Have you ever packed your bags on a whim to visit a city you’ve either never been to before or one you went to many years ago? Our girl Rachel McAlley did just that recently, she returned to Bristol a city she hadn’t visited since 1998.
I was really looking forward to my 2023 return to Bristol, because this time I was going to be a tourist. This trip meant that I had the chance to stroll at my own pace, visit places I’d wanted to see all those years ago, and enjoy a few of Bristol’s famous attractions.
The team from Visit Bristol and Visit West made sure that I had plenty to do, including a morning walk to Clifton Suspension Bridge, a visit to Clifton Observatory, and some shopping around the independent shops within Clifton Village.
I stayed at Hotel Du Vin Bristol Avon Gorge, a stunning boutique hotel located on Sion Hill, overlooking both the River Avon and the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge. The hotel itself sits on the hillside and is surrounded by beautiful Georgian and Victorian architecture. Hotel Du Vin Bristol Avon Gorge is the ideal location for visiting Clifton Village, the most coveted area within Bristol.
My room at Hotel Du Vin was a Deluxe Gorge Vista Room with super king-sized bed, monsoon shower, flatscreen TV, Nespresso machine, and free WiFi. The view out of all the bedroom windows was of the gorge itself and the valley below. The deluxe vista room starts at around £150 per night depending on date and availability.
It was exceptionally spacious, very comfortable, and even offered underfloor heating in the bathroom. This nice little touch didn’t go unnoticed after I’d been walking all day and it eased my sore feet!
Whilst at the hotel I dined at the in-house French restaurant, Goram & Vincent, which boasts the most outstanding views of Clifton Suspension Bridge.
A laid-back contemporary restaurant that has an excellent menu packed with steaks, fish, burgers, and skewers to choose from. I opted for the Sourdough Baguette with Lescure Butter (£2.95) to start followed by the Chicken Skewer (£17.50), and ended with The Cheese Plate (£10.95). The Chicken Skewer was served with tabbouleh, red cabbage slaw, flatbread, fries, and both chilli and garlic sauces. This dish was absolutely divine, a perfect mix of French and Middle-Eastern flavours sitting alongside the smoky, spiced chicken. I even indulged in a non-alcoholic Raspberry & Elderflower Collins Cocktail (£6.95) while enjoying the view of the bridge.
It was early evening, so I decided to venture a little further afield and head to a part of the city I hadn’t seen before, Bristol Harbourside. Everything had closed for the day, when I arrived, but what a fabulous place to visit. I wish I’d been earlier in the day as I would have gone to Arnolfini a contemporary art centre, M Shed Museum and The Matthew of Bristol, a replica of the John Cabot ship that he sailed to Newfoundland back in 1497. I could have also caught a Bristol Ferry, the water bus service from the floating harbour.
Back at the hotel I rested my weary feet and enjoyed watching the TV in my room, with some chocolates and a glass of Mango, Ginger & Lime Gin from local Bristol distillers, 6 O’Clock Gin.
After breakfast at Goram & Vincent I went for a walk up to Clifton Suspension Bridge, only 5 minutes stroll from the hotel. The bridge is such an iconic part of Bristol, it was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and officially opened in 1864 after Brunel’s death. Today the bridge is open 365 days a year and costs just £1 for motor vehicles to cross, it is however free for cyclists and pedestrians like me!
I spent around an hour at the bridge taking in the extraordinary views whilst walking across, and perusing the Visitor Centre. The centre is free to enter and there’s lots to read from a historical point of view, plus there’s a film to watch about the bridge too. There were plenty of other tourists in the visitor centre and on the bridge taking photos of Clifton Suspension Bridge, which was great to see.
From the bridge I walked a little further up the hill to Clifton Observatory to enjoy the scenery from a different perspective. It costs £5 per adult to enter the observatory, this includes a visit to the museum in the Observatory tower, and a walk down to the Giant’s Cave. Alternatively, visitors can book tickets solely for Giant’s Cave if preferred, at just £3 per adult.
The Observatory tower was built in the Iron Age and has been used for centuries as a fort, viewing point, and more recently a museum. The Camera Obscura, designed by William West is one of just three working Camera Obscuras in the UK, it has sat atop the tower since way back in 1828. Today this camera, which rotates 360 degrees still offers clear real-time images of Bristol.
The Giant’s Cave is reached through a 200 feet-long tunnel, and 130 steps down (and back up) which opens to a viewing platform in the cliff face. This is another must-see attraction whilst in Bristol and the views are beyond exquisite.
After the lengthy walk to Giant’s Cave, I ventured into Clifton Village itself for a spot of shopping and a wonderful lunch. There is an array of independent boutiques, bespoke art shops, luxury jewellers, quaint cafés, plus a number of unique vintage and thrift shops. The village is steeped in Georgian architecture, and has quite an upper class yet boho feel to it. There were lots of locals and visitors shopping, lunching, and enjoying their time in Clifton.
I met some friends and we dined at KIBOU for lunch, a Japanese Kitchen and Bar in the heart of Clifton Village. With hand-painted murals, which visually depict Japanese street life, a menu that offers exotic cocktails, bao buns, sushi, and ramen this was definitely the chicest place to be in Clifton Village.
We ordered dishes including Yasai Tempura Vegetables (£8.50), Katsu Chicken Curry (£14.60), Salmon Terriyaki Don (£17.50), and Chicken Terriyaki Don (£14). I had the Chicken Don and it was insanely tasty, full of good stuff including green beans, edamame beans, and cabbage alongside the chicken and rice.
We were too full for dessert, and it was time to collect my luggage from the hotel and make my way to Bristol Temple Meads train station.
I travelled to and from Bristol with Cross Country Trains, who offer standard seats, first class seats, and discount for railcard users. The train took around 5 hours from Bristol to York, and was a very comfortable way to travel with excellent leg room. It is advisable to purchase tickets in advance of travelling for the best possible price as it can cost more to pay on the day. Cross Country offer an onboard food and drink service on most of their journeys, delivered straight to your seat. What more do you need!
My return visit to Bristol was a huge success, I could even see myself living in Clifton in the future, and I will be returning far sooner than in 25 years time!
It is with great thanks to all the above for their hospitality throughout my trip. For more information visit the following Instagram accounts: