Central and South Bedfordshire, Bedfordshire, England
Gliding at Dunstable Downs
Central and South Bedfordshire
South Bedfordshire has always had strong royal connections. Houghton Regis was a royal manor of Edward the Confessor and is mentioned in the Domesday Book.
In the 12th century, Henry I split his manor to form the town of Dunstable at the ancient crossroads of Watling Street and Icknield Way. Henry built a palace and founded an Augustinian priory. Five centuries later, the priory was the location for the divorce proceedings between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.
The other main settlement is Leighton Buzzard and is also mentioned in the Domesday Book. It was a thriving market town even then, a tradition that continues in the attractive Georgian High Street, with its 15th century market cross. The 13th century parish church is one of the finest in the country. The top tourist attraction is the narrow gauge railway, which runs miniature steam trains along a five-mile route into the countryside. Cruises and day trips can also be taken along the Grand Union canal.
The rest of South Bedfordshire consists mainly of carefully protected rolling countryside, much of it recognized as an Area of Outstanding Beauty. Within the rural area lie many attractive villages. Nowhere in South Bedfordshire is more than a short ride away from glorious countryside.
Dunstable Downs offer 130 acres of public access in The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with circular walks, picnic area, visitor centre and spectacular views. Hang-gliders use the Downs and visitors can also watch traditional gliders taking off and landing at the London Gliding Club below.
Stockgrove Country Park is situated between the villages of Heath and Reach and Great Brickhill and comprise of woods and parkland, an ornamental lake and picnic area. Sundon Hills Country Park, Sharpenhoe Clappers and Totternhoe Knolls are also popular countryside areas.
Set in 600 acres of beautiful parkland, Whipsnade Wild Animal Park is home to 2,500 animals and is one of Europeís largest conservation centres. Other animal collections can be seen at Woodside Animal Farm, whilst Mead Open Farm with its wide range of established farm animals is not far away.
Where to stay and things to do in Bedfordshire
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