10 of the best day trips from Bristol

Bristol is of course a lovely city with plenty to see and do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be tempted away sometimes.

So where do you go when you need to get away from town for a day?

Restless Bristol resident Peter Walsh does his best at short-listing some of the better days away you can manage by car or public transport away from the city.

Catch a matinee at the Curzon cinema in Clevedon

While Bristol itself falls short on the historic cinema front, the small coastal town of Clevedon a half hour by car or bus, is home to a lost gem from another era. The Curzon in the town centre was opened in 1912, and has been running as a cinema more or less ever since, a surprisingly rare accolade in the UK. With an interesting and eclectic programme of films, from the blockbuster of today to the classics of yesteryear, the Wurlitzer organ and old fashioned concession stand makes the Curzon an old school cinematic experience of the finest grade.

Bothering the Gulls in Weston-super-Mare

Barely a half hour on the train away from Bristol are the sandy beaches and the salty sea air of Somerset’s very own Weston. While the sea-side resort has certainly seen bolder days, there’s still plenty to see and do in the town, and the place still draws big crowds on sunny days. Beaches, donkey rides, and a pier full of rides and arcade games for the kids, grown-ups can find plenty of weird bargains in the many odd shops around the town. Pitched feuds rage over whether Papas or the Atlantic Fish Bar can hold the crown for the best cod and chips in town, the savvy sort can only judge after their own taste test.

Tintern Abbey and the wonderful Wye Valley

A half hour by car over the Severn Bridge and you get to the green Wye Valley, steeply cutting a road from Chepstow to Monmouth. While the luscious nature around the bubbling Wye is quite the attraction in its own right, the ruins of the beautiful Tintern Abbey are a natural focal point for day trippers. The inspiration to Wordworth’s finest poetic revelry, the sight of the ruins against the calm backdrop of the valley might prompt the foolhardy to try their own hand at verse. Others would be safer grabbing a pint and a meal at the nearby Anchor pub.

Roll over to Bath

While Bath could more than justify a list of its very own, the enthusiastic pedal-pusher could easily make the journey there the better part of their day out. The reclaimed Bristol to Bath railway path stretches 15 miles, and is noteworthy as one of the first dedicated cycle paths in the country. Well kept, and quite outside commuter hours, the path cuts through some lovely countryside with nice views over the Avon. The historic Bitton railway station makes a nice stopping point half ways, and is home to a solid café for all your refuelling needs.

The National Arboretum in Westonbirt

Over the M4 and not-so-far-away, just North East of Bristol is an unsung enclave of calm in The National Arboretum in Westonbirt. Just outside Tetbury in Gloucestershire this museum of forestry was planted in the mid-nineteenth century and is home to some very rare and beautiful trees and shrubberies. Which is not just to say that it’s a wood that’s above itself, as the Forestry Commission have landscape the area beautifully, and makes the forest a showcase for nature itself. Spring and autumn are obviously the best times to go, when the forests show the full force of the changing seasons.

A Day at the Chepstow Races

A day at the races! A flutter on the gigis! What could be more grand? If you got some money burning a hole in your pocket then it’s only a short drive, or a slowish bus ride across the Severn Bridge to Wales’ premier thoroughbred racing course. With races throughout the season, you’d struggle to find a week in the calendar when there isn’t a race. The prize race is of course the Welsh Grand National in the last days of the year, and whether you’re a complete novice or a seasoned better, there’s plenty to welcome you and make you feel at home in the paddock.

Find out more about upcoming races

Gorge yourself down in Cheddar

Over the Mendips is the mighty Cheddar gorge, home of the world’s most popular cheese. Going up up from the town, you can either choose to scrabble up to get a view from the cliff edges, or better yet dive underground into the caves tucked into the gorge. Take a walk through the caves, or perhaps try a caving, rock climbing or abseiling adventure. More sedate types can settle into one of the many tea rooms in the valley, take in a round of mini golf, or perhaps while away some time watching cheddar being made.

Climb up to the Glastonbury Tor

A town without a festival for 51 weeks of the year, the sleepy village of Glastonbury offers a strange mix of historical sites and new age mysticism. Whether you think it’s the Saxon ruins or ‘the convergence of ley lines’ which makes the 158 metres (525 feet) high Tor so significant and powerful, the view from the top is pretty amazing whichever way you cut it. With possibly the highest concentration of crystal shops in the country, you might be able to haggle a decent price for some quartz. More grounded sorts might settle for a meal in the Hundred Monkeys or Rainbows End cafes.

Take a dip in Portishead Open Pools

A seaside town desperate to shake off its association to THAT 90’s trip-hop band, the refreshed and revived open-air swimming pool is a renewed draw for Bristolians who hadn’t thought to venture North-West. Right by the waterfront overlooking Woodhill Bay, this public pool gives you a wonderful view of the Severn, without having to brave the chilly waters. Despite being open to the elements the pool is warmed to a constant balmy 28c over the summer months, and the stepped sides make an ideal spot for a bit of sheltered sun-worship!

Find out more about the open air pool

Check out the cathedral in Wells

The wonderful historic city (yes city) of Wells lies due south from Bristol, built around its impressive cathedral which looms large wherever you stand. Packed with many a boutique and numerous of cafes down its many aged streets, sharp-eyed cinephiles many have an uncanny sense of recognition as they go around the city. Director Edgar Wright, a proud son of the city, returned to record action-comedy Hot Fuzz in 2006 and diligent sorts can print out a map and find the film in the quaint locales of the city.

Read more on the Hot Fuzz film tour

[Main image – Charlie Marshall / CC / Flickr]

More Bristol tips:

10 of the best cheap eats in Bristol
10 of the best pubs in Bristol
10 of the best coffee shops in Bristol
10 of the best bars in Bristol

Share this on Twitter:

Share this on Facebook

 Main image: Rise Music – Blowing Puffer Fish / Flickr / CC