Luton Mini Guide
Is There Much to Recommend Luton to the Traveller?
Many people go there just to leave the country via Luton Airport but the town and the surrounding countryside have a lot to encourage people to stay, if only for a few days. The town was in the shadow of the nearby Roman town of Dunstable in its early days. It came to prominence in Saxon times as an important outpost but didn’t really grow until the 12th century as agriculture in the area became important. In the latter half of the 20th century it was a large industrial town producing Vauxhall cars and Whitbread beer. Sadly, declining fortunes led to the closure of the factories and mass unemployment. Of late, regeneration of the town has set it back on the path to growth again.
How can I get to Luton Easily?
The obvious way is by flying into Luton Airport, the home of easyJet. There are flights from nearly all the UK’s regional airports to Luton. From the airport, it’s less than thirty minutes into the town centre. Other ways include the train from London which heads out to Nottingham
or, if driving, via the M1 motorway from where it’s minutes from junction 10 and 11.
What’s There to see in the Town?
So many of Luton’s visitor attractions dwell on the past and the decline in the town’s fortunes. The town museum has interesting exhibits on the hat making and lace making industries that were the mainstay of the town in the 18th and 19th centuries. Interestingly, some milliners remain in business and you can sometimes visit to watch hats being made by hand.
You can also take in a match at Luton Town Football Club, whose fortunes seemed to match that of the town, declining from cup glory and top flight football in the 1990s to non-league football today. The ground was the venue too for the infamous Luton-Millwall football riots of the seventies. For a more optimistic day out you can visit nearby Whipsnade Zoo, one of Britain’s best known. Children love the zoo, especially the hands-on exhibits. Then there’s the wonderful, typically English scenery of the Chilterns and the Dunstable Downs, perfect for a picnic.
What About Eating out?
Luton is one of the most multicultural towns in the country and this mix means that there is a wide selection of restaurants in the town. You can even pick up African fast food in the local shopping centre!
Does Luton Have a Party Scene?
Celebrations are taken very seriously in Luton and it’s home to the biggest one day carnival in Europe which takes place on the last bank holiday in May. Colourful floats accompanied by flamboyant dancers travel along its streets and the air is filled with drum beats, music and the smell of dozens of different cuisines. Luton also makes a party out of St Patrick’s Day with parades, stalls selling Irish products and Irish themed events.
Luton has some fascinating things for the visitor to see. It was once the centre of lace making and hat making in the UK and the town museum’s displays give a wealth of information and examples of those industries. You should then visit the Mossman Carriage Collection for an absorbing view on the development of horse drawn carriages in the UK.
Finally, for a breath of fresh air, hire a car and head out into the beautiful Bedfordshire countryside. Great places for walking include the Dunstable Downs and the eastern fringe of the Chiltern Hills.