There is no shortage of historic buildings, sprawling parks, stately homes and stadiums in the town, and we’ve got the lowdown on all the best Bedford tourist attractions.
Attractions in Bedford
Starting in the centre of Bedford, St. Paul’s Church is a stunning Catholic church that might be as old as AD796. The church has been rebuilt five times during its history, with the most recent rebuild coming in the 15th century. It is now on its own island in the middle of a roundabout, but once you’re inside, you’ll see it’s beautifully preserved, with volunteers on hand to guide you through the history, memorials and carvings. The church is still very much in use, with regular choral sessions and organ recitals held on Saturdays throughout the year.
Moving out of Bedford itself, the surrounding area is littered with stately homes and castles, including Cainhoe Castle, an 11th-century Norman castle that fell into ruin after the Black Death in 1348. Located in Clophill, the site has been excavated several times and now offers an impressive set of earthworks and is a Scheduled Monument, giving it legal protection.
Better preserved is Houghton House, a 17th-century mansion built in 1615 across two floors. A 15-minute drive from our Bedford South (A421) hotel, the impressive ruins include Jacobean and Classical styles and offer stunning views across the countryside. If you head to the English Heritage site, you can download an audio companion tour which will guide you around the house and its ruins.
A Grade I-listed Georgian house, Moggerhanger Park is an impressive country house in 33 acres of park and woodland. The house is open for daily tours, while the Garden Rooms Café is a great spot for lunch or a post-walk coffee and cake pit stop. Amazingly, the house was for sale in 1994 for just £1, with over £7 million having been spent since then, restoring it to its former glory.
Finally, Willington Dovecote and Stables is a 16th-century building that’s home to an amazing selection of birds, including barn owls, kestrels and 1,500 pigeons. It’s a great spot for keen birdwatchers and a perfect base for exploring the nearby Bedford River Valley Park.
St. Paul's Church
The largest urban park in town, Bedford Park is a Victorian-era multipurpose park. Head to our dedicated page on Bedford Park to find out more about its music festivals, concerts and playgrounds.
A mixed-use space near to the Embankment, Russell Park is a popular sport and recreation space that dates back to the 19th century and is a 15-minute walk from our Bedford Town Centre (Riverside) hotel. With football pitches, tennis courts and even putting greens and ping pong tables, it’s a great place to entertain the family. It’s also home to the Kiosk, a lovely coffee shop that serves up excellent coffees and hot chocolates. The park regularly holds free events, including Easter egg hunts, Christmas carol singing and open-air theatre.
Make sure to bring your wellies if you’re heading to Prior Country Park. Spread over 360 acres, much of it is made up of lakes and next to the river Great Ouse, splashing through the park is one of the best ways to spend a day in Bedford. The park is a great place for dog walking and cycling, while you can also hire boats and canoes to take out on the lakes or set up for the day on the banks of the river and indulge in a spot of fishing. There’s also a café and several children’s play areas to entertain little ones.
If you’re looking to play a little team sports, Mowsbury Park has the most outdoor pitches of any park in the area and is a 10-minute drive from our Bedford (Priory Marina) hotel. Alongside tennis courts, football and cricket pitches, the park has an outdoor fitness zone with equipment, three play areas for separate age groups, bike tracks and a café, while it also includes Putnoe Wood, an ancient woodland that doubles up as a nature reserve.
Just as action-packed is Addison Howard Park, which combines sand pits, adventure playgrounds, climbing frames, tennis and basketball courts. There are also plenty of well-maintained paths for slightly more sedentary pleasures, such as strolling and watching the world go by from a park bench.
The town’s leading sporting venue, Bedford International Athletic Stadium offers a 400-metre international-standard running track, as well as five-a-side football pitches, short tennis courts, basketball and netball courts. Plus, there’s lots of exercise classes, including yoga and strength and conditioning sessions.