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Bedford

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For other places with the same name, see Bedford (disambiguation).

Bedford [2] [3] is in the county of Bedfordshire in the East of England. It is the county town and the transport, social, cultural and administrative centre of the shire-county of Bedfordshire.

Understand[edit]

Once on the frontier between the Anglo-Saxons and Danes, it has a charter dating back more than 900 years. It is an important shopping centre, and there are also many pubs and bars. There are a number of good ethnic restaurants, reflecting the town's substantial Italian, Indian, Pakistani, and Polish communities. Bedford has also been heralded for having the widest range of ethnic diversity, boasting one of the few Eskimos in Britain. The Embankment along the River Great Ouse running through the centre of town is an attractive place for a walk, and once a year is given over to a traditional Regatta as well as a biennial River Festival. St Paul's Square is the hub of the town, with the large church of St Paul's in the centre and the Corn Exchange, Town Hall and Shire Hall around the sides of the square.On the picturesque town bridge is a memorial to John Bunyan, the author of 'The Pilgrim's Progress', who was imprisoned there. John Bunyan also lived in Bedford for most of his life, writing The Pilgrim's Progress here, and his life can be seen at the John Bunyan Museum in the town, where a statue dedicated to him can also be seen. There is a large and attractive park with tennis courts, and other niceties north of the town centre (Bedford Park).

Get in[edit]

By train[edit]

Bedford is served by East Midlands Railway (since 2019), London Midland and Thameslink all of which stop at the main station, Bedford Midland Station. Travel to/from London St. Pancras takes about 40 minutes by East Midlands Railways and just over an hour by the Thameslink train. Thameslink trains are slower as they are primarily commuter services although there are some semi fast services. The East Midlands Trains services only stop at either Luton or Luton Airport between Bedford & London.

There is also a minor (branch) railway line from Bedford Midland Station going west to Bletchley (near Milton Keynes) connecting with the West Coast Mainline between London and the north west of England. Bedford's second train station (Bedford St. John's) is only used by Bletchley trains.

East Midlands Trains go north to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and beyond.

By bus[edit]

Bedford has a reasonably large bus station located in the centre of town, however there are few long distance services. The bus station and Midland train station are about 800m apart, so it's a max 10 min walk if you need to make a change here.

Bedford is on the X5 bus route between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge. Buses generally leave every half hour.

By road[edit]

Bedford lies directly between the M1 and A1 motorways. Park and Ride facilities are available see, National Park and Ride Directory

Get around[edit]

The local bus services around Bedford are terrible, being both infrequent and expensive. Just about everything you'd want to see is within easy walking distance of the high street, however (at most 30 minutes if you're slow), so there's little need for anything more than your feet in good weather.

There's a reasonable but underused shuttle bus leaving the central train station, and the bus service to surrounding villages is excellent.

There are very few provisions for cyclists, though the town centre is pedestrianized. The one way system and endless traffic lights around the centre make for fun riding until you get to know the roads. Reasonably wide roads mean you don't get squeezed off too often.

Taxis are relatively expensive in Bedford & you may expect to queue for some time at town centre taxi ranks. It is usually faster & cheaper to call for a licensed minicab rather than waiting in line.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Embankment of the River Great Ouse The river sweeps downstream and eastwards from the town bridge, lined with formal gardens and parkland and crossed by two pedestrian bridges. This Embankment area proper, terminates with a road bridge but river bank paths continue east. There is a boating lake towards the east end. Upstream and west of the Town Bridge the river is fronted by the Riverside Square on the north bank and the Borough Hall gardens on the south.
  • Bunyan Museum [4] Open March - October Tue-Sat 11am - 4pm, Admission Free, Mill Street, MK40 3EU
  • The Higgins Bedford Museum [5] - Recently redeveloped museum which boasts a good range of Anglo-Saxon and Roman artefacts as well as more recent Bedfordshire-related history, large collections of Edward Bawden and William Burges artwork, rotating art exhibitions and other artwork Tue – Sat 11am – 5pm, Sun 2pm – 5pm, Admission Free. Castle Lane MK40 3XD.
  • Bedford Park, Park Avenue [6] a large Victorian park to the North of the town centre.
  • Castle Mound [7], the remains of a castle built in 919 and destroyed in 1224, near the river embankment.
  • St Paul's Church [8] St Pauls Square, MK40 1SQ. Founded as a medieval collegiate church, St Paul’s is one of the Major Churches, the largest Church of England church in Bedfordshire and the large, airy and imposing building of cathedral proportions and iconic spire dominates the town. St Paul's is historically of national significance and is today the Civic Church of the Borough of Bedford and the County of Bedfordshire as well as having notable architectural features. It is usually open between 10am and 4pm on most days.
  • St Peter's Church [9] de Parys Avenue, MK40 2TX.
  • Priory Park [10] A large area of open land of the Eastern edge of town, featuring a man-made lake and nature reserve.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Hire a boat on the rowing lake near the river. (Summer only)
  • Bedford has a well known Rugby Union team. The grounds are on Goldington Road - if you're lucky you'll be able to catch a game during the rugby season (winter, basically). If you want to fit in, you should occasionally chant "Come on you blues.". However do not join in with the "Bedford, Bedford" moo style chant unless you are sitting in the stand, as they have paid for the privilege of singing this song.
  • Walk east along the embankment from the main bridge, over the rainbow bridge, round past the boating lake, crossing the butterfly bridge and back along the embankment. A pleasant stroll either during day or night. Stop off at one of the restaurants or pubs on the embankment for refreshments.

Buy[edit][add listing]

In shopping terms, Bedford is quite typical for a town of its size. The centre of town has the normal chain stores. There is a small indoor shopping centre, the Harpur Centre, and one dingy end of it is called the Howard Centre. The central spiral walkway between the two levels of the centre has in recent years been named The Hub and is, apparently, "The place to be seen".


Originally being the region's market town, Bedford has a market every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday with various tradespeople and stalls. Bargains of all kinds can be found here, along with local produce. The market is split between Harpur Square and St. Paul's square.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Tavistock street contains wall to wall restaurants of every kind.

  • Grand Indian, 39 Tavistock Street, MK40 2RB 01234 267949. Has a particularly fine Chick Jalfrezi.
  • Saffron 64 Tavistock St, MK40 2RG 01234 325655. Does a superb and cheap Sunday lunch buffet.
  • Sizzling Wok 3a The Broadway MK40 2TJ 01234 212888 [11]. Has an entertaining and delicious lunch or dinner all-you-can-eat buffet, where you add your own ingredients, and watch the professional chefs cook for you.
  • The Choudhury Foster Hill Road, MK40 2EN 01234 215556 (Indian Cuisine).
  • Pizza Express 22 St. Peters St, MK40 2NN, 01234 271124.(Pizza Restaurant).
  • Shanghai Beach 61, Tavistock St, MK40 2RF, 01234 356000. A particularly fine Chinese restaurant offering a fixed price for anything off the menu but all freshly cooked food.
  • Pizzeria Santaniello 9-11 Newnham Street, MK40 3JR, 01234 353742. Traditional cheap and cheerful Neapolitan pizzeria, with wood-fired oven.
  • Hoku hoku, 5 Peel Street, Bedford, MK40 2HX, 01234 21 70 31, [1]. 17:00 - 23:00. Japanese restaurant (not sushi) with excellent starters (especially the dumplings!)and mains. For a very filling meal for two, you should expect to spend between £25-£30.  edit


Drink[edit][add listing]

Like all towns in England, Bedford has its fair share of chain pubs and bars packed to the gills on weekends. Walk down the High Street and you'll cover most of them, with a few bars found down Lime Street and various pubs along Tavistock Street.

For a quieter drink with good ales and ciders look out for the Wellington Arms on the corner of Wellington Street and Princes Street, which has won several CAMRA awards. Other good places to drink away from the chav types, are: the Castle and the Three Cups on Newnham Street; and the Bedford Arms on Bromham Road. There's a selection of live music at the Angel on Tavistock Street and Esquires

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • The Swan Hotel, The Embankment, MK40 1RW, 01234 346565. [12] A good central location at the bottom of the High Street on the embankment. The hotel was built in 1794, with more recent extensions increasing its size to 113 rooms. Rooms start around £90.
  • Park Inn, 2 St Marys Street, MK42 0AR,01234 799988. Modern concrete block on the other side of the river from the Swan.
  • Victoria Guest House, 26 De Pary's Avenue, 01234 359219 [13] Single ensuite rooms £35. Pleasant but unexciting bed and breakfast on a tree lined avenue 5 minutes from the High Street.
  • The Elms Guest House, 24 De Pary's Avenue, MK40 2TW, 01234 353844 [14] Single ensuite rooms £35.

Get out[edit]

  • Taking the cycle route (an old railway line) out to Willington can be pleasant on a summer's day. Although the route does run right by the sewage works.
  • Bedford is surrounded by small old villages with village pubs. Great Barford (7km to the east), for example, is sure to please.
  • The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has a nature reserve [15] (and headquarters) in Sandy, 11km to the east.
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