SUGGESTED ITINERARY FOR THE GREAT OAKMAN STAYCATION AT THE WOBURN HOTEL
Book a Great Oakman Staycation and explore the history and beauty of Woburn and surrounding areas.
ARRIVAL DAY – Friday ARRIVAL
The charming little village of Woburn sits at a junction of ancient roads in Bedfordshire, in the Heart of England. Records from 969 refer to a Hamlet of Woburn, and it was also recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086. Therefore, the Hamlet existed long before Cistercian monks arrived in 1145 and founded an Abbey there. Woburn Village was granted a royal charter to hold a Market in 1242, and a monthly Sunday market continues today. Following the fire of 1724, the town was rebuilt in the Georgian style we see today. During the 19th Century, Woburn was an important staging-post and, at the height of the towns popularity there were 27 Inns. There are many buildings of interest in the village today including: the elegant Old Town Hall building, opposite the hotel and now a home furnishings store; the New Parish Church of St Marys, built in 1868; and the Museum and Heritage Centre, housed in the Old St. Marys Church – a great place to obtain local information on the many walks of varying length which start from the village. If you fancy a swim during your stay try visiting the Woburn Lido, an outdoor heated swimming pool for locals and visitors alike. There is also an art gallery, an antiques centre, and many other shops to interest the visitor. Located in the heart of the village, the Woburn Hotel sits at the crossroads by the small gardens and war memorial. Dine in our in-house restaurant this evening before getting some rest in our comfortable beds.
If you arrive early, then why not set off on safari in deepest Bedfordshire, and have a fun family day out at Woburn Safari Park? There, you’ll encounter wild animals from around the world, close up and from the safety and comfort of your car. Learn more about the wildlife from a daily programme of keeper talks and demonstrations, then work off your lunch in a Swan Pedalo on the lake. All this is available just 1 minutes drive from the Woburn Hotel. Alternatively, a magical family fun day can be had at Gullivers Land, especially suited for children aged between 2-13.
Another option in fine weather would be a hike: a circular walk from Ampthill to Maulden using the Greensands Ridge. Ampthill is ten minutes drive away, and you’ll find beautiful views and lots of fresh air on this 7-mile walk. The route passes the ruins of Houghton House, which is free to enter. Set high up on the hill, its wide vistas look north towards Bedford, with information boards available or an audio tour provided by Historic England. After you pop into our sister pub, The White Hart Ampthill for coffee and cake, or enjoy one of their daily specials from the kitchen.
DAY TWO – Saturday WOBURN ABBEY or WREST PARK
Woburn Abbey, a huge rolling parkland filled with deer is the top visitor attraction in the area and for good reason, although there has not been an Abbey on the site for over 500 years. Cistercian monks traveling from Yorkshire originally founded an Abbey here in 1145 and stayed until 1538, when Henry VIII initiated the dissolution of the monasteries and the Chief Abbot is said to have been hung from an old oak tree outside the Abbey gates. Despite this, the name Abbey stuck. The King bequeathed Woburn Abbey and its estates to John Russell of Chenies who became the first Earl of Bedford. In 1694, the family were given the title of Duke and the Abbey is still the home of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford. Woburn Abbey was visited by Queen Elizabeth I in 1572, and King Charles I in 1645. In 1746, the then Duke decided to rebuild the House in a Venetian Palladian style, and the white facade of the house is now incredibly striking in the lush green Bedfordshire landscape. One of the most famous family members was Mary, wife of the 11th Duke and otherwise known as the ‘The Flying Duchess’. Known for her incredible piloting legacy, she was also a keen mountaineer, canoeist, ornithologist, and photographer, as well as being responsible for opening a Red Cross hospital in Woburn village prior to the first World War.
The drive into Woburn Abbey is through the 3000 acre ‘Deer Park’, home to nine species of deer. A visit to the house is over three floors and showcases some classic rooms and art collections. The Long Gallery houses the famous picture of Queen Elizabeth I by George Gower, the ‘Armada Portrait’, and Canaletto paintings abound in the amazing dining room. The grounds of Woburn Abbey were designed by the last great English landscape designer of the 18th Century, Humphry Repton. After a tour of the house, enjoy refreshments in the Duchess tearoom outside, before heading to the gardens where there is a Hornbeam maze to negotiate, Kitchen Gardens, and beautiful overflowing herbaceous boarders in summer.
Alternatively, just 21 minutes’ drive East from the hotel, you can be at Wrest Park, one of English Heritages finest properties. The De Grey family established the Manor of Wrest as their main residence in the 14th Century. The current Wrest House was built in the 18th Century, in the French Chateaux style, and sits alongside formal Gardens restored to their original 17th Century design. The House is at one end of a stunning vista which partly supports the ‘Long Water’, and beyond is the spectacular Archers Pavilion. Hidden gems are to be discovered during exploration of the grounds, like the Chinese bridge and temple, or the ornate marble fountain. As always, the history is brought to life when you join a guided tour or follow an audio tour, which is included in admission price. At Wrest Park, there is a Café and shop at the entrance.
DAY THREE – Sunday – SHUTTLEWORTH or BLETCHLEY PARK
The Shuttleworth Estate, located 20 miles to the East in the little chocolate box village of Old Warden, is set in a forgotten part of scenic Olde England. There is a variety of things to do and see here, including the Shuttleworth Collection. This houses the oldest flying aircraft in the world, from 1909, amongst over 50 vintage airworthy aeroplanes and a collection of vintage cars, motorcycles, tractors, and steam engines. Next to the collection is the 9-acre Shuttleworth Swiss Garden, designed in the 1820s Regency fashion for landscapes in the alpine style, and it may be possible to visit the beautiful Shuttleworth House. There are extensive parklands, playgrounds, and paddocks included in your ticket, as well as a developed play area for children of all ages, picnic areas, a café, and numerous local walking options to suit the most relaxed or energetic rambler. There are often events held within the ground, so check to see if your visit corresponds with one of these.
Alternatively, the vibrant heritage attraction of Bletchley Park is 15 minutes to the West by car. Home to the secret WWII codebreakers whose work was essential to shortening the war, the house holds fascinating stories and there is plenty to see and do for all ages.
FINAL DAY – Monday
On your final morning, reminisce on your time in Woburn over a final leisurely coffee and breakfast. Then, if you fancy a further excursion why not pay a visit to Twinwood, the old RAF airfield? The control tower there is now converted into a museum honouring the famous wartime bandleader, Glen Miller, and his Orchestra. Bedford was the secret location of the BBC during WWII, and this was where Glen was based before his fateful last journey in 1944.