Bedfordshire is one of the smallest counties in England: 38 are larger. Although it has never historically been fashionable, or noted for its landscapes, the county has plenty of attractive countryside, particularly the Ouse Valley.

There are many wooded areas, and an intriguing mixture of building materials, ranging from flint, stone and chequerwork in the south to limestone on the Northamptonshire border. Bedfordshire is especially renowned for its brick; the soil is predominantly clay.

The county’s traditional industry is agriculture, notably market gardening, but Luton and Dunstable both grew up as engineering towns. Bedfordshire’s economy is sure to be boosted by the expanding airport at Luton.

Despite its proximity to London, the county has been little explored by country-house buyers, and prices are good value. The most favoured areas are within easy reach of good road and rail links.

Bedfordshire’s transport connections to London are relatively good. The M1 runs through the west of the county and the A1 through the east; there is also a fast train service from the capital to Luton and Bedford.

Major towns

Bedford, Luton, Dunstable, Biggleswade, Leighton Buzzard, Ampthill.

Transport links

Train: King’s Cross to Bedford 50min; King’s Cross to Luton 49min.

Car: Bedford is 40 miles from London, via the M1 and A6; Luton, 27 miles, via the M1.

Public schools

Bedford High School (01234 360221). Girls only, age range 7-18, day and boarding. www.bedfordhigh.co.uk

Bedford Modern School (01234 364331). Co- educational, age range 7-18, day and boarding. www.bedmod.co.uk

Bedford School (01234 340444). Boys only, age range 7-18, day and boarding. www.bedfordschool.org.uk

Bury Lawn School, Flitwick (01525 718124). Co-educational, age range 18 months-18, day. www.burylawnschool.co.uk

Dame Alice Harpur School, Bedford (01234 340871). Girls only, age range 7-18, day. www.dahs.co.uk

Leisure

Golf Courses: South Bedfordshire (01582 575201); Stockwood Park, Luton (01582 413704); Aspley Guise and Woburn Sands, near Milton Keynes (01908 582264); Millbrook, Ampthill (01525 840252); John O’Gaunt, Sandy (01767 260360).

Hunt: the Oakley.