Whenever you visit a new city it’s all well and good doing the obvious things, but what’s often more interesting is taking the odd left-field detour.
The path less trodden is often where you’ll locate the real heart and soul of a place.
So with a cheery nod to the less-celebrated but more quirky, here are 10 off-the-beaten track places to check out in Bristol, in the company of photographer, Doug Jewell.
If you hook a left as you enter Temple Meads you come to the much underused, architecturally stunning Bonapartes. It’s rarely very busy, so you can get away with having a pint of cider at 8:00 in the morning without being seen.
Then why not have another one and instead of that important meeting in London, skip the train and spend the rest of the day exploring the nooks and crannies of Bristol?
Temple Quay and Valentine Bridge
Leave Temple Meads via the back door and you’ll stumble across Temple Quay, Valentine Bridge and a patch of gravelled land which is home to The Goods Yard, a bar made of shipping containers, and Yurt Lush, a café bar in a yurt, which is lush. If you’ve really overdone the cider in Bonapartes, this underused drinking hub on the Creative Common could almost be in Barcelona.
The White Lion
The White Lion on the centre is one of the cosiest pubs in Bristol. It also has a seriously vertiginous spiral staircase leading to the toilets. So steep, in fact, that if you can successfully negotiate your way down and back up again it should qualify you as being sober enough to carry on drinking. If you can’t, then it’s home via A&E at the nearby BRI.
Whitehall Athletic Arena
Whitehall Athletic Arena is about five miles from the city centre and boasts a splendidly springy running track on which anyone from complete beginner to elite athlete can, and does, train. Bristol & West Athletic Club run training sessions there on week nights and they are always glad to have runners, jumpers and throwers of all ability pitch up to say hello and join in.
Beware of the Leopard Books
You can avoid the homogenous hell of Waterstones and the like by visiting some of the second hand book shops dotted around Bristol. Beware of The Leopard Books, in St. Nicholas Market, has a dizzying array of titles to choose from and that strangely pleasant aroma peculiar to second hand book shops. It would be no surprise to bump into Professor Yaffle there.
20th Century Flicks
Located on the Christmas Steps is 20th Century Flicks. A DVD shop that is so much more than a DVD shop: brilliant staff, a huge selection of films and one of the most entertaining Twitter feeds in town. They even still hire VHS tapes. Best of all, though, is their own 11-seat cinema in the shop. Hire it out and you need never be annoyed by some popcorn-munching nob sat in front of you again.
Blaise Castle Estate
Blaise Castle Estate has loads of isolated paths and walkways that you can stroll around without bumping into another soul for ages. If, like me, you have shocking navigational skills, it’s pretty easy to get lost within a few turns and for things to start to feel a bit Blair Witch Project. There’s even an eerie, abandoned log cabin hidden away somewhere.
Bedminster Cricket Club
Bedminster Cricket Club can be found on The Clanage, just before the entrance to Ashton Court. With the suspension bridge as a backdrop, a clubhouse with a well-stocked bar, it’s an ideal place to discreetly while away a few weekend hours on a dog walk as the typically British sounds of leatheron willow and ‘would you and your dog like another drink?’ serenade your ears.
If, like Sartre, you consider other people to be hell then the chances are you’ll concur that other people’s children are worse than hell. Worry not, though, this relatively new playground just off Observatory Road in Clifton is sufficiently tucked away to be quiet for most of the time, thus freeing you up to pointlessly stare at your phone for half an hour while your kids play on the swings.
Clifton Arcade offers up a veritable treasure trove of quirky, independent shops selling all manner of gems. There’s a Mexican importers, a chalk paint products place, a shop that sells soap and a smattering of second hand clothes outlets, to name just a few. There used to be a wool shop too but, alas, it has closed down. Live fast, dye yarn.