - in Saxon times about 30 bodies were buried with their hands tied behind their backs, which doesn't sound very hopeful.
But if walking on 5000-year-old burial grounds isn't your thing, then extra entertainment is provided by the London Gliding Club, which is based at the foot of the downs. Gliders and hang gliders come in and out of view, while kite flying is also very popular.
The Dunstable Downs Scone
I had originally planned to visit Dunstable Downs in 2020. My friend Justine had agreed to bring her talented young baker daughter along so I could get her expert opinion on the scones. That was postponed, however, for yet more trivial work-related reasons. Young Evie takes after her mother, in that if you don't get in her diary early enough then you will struggle, as she is much in demand. So it was just me, Justine, and Evie's notes on her 2020 scone that made it to Dunstable Downs today.
The lovely modern cafeteria in the visitor's centre at DD gives you the opportunity to 'eat the scone' and 'see the place' at the same time, which I always love:
I was worried that the good weather may have caused a scone-buying frenzy and we'd be left empty-handed. But there were plenty of plain and fruit scones to be had. We did have a minor scare that there was no clotted cream but that turned out to be a false alarm, although the cream we did get was completely frozen and we had to thaw it out a bit.
My plain scone was absolutely first-rate - large, fresh, crumbly and tasty. The fruit scone was a bit smaller but also tasty, according to Justine:
Our experience corroborated Evie's earlier review, which means that Dunstable Downs is consistent. Evie's detailed notes confirm that:
- Scone does not come with cream and jam as standard
- The outside of scone has a well-baked crust
- For the size of the scone it could have more raisins
- Very generous size
- The inside of the scone was nice and sweet
I'm not going to worry too much about the fact that Evie's review is way better than any of my reviews. I see it as an investment - in about 30 years' time she might repeat this National Trust Scone Quest exercise and write blog posts that keep me entertained in my nursing home.
So I highly recommend Dunstable Downs - for scones, tea and spectacular views.
Dunstable Downs: 5 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Added bonus of aircraft watching: 5 out of 5