Favourite Five: Bristol Walks (Guest blog by Chandra Griffiths)
Updated: Apr 3, 2019
As spring, and nicer weather is approaching (one can only hope), many of you may be thinking about getting those walking/hiking shoes on and enjoying some of the great outdoors. With that being said, I thought I’d write a blog on some of my favourite places to walk in Bristol. We’re pretty spoiled as “Bristolians”; not only do we live in a vibrant city, but we’re also surrounded by some amazing green spaces. Hopefully some of my favourite places to walk will encourage you to revisit some places you’ve been to before, or inspire you to go check out some new ones.
1. Blaise Castle Estate
Located just northwest of the city centre, Blaise Castle Estate is a 650 acre parkland that includes a folly castle, museum, cafe, children’s play area, and numerous walking trails. Now I’m a bit partial to Blaise myself, as I live within walking distance, but it truly is a beautiful place located just outside the city. When you first enter Blaise through the main car park, you are presented with a large grassy area perfect for picnics/bbqs, the children’s play area, and the cafe. If you explore further afield, a treasure trove of trails, both paved and off-road, can be discovered. The folly castle is located at the top of a hill, and can be accessed from several different walking trails.
On different days throughout the summer, volunteers open the castle to the public for viewing (dates and times of openings are located on notice boards throughout the estate). The main walking trails, which are paved, lead you through what is known as The Dingle. The Dingle trail is very pretty and runs along the Dingle stream and water lily pond. There are also various other trails that can be taken through the woods and surrounding grassy areas; you can even walk from Blaise to Kingsweston House Estate. Parking is free, but summer can be very busy, so it’s best to arrive early. The Castle Museum is also open to the public, and contains items relating to the history of the estate. Perfect for spending a sunny Saturday, Blaise Castle Estate is a walker's paradise.
Facilities: Parking, cafe, toilets, children’s play area, picnic/bbq areas.
2. Clifton and Durdham Downs (The Downs)
Clifton and Durdham Downs (The Downs) is a compilation of large green spaces located on the north edge of the city. It includes Blackboy Hill, Sion Hill, Clifton Down Camp and the Clifton Observatory. The Downs is one of my favourite places to walk because it is so expansive and so close to the city centre; you can walk from Stoke Bishop to Clifton Village. I also love The Downs because it offers some amazing views of one of Brunel’s most famous feats of engineering, the Clifton Suspension Bridge. A particularly favourite area of mine to walk is from the Bristol Zoo area of The Downs along the tree-lined path into Clifton Village; absolutely stunning in the autumn.
Parking along The Downs is free for up to 5 hours on weekdays and all day on the weekends, and can be found along Circular Road, Ladies Mile, and Rockleaze. Sea Walls along Circular Road is where you can find the best views of the Suspension Bridge, Avon Gorge, Leigh Woods, and the Portway. Mainly flat, The Downs is a perfect place for a leisurely stroll followed by a coffee break or bbq. As the weather gets warmer, The Downs becomes a hub for dog walkers, sports enthusiasts, students, concerts/events, and ramblers.
Facilities: Parking, cafe, toilets, playing fields, picnic/bbq areas, views, children’s play area, Clifton Observatory.
3. Stoke Park Estate & Purdown
Stoke Park Estate is a 270 acre park and garden located along the M32 and northeast of the city centre. The majority of the park is located within the Lockleaze area of Bristol. If you’ve ever driven down the M32 into Bristol, you’ve no doubt seen Dower House (the big yellow house) looming over the motorway. Part of the Stoke Park Estate, the house was built in 1563 by Sir Richard Berkeley and was once used as a hospital, but has since been converted to private flats. Undulating and dispersive, Stoke Park is a great place to enjoy some panoramic views over the city; I always try to bring a camera with me when I’m walking through the estate.
Also contained within the park are two ponds, Dew pond and Duchess pond, the latter being a fishing pond and a perfect spot to capture a puddlegram with Dower House in the background. The Purdown BT Tower, the giant corkscrew looking monument, is also located within the estate. Thought by some to be one of Bristol’s slightly lesser aesthetically pleasing landmarks, the BT Tower stands high above Purdown and often serves as a location point of reference. Stoke Park is a great place to explore with so many different trails, entrances, and exits. If you explore long enough, you might even discover the hidden graffiti art located within the grounds. While there is no dedicated car park for Stoke Park Estate, parking can be found throughout the neighbourhoods that surround it. I tend to park at the top of Lindsay Road and approach the park from the Purdown side.
Facilities: Picnic/bbq areas, views.
4. Ashton Court Estate
Ashton Court Estate and mansion is an 850 acre grassland and woodland area located just southwest of the city centre. I love walking around the estate for many reasons, but a main one is the wide selection of flora and fauna located within the grounds. Home to two deer parks and a meadow managed by the Avon Wildlife Trust, early morning walks around Ashton Court can be quite spectacular. Picture the sun rising over Bristol and the morning mist melting away, the call of a wild deer stag, and the smell of fresh oak trees, and this is when you have Ashton Court at its finest.
Dating back to the 11th century, the mansion itself is open to the public from 11am-4pm Wednesday to Sunday. Originally owned and operated by the Smyth family, the mansion has undergone many architectural changes throughout its history. When viewing the mansion, you can see styles such as Gothic, Italian Renaissance, Victorian, and Medieval (just to name a few). Ashton Court Estate is not only great for walking, it also contains two pitch-and-putt golf courses, a disc/foot golf course, an orienteering course, and horseback riding and mountain biking trails, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. It is also home to Bristol’s most famous festival, the International Balloon Fiesta.
Facilities: Parking (£), cafes, toilets, picnic/bbq areas, mansion, golf course, woodland garden, deer parks, views, mountain biking.
One of the things I love most about Bristol is its proximity to water, fresh air and the sea. Being near the water is my happy place, so a walk around The Harbourside is one of my very favourite walks to do in Bristol. I love walking around the harbour anytime of the year, but I think the best time for a harbourside walk is Spring, when all the trees and flowers are in bloom. When it’s just warm enough to wear a t-shirt and jeans, and the sunsets reflect across the colourful houses of Cliftonwood, this for me is the best time for a harbour stroll.
Once a bustling trading port, Bristol’s harbour has since been transformed into a cultural, leisure, business and residential hub. There are so many things to see and do as you walk along the harbour including: Brunel’s SS Great Britain, Arnolfini, Watershed, M Shed, The Matthew, We The Curious, Spike Island and Bristol Aquarium, just to name a few. There are also loads of cafes, restaurants and bars. I’m quite fond of the Wapping Wharf/Cargo area of the harbour, and can often be found there on a sunny weekday afternoon taking a break during a long harbourside walk, taking in some sustenance before continuing my journey. Not only is it a beautiful harbour to walk along, it is also filled with wildlife: ducks, swans, cormorants, and even the odd otter if you’re lucky. It’s such a tranquil and relaxing place to meander along and take in all the sites and smells that this wonderful city has to offer.
Facilities: Parking, cafes/restaurants/bars, toilets, views, museums, galleries.
So there you have it: 5 of this girl’s favourite Bristol walks. Spring has arrived, so get out there and enjoy the sunshine! Take the kids, take the dog, take your best mates; there’s a whole load of spaces to enjoy right on your doorstep.
Maps of walking trails can be located at www.bristol.gov.uk.
This blog was written by Chandra who writes A Girl’s Guide blog. Originally from Southern California, Chandra moved to Bristol in 2009 and instantly fell in love with the city. Her blog focuses on her guide to food and drink, travel, sports and life in general. Chandra is an avid amateur photographer, and can often be spotted kneeling over a puddle or perched precariously on the odd ledge trying to capture the perfect shot.