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The transport hub of Bedfordshire, Bedford sits along both sides of the Great River Ouse, which plays host to an annual regatta. The county town, with a population of around 80,000, is home to a number of ethnic restaurants thanks to its multicultural residents. The Great River Ouse plays a big role in the town’s tourism attraction, and Bedford is also an ideal destination to use as a base for exploring the picturesque villages that surround it. Destinations farther afield, such as the university city of Cambridge, the cathedral city of St Albans and the medieval city of King’s Lynn, are also worth a look.
Who to Book With
International car rental suppliers such as Hertz, Alamo and Europcar offer car hire in Bedford, as does local agent Longmarsh Bedford. Offices can be found right in the town centre, close to the A6. It is highly recommended to reserve a vehicle online ahead of time to guarantee availability and to get the best rates.
Best time to go
Like the rest of the UK, Bedford experiences some rain throughout most of the year, though July and August are the most pleasant, and busiest, months to visit. During the Bedford Regatta, which takes place in May, the town is also extremely packed, and accommodation rates tend to go up.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents are required when picking up your vehicle:
- A valid UK license for UK residents
- Proof of identification
- The credit card that was used when booking the car hire
- Verification of the booking
Bedford’s town centre is pedestrianised, while the rest of the town is easy to navigate by car and is not prone to congestion. On-street parking is not easy for non-residents to find, as most spaces are for permit holders only. However, there are plenty of car parks in Bedford, both multi-level and open-air. The town’s Park-and-Ride in Elstow, just south of the town, also provides a safe place to leave your vehicle from 06:00 and 23:00.
Almost everything anyone would wish to see or do in Bedford is within easy walking distance of the downtown area. The public bus system is infrequent and pricey, although buses to areas outside of the town are better. Bedford lies on National Cycle Route 51, and is therefore very bicycle-friendly, with the route following along the banks of the Great River Ouse. Taxis are available but expensive, while minicabs are faster and often cheaper.
The Bedford Railway station, which runs on the Midland Main Line that operates between London St Pancras and Leeds, is the town’s main station. Services are provided by First Capital Connect. It is also the terminus station of the commuter Marston Vale Line and Thameslink, which serve both London Luton and London Gatwick airports. The smaller Bedford St Johns Railway station is also on the Marston Vale Line and is served by London Midland.
There are taxi ranks in Bedford’s town centre, although they often have long queues. The alternative is to call and book a taxi from a reputable company, such as A1 Cars or Anglia Cars. Most taxis run on a fixed rate system and are available 24-hours a day.
Bedford’s public bus service is provided by Stagecoach, although services in the town centre are lacking. Its services to outlying destinations are much superior, with buses connecting Bedford to Milton Keynes, Oxford, Cambridge and Northampton. These buses run quite frequently, with the one-hour ride to Cambridge setting you back around £5.50.
The A6 is Bedford’s main access route, connecting the town northeast to Leicester and south to Luton, although the closer destinations make for the best excursions out of the town. Bedford is surrounded by quaint old villages close to the beautiful Chiltern Hills and just north of the famous Cardington Hangars in Cardington.
Woodburn Safari Park - This is a fantastic attraction right in the heart of Bedfordshire, just south of Bedford off of the A421. The safari park is home to elephants, sea lions, monkeys and tigers, as well as a wealth of other animals, making for a great family outing.
Dunstable Downs - Home to plenty of wildlife, makes for a picturesque daytrip. It is a popular place for kite flying and also used by paragliders and hand gliders. The main reason for visiting, however, is the breathtaking scenery. The Downs lay less than a 40-minute drive south of Bedford and are ideal for those looking to escape the town and breathe in the fresh air.
Ampthill - The former home of Catherine of Aragon, is a charming Georgian town with a number of antique shops and coffee shops. It is home of the ruins of Houghton House, a Grade I listed building, beautiful 18th century thatched cottages and several pubs. Ampthill sits just 15-minutes south of Bedford, making for the perfect daytrip.