Bristol Harbour walk
Bristol's historic floating harbour via M-Shed, SS Great Britain, churches, galleries, museums, pubs and cafes
|Start and Finish||Bristol Temple Meads|
|Length||5 miles / 8 km|
This walk loops around Bristol's historic "floating harbour", passing new redevelopments, industrial heritage, and many tourist attractions, museums, bars, and cafes.
Starting from the main station, follow the meandering river through the town centre, past the old town to the historic docks, which are now cafes and museums. Highlights include Queen's Square, M-Shed (museum), the Mathew (replic sailing ship), SS Great Britain, UnderXXX Yard, xxxx (bars and cafes).
This is one of 2 Bristol walks, the other is through the town to a weathly suburb, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. You could combine them.
Too many to choose from. Recommended is the Underxxx cafe
Trains from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads are 2 per hour, and take 1 hour 30 mins. £63 off peak.
Slower but cheaper trains from London Waterloo via Salisbury are hourly (a few direct, most change at Salisbury), and take 3 hours. £41 off-peak.
Consider Advance tickets. Beware of clashing with sports events (the Advance tickets will have sold out), especially on Saturdays. There are occasional special offers.
Bristol is in a Mon-Sat CPZ, so free parking outside the very centre on Sundays. Free parking anytime in the industrial area east of the station, or residential area (Totterdown) south of it (and the river), but on weekdays, commuters will have beaten you to it. Try Googling Bristol CPZ map. The SS Great Britain car park is good value at £5 for 5 hours (max).
Clifton is in a weekday CPZ. There are no car parks, pay and display street parking is 5 hours max, but over the suspension bridge is outside the CPZ
The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
- Exit Bristol Temple Meads by turning right (north), i.e. not the main exit with the roadway
- Continue to a small square with a Wetherspoons pub (the meeting area for groups), with the river to your right.
- Follow the river / floating harbour. Pass a S curved pedestrian bridge.
- At a road, cross to the opposite (north) bank and continue.
- Continue past Castle Green (remains of a castle and 2 WW2 bombed churches) and another S curved pedestrian bridge
- Continue to a road bridge, Bristol Bridge.
- Option: The old town is straight ahead / to your right. Turn right, along High Street, for the St Nicholas Market (covered market, food stalls, independent traders). Return to this point.
- Continue along the river as it veers left, now Welsh Back street. You'll have to leave the riverbank for a short stretch.
- Option: Turn left along Kings Street for the historic 1664 Llandoger Trow pub (closed, 2020-01)
- Continue, Queen's Square will be to your right.
- Rejoin the river. Follow it (or use the south side of Queen's Square instead, turning left to the river at the end)
- Option: Continue past the bridge to The Arnolfini (art gallery, free).
- Cross the bridge south, over the big river towards M-Shed (museum).
- Turn right. Pass M-Shed (museum, free), and the disused cranes. Pass The Matthew (museum ship, free), a replica of John Cabot's ship used to (re)discover America.
- Just after M-Shed, go left, and walk out-back to see the cut (floating harbour bypass channel)
- Continue along the waterfront, pass the rail tracks and wagons
- Detour inland, around the SS Great Britain museum ship / Being Brunel museum. £18.
- Option: Continue ahead (inland) on the detour for the Spike Island Gallery
- On the way back to the waterfront, opposite Force 4 Chandlery, on the corner of an industrail area is a white building with a clock. Down the alley to the side of it is a Banksy mural, "The Girl with Pearl Earrings".
- Go through Underfall Yard. There's a small museum (free, pump engines) and cafe with outside tables overlooking the river
- Continue, cross the sluice gates on a road. Don't continue on to the end of the harbour, its a major road junction and wasteland.
- Head back to the centre, along the north bank.
- The riverfront turns a corner at a pedestrian square. There are many bars. Continue to the pedestrian bridge.
- Option: Turn right left for Millennium square and the We Are Curious museum (kids science museum, free). By the large glitter ball is a big screen TV. Turn right at the start of the square, uphill, crossing, then up again for College Green and the Cathedral. Continue, and veer left for Brandon Hill and Cabot Tower (free) you saw from the harbourside part of the walk.
- Option: Continue ahead to link with the Clifton Suspension Bridge Walk. As the road narrows after the end of the waterway, look up, and you'll see a series of murals on the drab 60's concrete buildings
- Cross the pedestrian bridge.
- Continue ahead, walk through Queen's Square.
- Continue ahead, cross the river on a road bridge.
- Continue ahead at a roundabout with the large St Mary Redcliffe church (free) on your right
- Continue and Bristol Temple Meads is ahead.