It borders Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire and the southern end of the county is bounded by the Chiltern Hills.
"Bedanfordscir," meaning the shire or county of "Beda's ford" (a river crossing) was Bedfordshire's original name and was first known to be used in 1011.
Since Bedfordshire County Council was abolished in 2009, Bedfordshire is now divided into three unitary authorities - the District of Central Bedfordshire and the Boroughs of Bedford and Luton; however Bedfordshire was historically divided into the nine 'hundreds' and the Borough of Bedford. Bedfordshire is split into six Parliamentary constituencies, each of which has a single member of parliament.
The traditional nick name for people from Bedfordshire is Clangers or "Bedfordshire Bulldogs", the word clanger deriving from a local dish of a suet crust dumpling filled with either jam or meat.
Forming, as it does, part of the broad drainage basin of the River Great Ouse and its tributaries, most of Bedfordshire is low lying and it reaches its high spot in the Chilterns on the Dunstable Downs where a height of just 243 metres (797 ft) is reached.
The rocks of Bedfordshire are sandstone and clay from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, with some limestone. Using local clay for brick manufacture and chalk left gravel deposits which have been commercially extracted, pits have over the years filled with water to form the lakes at Wyboston, Priory Country Park and Felmersham.
The largest population centres in Bedfordshire are Luton, Bedford, Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable. There is an international airport at Luton and there are two universities based in the county - Cranfield University and the University of Bedfordshire and students come to study here from all over the UK and abroad.