Favourite Five: Places to escape the city for a while
Updated: Jan 24, 2019
1. Leigh Woods
Okay, so it's not strictly outside Bristol as Leigh Woods has a BS8 postcode, but once you're there, you'll soon forget all about the hustle and bustle of the city. Come prepared for a good stomp, as there are three walking trails of varying difficulty, including one suitable for buggies.
The kids will love building dens or exploring the natural play trail, and there are plenty of picnic spots once playtime has ended. It's great for mountain biking and dog walking too. And if, like me, you can't go for too long without a glimpse of the city, the views over Clifton Suspension Bridge are quite spectacular.
Where do I start? That will be the question you ask yourself when you arrive at Stourhead, a National Trust property in Wiltshire. The house is absolutely fascinating (make sure you talk to the helpful and informative volunteers about the family history), but it is the world-famous landscape garden which will take your breath away. Centered around a lake, it is truly magnificent.
Children will naturally enjoy exploring all the nooks and crannies of the garden (hide and seek anyone?) and they can also pick up an Adventure Lanyard which contains things to spot and do around the property. The restaurant is very family-friendly too, and serves some really tasty lunches.
My only advice is to visit Stourhead as soon as possible. You won't be disappointed!
3. Painswick Rococo Garden
Approximately an hour's drive from Bristol, this is the UK's sole surviving complete rococo garden, and it's well worth a visit.
There are glorious views over the Cotswold countryside, as well as plenty for the kids to explore, including a brilliant 3 in 1 maze and a fantastic rustic play area.
The garden buildings are beautiful too, but there are plenty of steep paths, so I recommend using a sling for really little ones, rather than a buggy. Once you've all finished exploring, you can grab a bite to eat in the cafe, or choose some treats from the lovely shop to take home with you.
4. Westonbirt Arboretum
The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire is only around 50 minutes away from Bristol by car, and it is definitely a real escape from the city. There are different fun trails for families throughout the year, and I also recommend downloading the ForestXplorer app, which my kids really enjoyed using to identify some of the 15,000 (!) trees.
Choose from Silk Wood (dog-friendly zone) or the Old Arboretum (dog-free zone), and you'll truly get lost in the spectacular surroundings. There are several picnic areas, a restaurant, plus a cafe which opens in the peak summer and autumn months. This is a fabulous day out, and a real return to nature.
5. Sand Bay
This gorgeous beach just outside Weston-super-Mare is a great place to get some sea air without the crowds. It has free parking and easy access, but you won't find many facilities here, so make sure you bring your own picnic! The kids will have plenty of space to build their sandcastles, and it makes a refreshing change from the much busier and more commercialised beaches a few miles down the road. A true hidden gem in Somerset.