A List of Things to Do in Bedford You'll Love
Wondering what exactly to do in Bedford? Here's our guide to spending time in the area.
When you think of Bedford – if you ever think of Bedford at all – you probably think of walking beside the trademark redbrick houses, strolling through lush green parks and rowing in calm canals along the waterfront. That was not the idea of self-proclaimed prophet Joanna Southcott who believed that the end was indeed nigh and that the apocalypse would start from Bedford. Or even Mabel Barltrop who proclaimed herself the true daughter of God in 1919, claiming that Bedford would be the location of the second coming of Christ. Now, you might think you’re heading to some sacred promised land for your vacation in England, but the truth is Bedford is not all too exciting. And, though somewhat charming, Bedford Park is hardly what you would call the Garden of Eden. Still, we’ll suggest a few things to do in Bedford that will make your vacation sound a tad less ominous. We are experts in all things travel here at Plum Guide, after all.
The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum
Boosted with a multimillion-pound injection during the beginning of the previous decade to expand to three different buildings, the Higgins Art Gallery and Museum is understandably promoted as one of the best things to do in Bedford. Founded by a local brewer named Cecil Higgins – whose house is now part of the museum – in 1949, the museum was dedicated to fine decorative arts with collections of glass and ceramics on display. Nowadays, the museum features extraordinary exhibits that include works by Edward Bawden and William Burges as well as artefacts that record the history of famous Bedfordians and their city.
The Bedford Castle
If you are walking on the embankment near the town centre and happen to come across what looks like an abandoned tiny pavilion on a stone-laid slope by the River Ouse, do make a quick stop. This truly majestic, imposing, awe-inspiring mound is all that’s left of Bedford Castle, the erstwhile seat of the High Sheriffs of Buckinghamshire whose construction was commissioned by Henry I in 1100. The battle-scarred stronghold saw several wars before being utterly and irreversibly destroyed in 1224 by Henry III. Nevertheless, you’ll be delighted to know that you can still see some exciting remnants like lime kilns and a few inches of the castle’s foundations in what will surely be the quickest visit to an archaeological park you have ever had.
The Panacea Museum
Just a few steps away from Higgins museum, you’ll find ‘'Castleside', former home and headquarters of the Panacea Society, a group of religious people that rigorously followed the teachings of the prophet Joanna Southcott. The house was turned into a museum in 2013 to exhibit the story of the Panacea Society and their famous national propaganda campaigns about Southcott’s notorious sealed ‘’Box of Prophecies”. Even Neil Gaiman couldn’t make this up. We can’t really be sure whether you’ll enjoy the exhibits at the Panacea Museum, but as home experts, we can safely say that you will be delighted by the well-preserved early 20th century and Victorian-style interior of the house.
Herrings Green Activity Farm & Bird of Prey Centre
Have you ever dreamt of walking an alpaca in the green fields of Bedfordshire? Neither have we, but with a visit to Herring Green Activity Farm, anything is possible on this list of things to do in Bedford. Just a short drive away from the city centre, this vast open farm offers guests the opportunity to see one of the UK’s largest collections of birds of prey (who’s counting - really) and partake in thrilling farming activities such as grooming shire horses and milking cows. A must if you’re travelling with kids who will be especially fascinated by meeting the venomous reptiles or watching the bloodthirsty falcons hunt.
John Bunyan Meeting House and Museum
This barn-turned-museum narrates the life and times of John Bunyan, a humble Puritan preacher and author famous for writing “The Pilgrim’s Progress” which is widely considered to be one of the first English novel in history, published in 1678. This museum will allow you to get a glimpse of 19th-century Bedford and to get acquainted with the work of the famous preacher through art exhibitions, holiday activities, workshops and family trails. What better way to entertain the whole family than reading a passage from “The Holy War Made by King Shaddai Upon Diabolus, to Regain the Metropolis of the World” inside an old, gloomy, funereal church? There must be something in the water in Bedford.
Priory Country Park
At last. A suggestion that doesn’t involve war, perilous creatures or haunting visions of the apocalypse. Priory Country Park is a sound alternative to the more popular Bedford Park (both boast a Green Flag status) whose gardens and cricket pitch may at times get too loud. It’s located in a loop on the banks of River Ouse spanning for over 300 acres of lush grassland woods and calm lakes that will make a vacation to Bedford actually sound like a sane idea. Here you can spend the day biking, fishing or sailing or enjoy a cup of tea at the Cloverdale Retreat an old visitor centre that was transformed into a charming cafe with a beautiful alfresco terrace.
Enjoyed this guide to things to do in Bedford and want to keep reading? Take a look at our list of great things to do in Oxford or what to see and do in Cambridge next. Our home critics have carefully curated our collection of homes in Oxford and Cambridge to guarantee that no matter where you stay with us, you're always getting those high standards you deserve.