Taking just 40 minutes by train from central London, you’ll find burrowed in the Chiltern hills a picturesque countryside town called Tring, boasting easy access to some of the most beautiful walking trails, cycling routes and waterways. Not forgetting the quaint Victorian high street as well as the Natural History Museum, this town does not fail to take you back in time, offering the perfect escape from the bustling city of London.
Part of the Ashridge Estate, the Pitstone Windmill is a rare and extraordinary survivor of some of the oldest post mills in England. It was used to mill grain into flour for the local community for around 300 years until it was damaged beyond repair in a brutal storm in the early 1900s.
Donated to the National Trust in 1937, it was rebuilt by a group of dedicated volunteers. Following its repair, the surviving windmill was able to grind corn in 1970. Despite being able to work, the sails are inactive today as they cause extreme shaking.
Nowadays, this historical windmill can be explored on the inside and outside, while being surrounded by some breathtakingly vast countryside fields.
Originally built to assist the canal system, the reservoirs have become one of the best spots for birdwatching in South England. From the multiple bird hides dotted around, you’ll be able to spot Great Crested Grebes, swans and herons, while in the winter you might spot many species of ducks and a huge gull roost.
As the reservoirs are also commercial fisheries famous for monster tench, you’ll definitely spot someone fishing with all their gear out, and maybe even a tent!
Both Ivinghoe Beacon and Pitstone Hills fall under Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) due to their rich biodiversity. Part of the wider Ashridge estate, Ivinghoe Beacon was used as a filming location for Harry Potter and Star Wars, offering spectacular views of the countryside.
Make sure to spot the legendary chalk lion at Dunstable Downs. Created in 1933, it marks the location of Whipsnade Wildlife Park and being 147 meters long makes it the largest chalk drawing in England.
Ivinghoe Beacon offers a rare chalk habitat to explore. The beacon itself and the surrounding hills make up one of the most biologically rich areas of chalk grassland in the Chilterns. Due to the chalk grassland, the area features many rare and unique plants and animals that thrive within the biodiverse space. Keep an eye out for insects like yellow meadow ants and phantom hoverflies as well as plants like pasqueflower and greater pignut during your exploring!
Selected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, it spans over 264 acres and contains an array of habitats from unimproved chalk grassland, scrub, parkland and mixed woodland. The park’s lime avenues and grassland are managed by the Woodland Trust who also work to preserve the woodland and regeneration of native trees.
Look out for red kites and long-eared owls during your exploring!
Cafes, Restaurants & Markets
When you’re feeling peckish, explore Tring’s quaint high street for some cosy cafes and rustic restaurants to refuel after those long walks.
Black Goo: With instagrammable aesthetics inside and out, Black Goo is the perfect spot for a pick me up coffee, panini and a (huge) slice of cake to keep you fueled for the day.
The Akeman: A pub, restaurant and café rolled into one with outdoor seating – The Akeman offers an extensive menu to suit most dietary requirements.
If you’re visiting on a Saturday, you might be lucky if it’s the 2nd or 4th Saturday of the month as that’s when Tring’s farmer’s markets are held. They are held from 9-12.30pm at The Market Place on Brook Street. Prepare for a wholesome experience where you can stock up on homemade chutneys and jams, freshly grown fruit and vegetables, freshly baked breads and some souvenirs to take home as a memory!
Natural History Museum
For a change from the greenery, pop in to the Natural History Museum located close to Tring Park. An educational stuffed animal museum offering innovative ways to discover the natural world for your kids as well as brimming with a world of history for you to explore, this museum began as a private collection of the 2nd Baron Rothschild, Lionel Walter Rothchild and was eventually opened to the public in 1892. Starting with zebras, he brought back many animals from his expeditions all around the world.
Today, the museum holds over 4000 specimens of stuffed animals, ranging from polar bears, insects, sharks and prehistoric sloths. A lot less busier than London’s Natural History Museum, Tring’s Museum holds six main galleries spanning over four floors with very impressive exhibitions.
Just a few steps from Tring’s high street is the memorial garden, named one of Hertfordshire’s secret gardens. Grab your sandwiches takeaway and have them in this tranquil spot surrounded by an overarching redwood tree amongst others and a gleaming fishpond with a fountain.
This land was turned into a memorial garden in 1950 for those who lost their lives in World War II. Plaques commemorating those who had passed are affixed onto the entrance gate’s piers.
Heygates Flour Mill
Possibly appealing to the history nerd in you, Tring has had a flour mill since 1875. Originally a windmill run by William Mead, its demolition in 1910 for a wheat silo led to the Heygate family taking over the flour milling business in 1945. Located right by the canals, the Heygate family’s flour mill produces over 100,000 tons of wheat per year.
Back in the days of the Tring windmill, only two men were required to run the system – however, they only milled half a ton of flour per hour. Now, with an automated installation, over twelve tons are produced per hour.
You can reach Tring in just 40 minutes through a direct train link from London Euston on the West Midlands Trains. Buses and taxis are available from the station but you can also reach many of the sights mentioned above within a thirty minute walk.
You could also get off at Berkhamsted Station, a stop just before Tring Station – to get on the more frequent 500 Arriva Bus that will take you directly into Tring’s town centre.
For more information on transport within the area, check out Tring’s government transport website.
Planning any more escapes from London? Check out our article on taking a Day Trip to Windsor from London.