Our Favourite Things to Do in Bedfordshire

Animals, hills and estates: we've rounded up the best things to do in Bedfordshire


Boat on a lake in Bedford, UK

'It’s time to go to Bedfordshire' is actually a British expression for, you guessed it, going to bed. If you are going to be going to bed during your stay, which is a pretty standard thing to do as evening falls, we’d recommend you stay at one of the Plum Guide apartments in the area.

And we’ve got a host of reasons for why you’d want to vacation in Bedfordshire, which is just north of London. Whipsnade Zoo is one of the most well-known and reputable zoos in the country. And for more animal fun, there's the Woburn Safari Park, making this area ideal for families (assuming your kids like animals). Spread across this affluent ‘shire’ are rolling green fields providing gorgeous bucolic views. If you drive around long enough, you’ll bump into either a historic country pub (we’d wager you can get fish and chips there) or a majestic estate with landscape gardens. It’s the way you dreamed the English countryside would be, like in those 90s movies with Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and Anthony Hopkins (no, no, not Hannibal… well, hopefully not).

Ready to explore this historic county? Read on for our favourite things to do in Bedfordshire.

Whipsnade Zoo

Let’s play ‘how many times can we point at funny-looking animals and tell the person we’re with that it looks like them’. It’s great fun. Your kids will love the cheeky squirrel monkeys (‘look, that’s you'). There’s everything in this huge park from penguins and lemurs to amur tigers and cheetahs. Gaze up at the incredible elephants and say ‘aaah’ (in a cute, rather than horrified way) when you see a red panda. Laugh in the face of a hippopotamus, because why not? There’s a butterfly exhibit, a sea lion area and a section of greater one horned rhinos (we're not sure what exactly they're greater than). Embark on the car safari section and bring your kids to the Hullabazoo Farm for the miniature donkeys and pygmy goats.

Wildcat at Whipsnade Zoo

Wildcat at Whipsnade Zoo

Woburn Safari Park

Yes, animal-related activities have taken the top two slots on our favourite things to do in Bedfordshire. Had enough of animals? Skip this bit. But if you, like us, love the little (and large) creatures, head on down to the Woburn Safari Park. Lioness Dakota has just had a set of cubs (depending on how long after this is written that you read this… they might be long gone by that time, in which case, hello future, what’s it like there? Do they even have zoos anymore? Or lions?). Go on the road safari (ensuring you’re in a vehicle, of course). Pass through the Northern Plains for the bison, camels and horses. In the Savannah Grasslands, you’ll encounter the southern white rhino and the brindled wildebeest among other creatures. Brave yourselves for the amur tigers, North American black bears and African lions of the Kingdom of the Carnivores, before stretching your necks at the Giraffe Junction. Don’t forget the cheeky macaque monkeys of the African Forest.

You’re allowed to repeat the circuit as many times as you like, although there are fortunately other things to do in Bedfordshire. It’s a big place.

Explore grand houses and grounds

Loads of stuff, is the answer to your innocuous and insulting question. Especially big houses and grounds. Among the highlights is Woburn Abbey, which, as it happens, is right by the Woburn Safari. It’s the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford, whoever they might be – and we don’t know how they feel about people regularly stomping around their estate. Wander through the gardens and sunbathe beside the ponds, before taking on the trails of the Deer Park. Depending on the condition of the mansion, you can even take a look around. Another top tip is the Wrest Park, which also has a big house and huge garden kind of vibe. But it has the Summer Quest, a free fun family adventure with ‘a historical twist’. Browse the works in the Archer Pavilion and Sculpture Gallery and let the kids clamber over the playground. The Stockwood Discovery Centre is another intriguing museum, with an open-air section and the largest carriage collection in Europe. And you thought you’d seen enough carriages.

Woburn Abbey Gardens, Bedfordshire | ©ukgardenphotos/flickr

Woburn Abbey Gardens, Bedfordshire | ©ukgardenphotos/flickr

Discover the terrain

The Dunstable Downs is a scenic grasslands area riddled (or a word with less of a negative connotation) with trails that take you through the English countryside. Climb to the top of a hill and take in the fresh rural air, before snapping photos of the greenery. The Dunstable Downs is a similar kind of thing but with some chalk terrain, so that’s something, right? And there are grazing ponies on the Barton Hills National Nature Reserve. Neigh, neigh, neigh. Do ponies neigh?

Want to check out some of the other 'shires? Check out our list of things to do in Hertfordshire, which includes Warner Bros. Studios and a pretty gorgeous lavender field. For castles and river surfing, Gloucestershire is the county for you, as our guide will attest.

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