Bedfordshire is a county in the South of England and is home to both the large towns of Luton and Bedford, with its Southern border touching the chalky Chiltern Hills, a mountainous ridge of great natural beauty. Bedfordshire has been a hub for trades for centuries, most notably that of brick-making.
It’s also home to a place called California, in the parish of Kensworth, which was originally housed in the administrative county of Hertfordshire but was transferred in 1897 to Bedfordshire. Luton is the largest town in Bedfordshire with a population of 206,850 at the last census in 2001.
Towns in Bedfordshire
Bedfordshire is a beautiful old county, home to many attractions and places of natural interest. Here are a few of its towns.
Luton is home to London Luton Airport and was famous for decades for hat making. Mary Queen of Scots first introduced hat making to Luton in the 1500s, bringing straw plaiters and weavers from France in 1552 and appointing them as her personal hat makers. In the 1600s, a court ruling that ordered local residents of Luton to wear woolen hats was overturned, owing to the fact that the main source of income in Luton was from straw hats. Luton is about 1 hour from Central London by bus, with a train ride needing between thirty and forty-five minutes
Bedford has its name as an amalgam in history with a Saxon chief called “Beda”, and a “Ford” crossing the River Ouse. Bedford was a busy market town, and now has a population of 153,000. Interestingly, almost 30% of Bedford’s population is Italian, with Bedford Castle Mound and The Embankment Gardens and War Memorial two of the town’s major attractions. Bedford is approximately an hour and fifteen minutes by bus, and about forty-five minutes by train.
Whipsnade is a small village resting at the foot of the Chiltern Hills, and boasts beautiful natural scenery, nestling on the doorsteps of the famous Whipsnade Zoo and Sallowsprings Wildlife Reservations. It can also proudly boast the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, which is literally a clever arrangement of trees and plants, made to look like a cathedral. This is also a good starting point for walkers wishing to travel the Dunstable Downs. Whipsnade is about one and a half hours by bus and train from London Gatwick airport.
Parks and Gardens Wrest Park
Wrest Park is a grand old English country manor house with over 2000 years of history, as detailed by its museum. Unique to Wrest Park are its bathhouse which has a floor inlaid with deer bones, and a Chinese temple as well as over 40 statues. Wrest Park is an unusual treat for the whole family, and more information is available here: Wrest Park.
The Swiss Garden
The Swiss Garden is a hidden gem in the Bedfordshire countryside, nestling sleepily between Biggleswade Airfield and Shuttleworth College. It was designed in around 1800AD in order to celebrate Swiss gardening and features thatched cottages, a grotto, ponds, and bridges. You can download information about the Swiss Garden here: The Swiss Garden Brochure
Moggerhanger Park is a beautiful old English manor house designed by eminent architect Sir John Soane. Surviving features of the house include an Ice House, large walled gardens and relaxing, peaceful woodland walk, not to mention a playground for children and woodland cafe. More information is available here: Moggerhanger Park
Attractions and Places to See
Whipsnade Zoo is the largest zoo in the UK, set in six hundred acres of stunning scenery. With its Lookout Lodge and morning and evening Safaris, adults and children alike will enjoy feasting their eyes on the large variety of wildlife, both indigenous and non-native. With a free local bus service, and the chance to feed some of the animals, Whipsnade is a fantastic family day out. Whipsnade’s website can be found here: Whipsnade Zoo
Stroll through acres of stunning woodland and rolling hills, letting the beauty of the Dunstable Downs take your breath away. At its highest point, Dunstable Downs offers unrivaled views of the surrounding landmark British countryside and offers a spectacular vantage point to watch the local Gliders and Microlites clubs soaring through the air around the hilltops. Find out more about the Dunstable Downs here: Dunstable Downs Information
Situated on the border of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, Woburn Abbey is a spectacular abbey house, boasting fine art collections including pieces by Canaletto, Ceulen, Cuyp and Frans Hals. They also hold some very interesting furniture including pieces that were used by past prime ministers as well as fantastic porcelain displays. To find out more about this house of treasures, visit the following link: Woburn Abbey
Things to Do
Bedfordshire has a whole host of things to see and do and boasts many interesting pursuits and days out for the family.
Aerial Extreme is an exciting kid’s high-rope adventure course that is sure to entertain and thrill. Sitting on the banks of Willen Lake in Milton Keynes, it also boasts a cafe and picnic areas for a lovely, relaxing family treat, once the high-octane fun is over. Visit their website here: Aerial Extreme
Si5 Spy Missions
Crack safes, dodge, and dive under lasers hack computers and give vent to your inner spy at Si5 spy adventures in Milton Keynes. Stop the mercenary group known as “The Plague” from taking over the battleship UNS Steadfast which is divided into 16 rooms, each one containing a puzzle or task for you to overcome in order to defeat “The Plague. Find out more here: Si5 Spy Missions
Kempston Outdoor Centre
Kempston Outdoor Park is an award-winning outdoor center with a focus on education through outdoor activities. They offer high rope courses, kayaking, paddlesports, climbing walls, archery, as well as the fantastic all-in-one experience days. They also offer team challenges, and can proudly offer access to the Duke of Edinburgh award for groups and individuals. Find out more at Kempston Outdoor Centre
Afternoon Tea Ideas in Bedfordshire
When you are finished taking in the scenery around beautiful Bedfordshire, why not stop off for a spot of afternoon tea? There are many stately and modern tea rooms dotted around Bedfordshire, and here are a few to whet your appetite.
The Bedford Swan
The Bedford Swan Hotel is based at 1 High Street, Bedford, and is part of a recent multi-million-pound refurbishment scheme. Dating back to the eighteenth century, the Bedford Swan has bags of character, and along with its AA rosette for excellence, it boasts delicious traditional teas and scones, smoked salmon and wonderful wines and coffee. Find out more here: The Duchess of Bedford’s Afternoon Tea
IWith beautiful silver cutlery and a gorgeous atmospheric background, along with crisp, white table linen, the Luton Hoo is setting new standards in excellence. Sample delectable, freshly baked raisin scones, delicious Devonshire clotted cream, and simply exquisite Champagne while relaxing in the beautiful tea room. Find out more about the Luton Hoo here: The Luton Hoo Tea Room
The Woburn Hotel
The Woburn offers an intimate afternoon tea experience with its history stretching all the way back to 1840 when Duchess Anna Maria, the wife of Duke Bedford would entertain her friends at the then Woburn Abbey. With a fine selection of delicious finger sandwiches, including smoked salmon and cucumber, cream cheese or egg and cress, along with exquisite cakes and tempting pastries, there are few better places to observe the intricacies of the art of afternoon tea in the whole of Bedfordshire, perhaps even England itself.
Wedding Venues in Bedfordshire
Bedfordshire has some truly beautiful wedding venues, counted among some of the grandest houses and stately homes, as well as golf clubs and truly unique, antique manors.
Mentmore Golf and Country Club
Mentmore is home to the renowned Rothschild Suite, a simply stunning civil ceremony room. Mentmore itself sits on 365 acres of manicured parkland, with unrivaled photographic opportunities on your wedding day. For a beautiful ceremony, with your every need catered for by a team of experienced staff visit the Mentmore Golf and Country Club. Find out more here: Mentmore Golf and Country Club
Tofte Manor sits in an intimate setting in the sleepy village of Sharnbrook, north of Bedford town. The venue is a private home and never runs more than one wedding at a time, meaning that your ceremony is unique and special, with the home opening its doors to you, and you alone. You can find out about Tofte Manor here: Tofte Manor Weddings
Campsites / Caravans
Bedfordshire is a caravanning and camping hotspot and is awash with camp- and caravan sites.
Caravan Club Sites
• Woodlands Park – Bedford Road, Clapham, Bedfordshire
• Tithe Farm – Tithe Farm, Stevington, Bedfordshire
• Riverside Holiday Home Park (Pavenham) – Bedford Road, Pavenham, Bedfordshire
• The Plantation – Ravensden, Bedford, Bedfordshire
• Town Farm – Ivinghoe, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire
• Tree Tops – Winsey Farm, Bedford, MK44 1NA