Bristol: From Banksy to Brunel
After the success of day one, Bristol had a lot to live up to on our second day of exploration. Unfortunately, my feet weren’t living up to my expectations of, you know, being able to walk for more than 10 minutes (long standing problem – they play up every now and then, it’s hugely frustrating, but there’s not a great deal the NHS can do about it). I smeared a brave face across my chops and soldiered on, but it meant that we had to work to a slightly altered itinerary which didn’t involve quite as much time spent on the old plates of meat.
Street art fans are in for a treat – Banksy grew up in Bristol. With his tongue-in-cheek take on anti-establishment art (both old and new) on display in various places across the city, taking a walking tour sounds like a brilliant way to spend a morning. You can find locations for some of the pieces in this article on the Visit Bristol website, or you could join one of the street art walking tours run by WHERETHEWALL.
I find Banksy fascinating. To achieve such a level of fame and manage to remain anonymous must be challenging. He must be able to take at least some of the credit for the street art world becoming more accepted in the mainstream, and more interesting than a tag sprayed on a random wall (although RIP Big Dave’s Gusset). I get that he is now seen as a member of the art establishment, and his work is therefore considered fair game by up and coming graffiti artists, but it makes me sad when something like this happens.
We’d spotted one Banksy on display at the M Shed, but my feet being as they were, we decided to leave our own tour for another visit – now we have an excuse to return – get in! In the end, we settled for a quick mooch around the city centre before heading on to our next desination.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
The suspense was killing me (boom boom!), so we headed straight up to Clifton for a drive across the marvellous suspension bridge. Helping people get from one side of the Avon Gorge to the other for over 150 years, the bridge is seen as one of the iconic symbols of Bristol. Along with the SS Great Britain, this bridge was designed by the Victorian engineer, and keen wearer of the stovepipe hat, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
We drove up through the city, and crossed the bridge to the Leigh Woods side. There’s a toll of £1, which is only payable for motor vehicles, and goes towards the maintenance of the bridge. On that side of the gorge there is a visitor centre which gives a detailed history of the construction (and accompanying political and financial troubles), and which I think is well worth a visit. It is also possible to do a guided tour of the bridge.
After checking out the visitor centre, we walked slowly back across the bridge, stopping to admire the glorious views in all directions – we were really lucky with the weather!
Coffee in Clifton Village
Crossing the bridge was thirsty work, so we headed into the heart of Clifton Village to find somewhere for a nice cup of coffee and sit down. We chose Coffee#1, a chain which has spread across Wales and South West England. I hadn’t heard of them before our trip, but they have a strong environmental and ethical ethos, which I find appealing in any company, but especially in a coffee chain, because it’s really not hard to source sustainably produced tea and coffee. In fact, I was so pleased with them I decided to have a cake, too. Both cake and coffee were delicious.
There’s a steep hill beside the bridge leading to an observatory, camera obscura, and some caves. We decided to just take a walk round and enjoy further views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, but I reckon you could keep yourself occupied for a couple of hours up there. It seems I’ve been in the caves as a child, because there’s terrible photographic evidence at my mum’s house.
You can also go rock climbing if you’re feeling particularly daring…
Dinner at Marco’s Olive Branch
After a tiring day out, we decided to try the cute looking Italian restaurant situated at the other end of Temple Gardens from our hotel. Marco’s Olive Branch proved to be the perfect choice to round off our day – delicious food and drink, served by a friendly team.
With our bellies full of tasty Sardinian food, there was nothing for it but to roll back to the hotel to bed. The perfect end to our time in Bristol.
Also in the vicinity
If you’re like me and want to make the most of your time in the area, how about spending a day in Bath, too? You can read about our Bath day-trip here.
Don’t forget, you can read up on our first day in Bristol here.