Nestled between Northampton and Cambridge and in one of England’s smallest counties, Bedford has been a market town since the Middle Ages.

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And while nothing remains of Bedford Castle which was built during the reign of William II, it is home to Woburn Abbey, one of the country’s great stately homes, which boasts one of the most impressive private art collections in the world.

A county rich in heritage, with many places of outstanding beauty, it even has it's own celebration day on November 28.

Here are some top picks that make it worth climbing aboard the 35-minute train journey from London...

Woburn Safari Park

As one of the UK’s oldest wild animal parks, it’s worth hoofing it here to see more than 1,000 wild animals, including tigers, lions, black bears, buffalos, antelopes and wolfs.

 

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Along with VIP experiences, such as off-roading in a Land Rover, ‘safari stars’ include a Californian sea lion and an African crested porcupine. Just don’t get too close to those quills!

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Bedfordshire Golf Club

With more than 20 golf courses and something for every level of skill, you won’t have a problem finding somewhere to tee-off in this golf-mad community. Offering competitive green fees and one of its best golfing experiences, head to Bedfordshire Golf Club which has an 18-hole course, a 9-hole (Par 3) Academy Course and a 24-bay, floodlit driving range.

And when you’ve finished with the fairways, head to the first-floor bar which overlooks the 18th green. 

Whipsnade Zoo

There’s plenty of animal magic on offer at the UK’s biggest zoo. With so much to experience, you may want to plan the day and buy your tickets online in advance.

Its latest exhibits include a Butterfly House, Hullabazoo Farm (perfect for little ones) and Cheetah Rock which cost £1 million to build and where you can learn all there is to know about cheetahs - 140 cubs have been born and raised here in the past 40 years.

The Embankment, Bedford

If you fancy making a weekend of it, this mock Tudor-style pub in the heart of Bedford has rooms with stunning views over the Embankment and River Great Ouse.

Take a stroll along the canal walks, cross its foot bridges and head to the boating lake where there’s a café and a bandstand. The Embankment gardens are very pretty and when you’ve had enough fresh air, head back to the pub for a pint and a 28-day dry-aged steak – their award-winning butcher holds a Royal Warrant. 

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Box End Park

Along with its gently rolling countryside, pretty villages and meandering rivers, the county offers open-water swimming in its clean, current-free lakes which are open from April.

Don’t worry about the chilly factor, they have wetsuits for hire and the park is centred around two purpose-built water sports lakes, where you can learn to water ski or wakeboard. And if you don’t fancy getting your hair wet, there’s a 5K running and cycling track.