From photogenic Bath to the quaint Cotswolds, here are the best Bristol day trips you need to do when visiting Bristol.
In 2017, I got to visit Bristol twice on my UK and Europe trip. Fortunately for me, family in Bristol allowed me to leave one of my suitcases with them while I journeyed across Europe alone. While staying in the city, we did a couple of awesome Bristol day trips – to Bath twice and the Cotswolds. I didn’t realise Bristol was so close to such beautiful places! Keep reading to discover even more excellent day trips from Bristol.
Before I delve in, I should mention my family drove me to these locations. I’d highly recommend looking into Bristol car rentals for these day trips. Firstly, driving would allow you to see more locations in a limited time, which is definitely helpful when visiting the many villages in the Cotswolds. You can also find very affordable rentals, from under $10 per day for a Fiat 500 or Ford Fiesta (but make sure you have money for the deposit). The smaller the car the better I say, for navigating those narrow British streets.
TOP BRISTOL DAY TRIPS
I didn’t know Bath and Bristol are practically neighbours. A simple 30-minute drive away, I visited Bath twice and would happily return again. The first word that comes to mind when I think of Bath is pretty: the 18th-century Georgian architecture, the independent stores and the housing is just all so pretty. It’s actually the only UK city to be a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rightly so in my opinion. The best part is Bath is very compact, so you can easily walk around and see the sights in one day.
Definitely visit Pulteney Weir and Bridge, the houses of Royal Crescent and the Circus, and of course The Roman Baths. I thought this Bath attraction might have been overrated, but I was wrong. I highly recommend listening to the children audio guide as well. It sounds ridiculous, but it was much more entertaining and easier to follow. You’ll thank me later.
Bath also has Park & Ride locations outside the city, where you park your car and get a bus into the city centre. It’s a lot easier and cheaper than trying to find a park in town.
The pinnacle of Bristol day trips has to be the picturesque Cotswolds. Located about an hour northeast of Bristol, imagine thatched roof homes, flowing canals and a plethora of independent shops. There are several villages within the Cotswolds you can visit on your day trip from Bristol. We ended up exploring Stow-on-the-Wold first, where we had lunch at The King’s Arm. Then we visited Bourton-on-the-Water, which is called the “Venice of the Cotswolds,” due to the canal running through its centre.
There were more tourists here, but it was just as photogenic. Finally, we drove through Tedbury on the way back to Bristol, which has another cute high street. Don’t leave Bristol without visiting the Cotswolds, seriously.
Fun fact: my brother actually lived in Cardiff way back in 2008. I still haven’t visited, but it’s less than an hour’s drive west of Bristol. Top Cardiff attractions include Cardiff Castle, where insiders recommend paying a little extra for the House Tour so you get to see the extravagant rooftop garden. Nearby is Cardiff Central Market, where you can refuel with tea and cake. There’s also Spillers Records, which claims to be the world’s oldest record shop as it opened its doors in 1894.
STONEHENGE AND SALISBURY
Just over an hour’s drive southeast of Bristol is the famous Stonehenge. One of the seven wonders of the world, it’s also one of the world’s most well-known prehistoric monuments. A five-minute drive from Stonehenge is the city of Salisbury. While enjoying this day trip from Bristol, it would be rude not to visit Salisbury Cathedral. The 13th-century masterpiece is home to an original copy of the Magna Carta from 1215 AD. Salisbury is also home to a Christmas Market, if you visit Bristol over the festive season.
I didn’t realise Oxford was so accessible from Bristol either. Like a 1.5-hour drive accessible. Plus, according to Google Maps, an alternate way to reach Oxford from Bristol is to drive through the Cotswolds. Two Bristol day trips in one! Anyway, I would love to spend a day exploring Oxford and its university. Top Oxford attractions include Radcliffe Camera, Oxford Castle and the Museum of Natural History.
If you are a movie fan like myself, you can also do a Movie Locations Walking Tour in Oxford, to see where Harry Potter and other movies have been filmed. Another option is the Oxford University Walking Tour. If you visit Oxford on a lovely summer’s day, I’ve heard punting along the river is a top thing to do as well.
Well, we had to have at least one seaside day trip option from Bristol. Weston-Super-Mare is just over a 30-minute drive from Bristol. It’s both a great summer day trip and a perfect escape for families. Its Grand Pier is home to arcade games, the Museum of Memories and indoor rides, like the Robo-Coaster and the Laser Maze. More family fun options include the SeaQuarium Weston, Brean Theme Park and Puxton Park.
Westonbirt Arboretum is the most recognised arboretum in the UK. You can be exploring the arboretum within an hour of leaving Bristol. At Westonbirt, you’ll find 15,000 specimens and 2,500 different species from around the world. It’s home to the STIHL Treetop Walkway, several seasonal trails, guided walks and plenty of family-friendly activities. The best thing about Westonbirt Arboretum is that it’s great to visit in every season. See the colourful falling leaves in autumn, listen to live music in the summer, see the flowers bloom in spring and enjoy the Christmas lights come winter.
CHEDDAR GORGE AND CAVES
Firstly, Cheddar Gorge got its name from the nearby village of Cheddar, which is the funnest name for a town (better than my hometown of Townsville). Anyway, Cheddar Gorge is located about 40 minutes south of Bristol, and 30 minutes inland from Weston-Super-Mare. It’s the largest limestone gorge in England, at nearly five kilometres long. Definitely check out the clifftop walk, as well as Jacob’s Ladder and the Lookout Tower for unparalleled views.
Gough’s Cave is said to be over 500,000 years old. The cathedral-like caverns are dominated by stalagmites and stalactites, and there’s an audio guide you can follow. Gough’s Cave also remains at around 11°C year-round.
LONGLEAT SAFARI AND ADVENTURE PARK
An hour from Bristol is Longleat Safari and Adventure Park, which is a great day trip for big and little kids alike. The UK’s premier safari park, it’s located on the grounds of Longleat House, which looks like it’s straight from Downton Abbey. There’s a Safari Drive Through option, but that’s best left to people who aren’t renting a car! But don’t worry, there’s a Safari Bus option that takes you through the Safari Park, where you can spot lions, tigers, cheetahs and more.
In the Main Square, you can hand feed lorikeets, wander through the Monkey Temple, go on a cruise around Half Mile Lake and jump aboard the Longleat Railway. Plus, don’t miss sneaking a look inside Longleat House, which was built in the 16th century. Basically, be prepared to leave Bristol early, because there’s a lot of things to do and see at Longleat Safari Park.
There are so many exciting Bristol day trips on offer, I need to return to enjoy them all myself! The best part is, all of these places are located less than a 1.5-hour drive from Bristol. How good is that? From seaside strolls to going on safari to Stonehenge, which Bristol day trip will you choose?