Bedfordshire

Attractions and places to visit in Bedfordshire

Chiltern Hills | Cardington Sheds | Elstow Moot Hall | Houghton House | Leighton Buzzard Railway | Shuttleworth Collection | Swiss Garden | Whipsnade | Woburn Abbey | Woburn Safari Park | Wrest Park

Chiltern Hills

Ivinghoe Beacon from Pitsone Hill
Ivinghoe Beacon from Pitsone Hill © Ian Petticrew - CCL

The Chiltern Hills run through the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and have been rightfully designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The stretch of the Chiltern Hills that run through Bedfordshire are believed to be the delectable Mountains of Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress'. Access to the 'Chiltern Way', a meandering circular route that runs through the hills for 172 miles (275 km), can be found south of Dunstable on the Dunstable Downs. Parking (Free to NT Members) and route information is provided at the Chilterns Gateway Centre (Dunstable Road, Whipsnade, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 2GY). Other walks through the Chilterns include the Ridgeway (starting at Ivinghoe) and the Icknield Way Path.

Cardington Sheds

Located near Cardington Village, just south of Bedford, home of the Whitbread family of brewers. The two giant hangers were built in 1915 by the Short Brothers to manufacture and house large airships, that were once thought to be the future of commercial flying, prior to the great R101 disaster in October 1930. The Short Brothers also built a housing estate, opposite the site, named Shortstown.

The site is not open to the public but the hangers can be viewed from the A600 near Shortstown.

Shortstown, Eastcotts, Bedford Borough, MK42 0 - View location map (in new window)

Elstow Moot Hall

This ancient timber-framed market hall, located on the edge of Elstow village green, was once the meeting place of the followers of John Bunyan. It was originally built to serve the adjacent Elstow Abbey (of which only the church remains), and is now a museum filled with period furniture and interesting exhibits depicting life in 17th century England.

Opening times: Apr~Sep, Sat 1pm to 4pm Small Admission Charge
Location: Moot Hall, Church End, Elstow, Bedford, MK42 9XT Website
Facilities:

Houghton House

Said to be the inspiration for John Bunyan's 'House Beautiful' but is now a forlorn ruin. It was built in the 17th century for Mary, Dowager Countess of Pembroke but was abandoned some 200 years ago.

Opening times: Open at all reasonable times Free Entry
Location: Hazelwood Lane, Ampthill, MK45 2EZ - Tel: 0870 333 1181 Website
Facilities: Parking

Leighton Buzzard Railway

Visitors can take a 70 minute journey on this fascinating light steam railway, running on tracks laid down circa 1919, to transport sand and materials from local quarries. A regular steam passenger service is operated by volunteers and special events days are provided throughout the year.

Opening times: times and services vary see website for details Admission Charge
Location: Pages Park Station, Billington Rd, Leighton Buzzard, LU7 4TN - Tel: 01525 373888 Website
Facilities: Parking, café, partial disable access, toilets, shop

The Shuttleworth Collection

Model Aircraft Biplane

A unique collection of over 50 historic aircraft, biplanes and Edwardian "Flying Machines", housed in the old hangars of a classic grass aerodrome, on the plains of Bedfordshire. Many of the aircraft have been restored to working order and partake in regular flying displays during the summer months. Exhibits include a Bleriot XI and a WWII Spitfire. Other exhibits include vintage automobiles, tractors, carriages and cycles.

Opening times: Apr~Oct 10am to 5pm, Nov~Feb 10am to 4pm (closed Xmas & NY) Admission Charge
Location: Old Warden Park, Old Warden, SG18 9EP - Tel: 01767 627927 Website
Facilities: Parking, café, shop, outdoor picnic area, wheelchair access, toilets for disabled

Swiss Garden

Swiss Cottage in Shuttleworth Garden

Part of the Shuttleworth Collection

This unique and beautiful nine-acre landscaped garden consists of fine lawns, sheltered by tall trees and under planted with mature shrubs. A waterfall of flowers can be seen in summer, and all year round interest is provided, with spring bulb displays, rhododendrons, camellias and other flowering shrubs. A myriad of gravel pathways wind through the trees and over quaint little bridges, across the ponds and streams, in this quintessentially romantic setting. The garden contains many follies and statues, with a secret grotto in the centre and a Swiss style chalet rising above the evergreen shrubs and conifers.

Opening times: Apr~Oct 10am to 5pm, Nov~Feb 10am to 4pm (closed Xmas & NY) Admission Charge
Location: Old Warden Park, Old Warden, SG18 9EP - Tel: 01767 627927 Website
Facilities: Parking, café, shop, outdoor picnic area, wheelchair access, toilets for disabled

Whipsnade Wild Animal Park

One of Britain's largest wildlife conservation parks and home to the Zoological Society of London. Set in 600 acres of beautiful parkland, amongst the rolling Chiltern Hills, the park is home to more than 2,500 rare and exotic animals, including may endangered species. Visitors can walk around or take the Jumbo Express to see Lions, Cheetah, Meerkats, Antelope, Elephants, Rhino, Hippo, Giraffe, Zebra, Flamingos, Bears, Bison, Reindeer, Monkeys and much more.

Opening times: Open daily from 10am, closing times vary (closed 25 Dec)
Admission Charge

Location: Whipsnade, LU6 2LF - Tel: 01582872171 Website
Facilities: Parking, shop, café, outdoor picnic area, toilets for disabled


Woburn Abbey

Woburn Abbey House

The ancestral seat of the Russell family since 1539, and later the Dukes of Bedford. The monastic-style buildings, set in a beautiful 3,000 acre deer park, were turned into a palatial country mansion in the 15th century. The Abbey is now open the public and boasts some of the finest collections of gold, silver and porcelain, plus a large art collection with paintings by Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp, Canaletto, Gainsborough, Reynolds and Van Dyck.

Opening times: times vary, see website for details Admission Charge
Location: Woburn, MK17 9WA - Tel: 01525290333 Website
Facilities: Parking, café, shop, licensed restaurant, outdoor picnic area, only partly wheelchair accessible, toilets for disabled

Woburn Safari Park

Giraffe

Enjoy a safari tour around one of the best Safari Parks in Britain and observe the beauty of wild animals in a more natural habitat from the safety of your own car. Attractions include a Foot Safari (walk through enclosure), Treetops Action Trail, Swan Boats, the Great Woburn Railway and an all weather indoor soft play area.

Opening times: 7 Mar to l Nov 10am to 5pm; Nov to Mar 11am to 3pm
Admission Charge

Location: Woburn, MK17 9QN - Tel: 01525 290407 Website
Facilities: Parking, café, shop, licensed restaurant, indoor and outdoor picnic areas, only partly wheelchair accessible, toilets for disabled


Wrest Park Gardens

Fine architectural and historic gardens, representing 150 years of garden design. The formal layout is centered around an early 18th century pavilion designed by Thomas Archer. The gardens have been developed over the years with the addition of an Orangery, an Italian Garden and a Parterre, lined with impressive 19th century statues.

Opening times: times vary see website for details Admission Charge
Location: Silsoe, Luton, Bedfordshire, MK45 4HR - Tel: 01525 860152 Website
Facilities: Parking


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