For its easy access to the rolling hills of the Mendips and the Cotswolds, Bristol is often affectionately called a city in the country. Keeping within Bristol’s borders, though, there are still plenty of ways to escape the hustle and bustle… and lots of great places to stop for liquid refreshment along the way…
From popular stomping grounds to lesser-known forays off the beaten trail, here are a few places where you’ll find a more serene side of Bristol — and a few personal recommendations to hunker down for a well-earned drink in a welcoming local boozer. Winter’s grip is taking hold, so wrap up warm, pull your boots on and step out into the crisp, fresh air.
Dating back to 1837, Arnos Vale Cemetery offers one of the most feature-filled and atmospheric walks in Bristol. Stroll along forested pathways past ancient monuments and ivy-covered gravestones, and soak up the cemetery’s heavy sense of history. By the time you arrive back to the entrance you’ll have worked up quite a thirst — handily, Bocabar is just down the road. They serve up a fine range of beers and ciders, many from the local area, and the Sunday roasts and fresh pizzas are spot on.
Neighbouring Clifton Down and Durdham Down span an impressive 400 acres — so good luck covering that in one walk. Highlights to look out for if you’re out for a stomp include the Clifton Observatory and the Sea Wall — which boasts amazing views over the Avon Gorge and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. When you’ve had your fill of fresh air and fine views, head back to the top of Whiteladies Road to warm your cockles in The Port of Call or The Penny — two of the area’s best pubs.
Blaise Castle is an 18th-century folly set at the top of a high hill overlooking Bristol and the Avon Gorge, and the views from the top are something special. Below the castle’s mighty flanks lies a spiral walkway through dense forest, hidden among 650 acres of pretty parkland.
Lose yourself along the winding paths, then find sanctuary in The Blaise Inn On Henbury Road. Here pub grub, real ale and a cosy welcome can be found in abundance.
There are hidden pockets of protected parkland dotted throughout south Bristol, and the Callington Road nature reserve is a fine example. Small but perfectly formed, the reserve is home to diverse bird life, seasonal wildflowers, a dew pond and even roe deer. Paved routes take walkers from the upper slopes to the heath, where a circular trail offers peace and tranquillity.
The reserve sits reassuringly close to The Knowle, a traditional neighbourhood pub where punters can find a fine pint, a warm welcome and the best roast in south east Bristol.
From the bright lights of the City Centre Landing to the working shipyard of Underfall, the harbour is surely one of the best places in Bristol for a stroll. Wander past popular landmarks like the Arnolfini and the SS Great Britain, and enjoy fine views across the water from the many different vantage points you find.
Reward yourself at the end (or half-way round?) with a drink at the Golden Guinea or the Pump House, both conveniently located at either end of the harbour. If you’re a gin fan then you need to try the Pump House, they have one of the best selections of the stuff in Bristol.
Hidden away between Broomhill and Eastville, Snuff Mills is the starting point of a very lovely countryside-walk-within-the-city. Follow the flow of the River Frome past an old stone sawmill to the Oldbury Court Estate, and keep on going as far as you fancy — all the way to Frenchay.
Keen explorers who cover the distance can reward themselves with a visit to the White Lion, a fine old pub on Frenchay Common.
Thanks to Chris Callaghan for his list of great pub walks, you can find his musings on Best of Bristol.