Dismissed by some for a lack of showstopping landmarks, the understated county on the edge of London’s commuter belt in the East of England actually has some very gorgeous gems. For starters, it’s a very green and well-maintained area with miles of public rights of way perfect for long country walks, charming villages, wolds-like terrain in the north, pretty country parks, and the wonderful Dunstable Downs and Woburn Abbey (the counties main highlights). Having spent many years living in the county, here are my Top 15 of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Bedfordshire…
Dunstable Downs – one of the region’s most famously beautiful places to visit
Located in Southern Bedfordshire, picturesque Dunstable Downs are a chalk escarpment that make-up the north-eastern section of the Chiltern Hills. This scenic landscape is known for its wonderous wildlife and plants. Offering numerous walking routes of varying lengths, the Downs countryside is bubbling with life.
The well-paved walking routes include trails to view a rich variety of birds, insects, and other living beings. This terrain is also suited for biking, hiking, and outdoor activities.
Rushmere Country Park – one of my favourite tranquil Bedfordshire beauty spots
Rushmere Country Park is 400 acres of woodland, heathland, and meadows. One of my favourite beauty spots to visit in Bedfordshire and my happy place, the park is filled with stunning walking hiking, and biking routes through these ancient woodlands. Horse-riders are also welcome in the park and on the trails. Arguably the best trail is the one that takes you from the Rushmere park entrance to the Stockgrove entrance, via the lake.
Some other trails include the Sculpture trail where you can find wooden sculptures, fairy doors, and even a giant’s chair. The trails are designed to raise awareness of the woodlands and the species that reside in them. The 1.5km trail features wooden sculptures of species such as the green tiger beetle, common lizard, great spotted woodpecker, and a damselfly, created by Ian Freemantle and carved benches with emperor moth and bluebells created by Peter Leadbeater. A treetops café, on a large hill in the park, overlooks the lake below. A telescope by the café offers free viewing of birds such as the Heron bird. Definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Bedfordshire.
My 4k video of beautiful Rushmere…
Woburn Abbey – another one of Bedfordshire famous highlights
Family home of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford for over 400 years, beautiful Woburn Abbey consists of a mansion and 28 acres of spectacular surrounding gardens.
The historic manor with its Palladian architecture with a majestic sculpture gallery houses beautiful works of art including the famous ‘Armada Portrait’ of Queen Elizabeth I and 27 Canaletto’s commissioned from the artist. This lovely location is as much a must-visit for art lovers as it is for nature lovers! The majestic gardens are extensive and well-maintained, and the landscapes beautifully designed by Repton. As you walk through the paved path of the Deer Park, try spotting the nine Deer species that reside in the park. The park exudes tranquility – perfect for a relaxing day.
The Abbey boasts some pleasantly surprising features such as a Chinese dairy and a grotto. Known to host exquisite events and garden shows, this Bedford destination is a must-visit.
My 4k video of capturing the beauty of Woburn Abbey…
Ickwell – one of the prettiest and most charming villages to visit in Bedfordshire
Ickwell is a small rural village in Central Bedfordshire, known for its history in Cricket. Cricket has been played in Ickwell for over a century and Ickwell Green Cricket Club is one of the oldest clubs in Bedfordshire. Also, the home of the English master clockmaker and watchmaker, Thomas Tompion, Ickwell Green still carries the family cottage, maintained by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers.
This cozy and very pretty Bedfordshire village with a population of just around 300 holds numerous countryside cottages, comfortable chalets, and rustic lodge cabins for a quiet, relaxing getaway. There are quite a few walking, running and cycling routes that take you around the town and its countryside.
Stock Grove Country Park – a beautiful attraction in Bedfordshire home to a lake, marshes, ancient oak woodland, and conifer plantations
Located on the Bedfordshire/Buckinghamshire border, Stockgrove Park is one of my favourite places to walk my dog. It’s a tranquil and beautiful place to visit and the parks owns 80 acres that is part of the larger 400-acre woods called Rushmere Country Park. Renowned for its picturesque all-year-round countryside walks, Stockgrove features a beautiful lake with remains of a burnt boathouse and numerous Mandarin ducks.
Sharpenhoe Clappers – one of the best places to visit in Bedfordshire for gorgeous country walks
Sharpenhoe is a quaint village situated at the foot the Chiltern Hills in Bedfordshire. The village gets its name from Sharpenhoe Clappers, a beech tree laden chalk escarpment. This tiny town harbors an Iron Age hillfort that forms a series of defended sites along the Chiltern Ridge.
The notable fort, with its medieval architecture, not only depicts the defense skill but also the status of its former inhabitants. The hillfort offers outstanding views of the flatten plain below and is now surrounded by Clappers Wood. Trails pass through the beech woods, and wildflowers blossom in summer.
Wrest Park – a country estate located in Silsoe and a stunning place to visit in Bedfordshire
Wrest Park is a country estate located in Silsoe, comprising of a country house and 90 acres of formal gardens. The landscape showcases three centuries of garden design and the evolution of the English garden. The lawns also feature French, Dutch, and Italian design styles with stunning fountains and classical statues. The gardens are filled with over 40 statues including an ornate marble fountain and a Chinese temple. Elegant French and bold Italian styles can also be seen in the interior architecture of the manor, such as the bedding displays. The manor has The Archer Pavilion and Sculpture Gallery that bears timeless admirable statues. The Dairy Sculpture Gallery is literally in a former dairy and displays the estate’s more fragile statues.
The idyllic woods provide breath-taking countryside views and tranquil walking trails. The natural beauty of Wrest Park is exemplified in every season, from playful pastels in the spring to lush greenery in the summer and warm browns in the autumn.
Whipsnade Tree Cathedral – a unique Bedfordshire visitor attraction
Whipsnade Tree Cathedral is a 9.5-acre garden in the village of Whipsnade in Bedfordshire. The area is planted to reflect a traditional medieval cathedral with grass and shrubs for nave, transepts, chancel and cloisters, and unique varieties of trees to represent the walls. There is a gorgeous four chapel and outer cloister walk that encompasses an area with a dew pond. The heritage site has a remarkable natural and well-balanced natural beauty that is very well looked after.
Sundon Hills – one of the highest points in Bedfordshire so expect gorgeous views
Sundon Hills has one of the highest and most spectacular viewpoints in Bedfordshire and is a fantastic spot to explore. Overlooking the Sharpen-hoe Clappers and its surrounding countryside, these chalk hills are dotted with woodland trees. While walking through one of the many paths in the woods, you’re sure to cross scented flowers and pretty butterflies.
You can find other interesting fauna and flora include fly orchid, great spotted woodpecker, foxes and badgers. These hilly woods also have some great picnics spots with views but hiking these trails are not for the faint-hearted!
Wardown Park – the jewel in the crown of Luton’s parks
Wardown Park that sits on River Lea in Luton, Wardown Park Museum and Gallery, the formal gardens, and the parks sporting center. Wardown Park displays an elaborate fountain, boating lake, and an iconic suspension bridge. With its beautifully designed green lawns, the park is truly considered an escape from routine and an oasis of calm within the town center.
The museum collection showcases lace and hat making – the traditional crafts of Bedfordshire – from as early as the 17th century. The decorated mansion, with its rare combination of Victorian and Edwardian design features and rich history, offers opportunities for formal events and informal activities. Valued and appreciated by locals and tourists alike, this park is one of the most visited in Luton.
Marston Vale and Forest of Marston Vale – stunning countryside to explore in Bedfordshire
The Forest of Marston Vale is a charitable community forest in Marston Vale, in the towns of Bedford and Kempston in Bedfordshire. This 61 sq mile of planted land was once Stewartby brickworks and landfills. While the chimneys still stand, the landscape has been converted into a scenic view for a lovely stroll or relaxing picnic at the cute cafe.
Houghton House – a ruined 17th-century mansion which offers magnificent views
Houghton House is a ruined mansion house in the parish of Houghton Conquest, Bedfordshire. This from the 17th-century house is considered the model inspiration for ‘House Beautiful’ in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.
The mansion is built in a mixture of Jacobean and Classical styles: the ground floors of two Italianate loggias survive, possibly the work of one of the most renowned architects of the time, Inigo Jones. The layout and design of the house itself is in fact in contrast of the loggias design. The views from the mansion as just as marvelous as the interiors.
Harrold-Odell Country Park – a beautiful a 60 hectare Country park and Local Nature Reserve
This 60-hectare country park is a local nature reserve situated between the villages of Odell and Harrold in Bedfordshire. Harrold-Odell Country Park incorporates river meadows, lakes, and woodlands.
The meandering River Great Ouse flows through it and the main lake, Grebe Lake is around 1.6 miles. The park includes stretches of vast lands, greenery, a small skatepark, café, and even gym equipment. The park has an interesting history, as the area was formerly a quarry, farm, an Iron age farm, and a Roman settlement.
Bedford Park – a Grade Two listed English Heritage Victorian park
This urban heritage park within Bedford town is owned and managed by the Bedford Borough Council. This Victorian park contains a beautiful lake, gardens, playgrounds, and a variety of sports amenities including tennis courts, football grounds, cricket pitches, gym equipment.
The green spaces are well maintained and make lovely picnic spots for families, friends, and couples to relax and rewind.
Willington Dovecote and Stables
Willington Dovecote and Stables includes a 16th-century stone dovecote and stable buildings that are besides the Willington church with an intriguing Tudor history. The Tudor dovecote comprises of nesting boxes for over 1500 pigeons. The stables are built with impressive features like stepped gables and timber roof. Both these historically fascinating sites make this manorial complex a must-visit!
The complex has many incredible walking paths and routes – with the most famous one going along the riverside, passing two lakes and an old railway line, and eventually leading to the nearby Bedford River Valley Park. The park itself has some amazing attractions and definitely is one of the best places to explore in Bedfordshire. I hope you enjoy my wonderful home county!
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Gary is an award winning full time professional photographer and videographer with too much wanderlust for his own good. Fuelled by strong coffee, you’ll often find him wandering well off hiking trails in search of interesting photographic subjects or scenery to video. Self taught and with the use of pioneering digital techniques, he quickly built up a strong client base and has worked with many prestigious organisations, including GQ, BBC, London Fashion Week, Grazia, Sky, Metro, Vogue Italia. He specialising in evocative images of people, places and cinematic videography and his goal is to make the viewer look twice and engage. As well as a penchant for good design, the ketogenic diet and Hungarian Vizslas, he also has a huge affection for Chicago, Bucharest, Scandinavia, Croatia and absolutely everywhere in Italy. Find him on Instagram @garynansome, Twitter @garynansome and his website https://garynunn.co.uk/