One of the many things I love about living in Bristol is how you only need to drive for 45 minutes and technically be in a new country, or drive for just 90 minutes and be in stunning Devon. What this means is that there are so many epic day trips from Bristol you can take ensuring every weekend is unique.
Here are some examples to get you started on having a day outside of Bristol…
Best Day Trips from Bristol
Just 10 minutes away by train, the city of Bath is the very essence of English idyll. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Bath offers lots for culture and history lovers. There’s the Ancient Roman baths, stunning abbey, Jane Austen inspired attractions and stunning botanical gardens. And as Bath is a very walkable city, it’s easy to see the highlights of Bath in just one day (without rushing).
Slimbridge Wetland Centre
Slimbridge is just 30 minutes up the M5 from Bristol and offers a great day out for all involved. It’s brimming full of birds, ducks, swans and geese — you can even feed some of them from the palm of your hand! There are always various special events happening to keep children entertained such as giant lego trails and specialist talks, and if you’re not visiting with kids, it promises a relaxing walk through trees and by the water’s edge… lovely!
Cheddar Gorge in Somerset offers a lot in the way of a great day trip from Bristol. You can visit the giant caves and learn how cheese is made, you can walk the gorge itself and view stunning landscapes from above, or munch on tasty treats such as cheese, icecream and fudge from the quaint shops lining the winding rivers.
Cotswolds Water Park
If you’re into watersports such as paddleboarding, canoeing and kayaking, (or just want to give them a go), then a day trip from Bristol to the Cotswolds Water Park is a must! You can do all of these sports and more here, and being just 50 minutes from Bristol, you won’t have to travel far.
The Cotswolds stretch out over 787 square miles and there’s loads to see here. Up first on anyone’s wish list should be some of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds. Here are a few ideas of which to visit first and their approximate distances from Bristol:
- Lacock (40 minutes from Bristol): Lacock Abbey is home to a few Harry Potter movie locations, while the village is your typical Cotswold affair.
- Castle Combe (30 minutes from Bristol): Also home to period dramas and filming locations, Castle Combe is another quintessential Cotswolds village, complete with walking trails, picture perfect cottages and traditional English pubs.
- Bourton-on-the-Water (1 hour from Bristol): Often nicknamed “Venice of the Cotswolds”, Bourton-on-the-Water is built around a winding river and offers plenty of opportunity for eating cream teas and shopping in little boutiques.
- Chipping Campden (1 hour 15 minutes from Bristol): Chipping Campden is a small market town but has a delightful selection of restaurants and shops. The popular walking trail: The Cotswold Way also starts here.
- Stow-on-the-World (1 hour 10 minutes from Bristol): Stow-on-the-Wold is a very picturesque village to explore and if you’re visiting during the summer months, you’ll find quite a few festivals and events happening here.
The Brecon Beacons
The Brecon Beacons are an iconic image when thinking about the UK and with the centre of the Brecon Beacons being just over 2 hours away from Bristol, you can see a lot during a day trip. My recommendation would be to embark on one of the many walking trails — two of my favourites are:
- The Four Waterfalls Walk near Ystradfellte — Interesting woodland walk that lets you follow the trail of four waterfalls (one of which you can walk behind for free!)
- Pontsticill Reservoir — Relaxing walk around the edges of a stunning blue reservoir, complete with picture perfect picnic spots!
Stourhead in Dorset offers you the chance to visit the house and learn about the history behind who lived here, but what most people will come to see is the world famous landscape garden. Surrounding a large glistening lake is a woodland walk with the chance to explore classical temples and a magical grotto with the most unique view across the lake. It truly is stunning (especially in the autumn months when the trees all display reds, oranges and golds).
Similarly to Cheddar Gorge, Wookey Hole is also your chance to see spectacular underground caves. But Wookey Hole also offers a large miniature golf course, various museums, mirror mazes and pier games all as part of the ticket price. Plus it only takes about an hour to drive to from Bristol!
Gloucester isn’t usually going to be at the top of a list of day trips from Bristol, but it should be for Harry Potter fans! Several scenes from the movies were filmed in the cathedral, such as the troll smashing up the toilets in the first film, or where the words ‘The chamber of secrets has been opened’ in the second movie were displayed. Have I convinced you enough to visit yet?
The Malvern Hills is one of the best walking trails in the UK as the views are superb and the trails are often very quiet. It takes about 90 minutes to drive there from Bristol, which means you can easily spend a few hours walking in the countryside and stopping for a picnic as a day out. Just watch out for sheep that often roam the roads during the spring and summer months!
If you don’t quite have time to make it all the way to Stonehenge from Bristol then a very close second best would be the stone circle at Avebury, which is about 50 minutes from Bristol by car. There’s loads to see at Avebury — from the traditional manor, to an archaeological museum, quaint English village and the aforementioned stone circle, which is over 4,000 years old! Anyone can see the circle for free, but if you want to explore the manor house as well, then there is a fee to pay.
Bristol to Stonehenge is one of those bucket list day trips to take as the Stonehenge is such an iconic image in England. It’s about 90 minutes in the car from Bristol (without heavy traffic), or you can easily embark on one of many day tours that run from Bristol to Stonehenge. However, entrance to the henge is quite pricey and something that very few know is that you can easily walk through some of the countryside surrounding Stonehenge and see it for free!
Longleat Safari Park
Who doesn’t love heading out on a safari? And when you can do it as a day trip from Bristol, why wouldn’t you? It takes just over an hour to drive to Longleat from Bristol and offers so much for the whole family to do. You can drive your own car through the safari park (although you should avoid the monkey enclosure if you don’t want A LOT of damage done to your car), or you can hop on a bus that drives through the full safari. There is also Longleat House to admire from the inside, as well as mazes, boat cruises, and various fun attractions in its grounds — all as part of one ticket price. If you’re looking for a winter day out as well, then look out for special events that happen at Longleat such as ‘The Festival of Light’.
Oxford is such a charming city to visit. It’s just as beautiful and historic as places like Bath and Cheltenham, and is simply one of those bucket list destinations that you just can’t ignore. Travelling from Bristol to Oxford takes about 90 minutes by car, or you can easily hop on a couple of trains, which takes about 2 and a half hours total. When in Oxford, make sure you carve out some time to see the University buildings, Oxford Castle and Prison, have a delicious cream tea, as well as wander through the meadows on the outskirts of town. These are all must-dos when in Oxford.
Newark Park is a beautiful National Trust property in sleepy Gloucestershire. There’s an old Tudor manor house here, which you can explore inside for a fee. Or you can explore the stunning countryside for free. There are three waymarked walking trails you can follow, each of different lengths and for different levels of fitness. They even take you through sheep fields, through forests, past garlic flowers as well as bluebells. And if you follow the trails up near the house, you’ll have some of the best views of the Cotswolds, especially if you come during the spring or summer months.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know I’ve visited a myriad of National Trust places. But Lydford Gorge is by far my most favourite of them all. Following the twisting and turning of the River Lyd, you’ll embark on a woodland walk that provides the opportunity to see a 30-metre high waterfall called ‘Whitelady’ and bubbling water potholes called ‘Devil’s Cauldron’. And despite being in Devon, it actually only takes about 2 hours to drive to Lydford Gorge from Bristol!
If you love history, then you’ll love Salisbury. You can see one of the original Magna Cartas in the Salisbury Cathedral, you can wander through the city itself and spot buildings that are hundreds of years old, and you can even eat lunch in a pub that dates back as far as 700 years ago — The Haunch of Venison is not only a historic place to see, but it serves absolutely delicious food! Similarly to a lot of suggestions on this day trips list, Salisbury is about 90 minutes from Bristol by car.
Most famed for its stunning Regency architecture, action-packed festivals and horse-racing, there are so many fun things to do in Cheltenham. It was once the place to be in the 18th century after its spa waters were discovered and commercialised; wealthy Londoners in particular saw it as the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle (and smog!) of the capital. Nowadays, the stunning stucco facades and ripe history are blended with the modern including a newly established street art scene. And at just an hour’s drive from Bristol, you don’t have to go far for a fantastic day out!
I hope this list of the best day trips from Bristol serves as some great inspiration! Where would you like to see first? And have I missed out any other day trip ideas? Let me know in the comments below…
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