River Journey: Bedford to Cardington Lock to Bedford

bedford cardington bedfordThis is the perfect river journey to enjoy at a leisurely pace, giving you plenty of time to soak up the surroundings and stop for lunch. A fantastic introduction to paddling, especially for those with younger children, as you are only in the boat for just over an hour each eay, allowing you to enjoy a manageable river journey, at a leisurely pace.

The route is approx 4 miles long and will take around 2.5 hours. We have a range of canoes, kayaks or SUPs available for hire on this route (see below for options), with two start times (10:30 or 13:00).



Duration and Distance

  • Timings: Choose from 10:00-12:30 or 13:00-15:30
  • 4 miles from Bedford (MK40 3PF), to Cardington Lock and back to Bedford (MK40 3PF)
  • Approx. 2.5 hours in canoes and SUP's (slightly less in kayaks)
  • The route has 1 portage


Pricing and Options

2 Man Canoe: £50.00
3 Man Canoe: £66.00
Single Kayak: £29.00
Double Kayak: £55.00
Stand Up Paddle Board: £29.00

Check out our FAQs for any questions!

Bedford to Cardington to Bedford Reviews"Bedford to Cardington Lock, it was that brilliant that we wanted to review the day we went! Absolutely fantastic from start to finish. Peaceful and fun. Great instructor whom you can contact when you're on route if needed. Simple and easy to read map and there was a waterproof bag for your belongings. Highly recommended for friends / couples / family / group days out. We will definitely be doing it again! Thank you!"  Read our TripAdvisor Reviews.

Full Route Description

  • Our most popular route aka 'The Picnic Route'
  • Explore the backwaters from Bedford to Cardington
  • Enjoy Priory Country Park
  • Plenty of wildlife with herons, kingfishers and more


bcb 1This paddle will begin from Longholme Island at the Boating Lake and Café, which is situated on the stunning Victorian Embankment in Bedford. You will see the site of the Victorian Boat Slide when you start, now converted into a water turbine for generating green electricity. Once on the water, your journey will take you downstream on the lower river, passing a little island (you can pass it on either side), before passing under the road and pedestrian bridge, about 500 metres from the start. On warm days people often report seeing turtles sunbathing in the trailing branches of the Willows on this stretch of water.

As you pass under the old railway bridge you will see the ‘Pyramids of Bedford’, which houses the Oasis Swimming Pool. bcb3400 metres later you will see the New Cut (waterway) branch off the main river on your left. The access to this bit of water is restricted. As you round a bend in the river you will see the entrance to Priory Marina (housing some beautiful narrow and wide beam boats as well as one of George Clarkes Amazing Spaces creations). The river then opens onto a long (500 metres) straight wide stretch, a hotspot for swans and geese. You are now paddling on a loop around the Priory Country Park, which is a popular green space and lake.

As you make your way around the bend on your right there are large moorings and waterfront gardens. You will see a small weir on your left shortly followed by the bcb2Barns Hotel on your right and then a larger weir on your left which marks the Cardington Artificial Slalom Course, a white water feature. Continuing down the river a few hundred yards is a river lock and sluices. You will see large green buoys across the river, marking Cardington Lock, paddle up to them and there is a portage area on your left (with an upturned canoe sign). Once you have lifted your boats out of the water you have a chance to stretch your legs and have a picnic on the riverbank. When you have refuelled, put the boats back on the water and make your way upstream, finishing back the Archimedes Screw (water turbine) inlet. Once you are out of the boat, carry it back to the café (easiest way is turn right, following the path behind the boathouse, rather than back around the front and through the café)!