Admire the Bristol Skyline – By Day/By Night

Despite its size and industrial connections, since arriving here almost three years ago I have come to view Bristol as an unexpectedly beautiful city. From its famous brightly coloured houses, its glorious gorge cutting through the landscape and its patches of welcome greenery supplied by its parks, fields and woods to the majestic old buildings towering high amongst the tower blocks, Bristol’s skyline is truly remarkable. This post is about my favourite spots to admire the beauty of Bristol by day and by night.

By Day: Climb to the top of Cabot Tower to take in the sights

For this daytime sightseeing trip, head to the oldest park in Bristol, Brandon Hill. This beautiful hillside park is a perfect picnic spot with flowers, trees and water features so pack some snacks, maybe a flask of something hot (or, once the weather is a little more forgiving, bring a couple of beers) and enjoy the panoramic views of Bristol. Climb up the cramped, steep, spiral staircase and emerge at the top of the 105ft tower, built in the 1890s to commemorate explorer John Cabot and his voyage to Canada. The tower itself can be seen towering over the city with its winged angel on top – especially at night time when it flashes. From here you can see to Clifton with its iconic bridge, the harbour side dotted with boats, the spires of the Wills Memorial building and its Museum neighbour and beyond. Remember to bring your camera with you – this is the epitome of a kodak moment.

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Useful Info.

Admission: Free
Opening Times: From early morning until dusk. 8am – 4pm Winter. 8am- 7pm Summer.
Bring: Your camera. A Picnic.
Address: Brandon Hill Park, Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5RR.
Access via Great George St., Jacob Wells Road and Berkeley Square.
Twitter: (Unofficial – but very funny) @The_Cabot_Tower

Extra hint

On your way home, why not pop into Rocotillos, Clifton’s own American 50’s style diner (featured in the TV show, ‘Skins’), for one of the BEST milkshakes in Bristol. Chocolate and Hazelnut or Cookie Dough are strong choices, but pick from a wide wide selection – including some alcoholic ones and some which sound pretty mad, but are definitely delicious. They also have an extensive menu of breakfasts (including the highly popular American pancakes), lunches and coffees.  Plus, the place itself, complete with booths, mirrors and twizzly retro stools, is so reminiscent of Grease that it gets me humming Summer Lovin’ every time. Check them out!

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Useful Info.

Milkshake: A little more or a little less than £4.00
Opening Times: Mon-Wed 08.00 – 18.00. Thu – Sat 08.00 – 19.00. Sunday 10.00-17.00
Address: 1 Queens Row, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1EZ
Website: Here is their Facebook page
Twitter: @Rocotillos

By Night: See the city lights from the Clifton Observatory

Venture up above the Suspension Bridge to the Clifton Observatory and take in the views of Bristol by night. There is something literally magical about seeing the city lights shining beneath you while sitting under the stars, especially with Brunel’s “first love”, the bridge, lit up in the foreground and the outstanding gorge and Avon river winding its way below. It is my go-to place to watch Fireworks on Bonfire Night as you can see them going off all over the city, and in the summer the fireworks display for the Balloon Fiesta over at Ashton Court is also viewable from this spot. Maybe grab some take away fish and chips from Clifton’s (medium-expensive) chippy in the village and if you’re feeling impulsive, buy a bottle of prosecco to accompany your dinner! Enjoy!
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Useful Info.

Admission: Free
Opening Times: Always
Bring: Food? Drinks? Gloves?
Address: Clifton Down, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3LT. (Right next to the Suspension Bridge)

Extra Hint

Now’s your chance to pop into the famous Coronation Tap! Clifton’s only cider house, first mentioned in documents in the early 1800s, the Cori Tap is a top destination for anyone over the legal drinking age (bring your ID if you look under 25 because they can be fairly strict at the door). With an enormous selection of ciders, including their very own WORLD FAMOUS ‘Exhibition’, and a calendar full of music events, you’re in for a good night. If you’re feeling daring undertake the legendary Cori-Challenge and attempt to drink 10 Exhibitions before 10pm. However, a word of warning: this stuff is deceptively tasty and yet is so potent that they sell it only by the half pint! You’re not a true Bristolian until you’ve got at least three half-remembered yet mortifying anecdotes to tell about a night at the Cori. Let me know your records! I once managed 5 and the rest of the evening is a blur…
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Useful Info.

An exhibition: £2.50
Opening Times: Mon-Fri 17.30, Saturday and Sunday 19.00 – and they usually close about midnight. Get there early-ish if you want a seat, otherwise expect to be standing against a wall somewhere! It can get VERY busy.
Address: The Coronation Tap, 8 Sion Place, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4AX.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of my Bristol-based blog posts! Perhaps check out THIS one about my Harbourside Highlights.

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Get lost in the British Library

Reading and stories have forever been a passion of mine, and so I am somewhat reluctant to admit that until recently I had never before paid a visit to the British Library. Home to over 170 million (!!!?!?!!?!?!!) items on over 625km of shelves, dating from 3,000 years ago to literally TODAY, as well as host to a timetable full of exhibitions and events, the B.L. is definitely one of my new favourite places to visit in the Capital. You’ll need to grab a reader’s pass to enter the reading rooms, but the rest of the library – including 3 cafes, a restaurant, a really really good gift shop and three exhibition galleries – is open to all. I was lucky enough to catch the penultimate day of the Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination exhibition and oh boiiii, it was great. 

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After planning to spend “an hour and a half – tops” checking out this celebration of all things gothic, I ended up lingering for almost 3 hours devouring the exhibition and although it is no longer running, I just can’t resist telling you a little bit about it. It explored the pervasiveness of gothic imaginings for the past 250 years, looking at the gothic genre not only in literature, but in films, art, music, fashion and architecture. Featuring excerpts and material surrounding classics including The Castle of Otranto, Frankenstein, and Dracula as well as more contemporary, but still undeniably gothic works including The Bloody Chamber, Twilight, and films such as The Shining it was remarkable to see how pervasive and long-lasting is our human fascination with things unearthly, grotesque and fearsome. Included in the exhibition were spooky, unnerving objects, beautifully atmospheric paintings, engravings and sketches and scrawled correspondences and jotted notes from the likes of Byron, Shelley and Jack the Ripper himself – all working to enhance the feeling of fascination and repulsion so familiar when considering the macabre.

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Unfortunately, this exhibition has ended. There are, however, many other undoubtably equally captivating exhibitions lined up, including one focusing on Arctic Exploration and another marking the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carter. You can read more about these here. Plus sitting in the cafe overlooked by shelf upon shelf of books making up the King’s Library (Good job, George III) is pretty inspiring. I urge you to go and check it out.

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Useful Information

  • Price: FREE ENTRY! (Some exhibitions, however, do charge for admission – generally £5 for students)
  • Opening Times: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 09.30 – 18.00
    Tuesday 09.30 – 20.00, Saturday 09.30 – 17.00, Sundays 11.00 – 17.00
  • Facilities: 3 Cafes, A Restaurant, beaut gift shops, lots of little places to sit and read and write, a number of ‘reading rooms’ (more about getting a reader’s pass here)
  • Cup of Coffee: £2.30 for a latte.
  • Bring with you: a notebook and a pencil/pen. (Also maybe some money for some potentially unnecessary but seriously desirable literary inspired gifts – see the online shop for a taster)
  • Address: The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London. NW1 2DB.
  • Website: http://www.bl.uk/
  • @britishlibrary

P.s. Have a look here at some more Museum-y posts and some more Historical ones. There you go.