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Top 5 Day Trips from Bristol: Bath to Wales

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4 weeks ago

The gateway to England’s West Country, Bristol is a hip and trendy center of culture, packing a mix of intriguing history and swanky new developments. Bristol’s top sights include the awe-inspiring Clifton Suspension Bridge, based on a design by legendary engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Brizzle, as the locals call it, was also an important shipbuilding city, with Brunel’s designs becoming a reality on the city’s waterways.

Today, Bristol is less an industrial powerhouse and more relaxed riverside city with an impressive story to tell and a remarkable arts and entertainment scene. For Brits and visitors to the country alike, Bristol is one of the top city break destinations.

What’s more, Bristol is a great base to explore the West of England. Our top 5 day trips from Bristol showcase some of the region’s best scenery, history and even includes a day trip across the border to Wales.

1. Bath

We recently included the beautiful spa city of Bath as one of the top 10 day trips from London, and the good news is, Bath is even easier as a day trip from Bristol.

Surrounded by seven hills, Bath’s natural spa waters soon made it an important town in Roman Britain. The Roman Baths still stand today and are a great starting point for any visit to the city.

Historical Sites

A visit to the baths allows you to walk on the original Roman cobbles, see the ruined Temple of Sulis Minerva and explore the Roman Baths Museum. Guided tours are available every day which are well worth the small extra fee. Be sure to book in advance as tour spaces are limited.

Whilst Bath continued to grow slowly after Roman rule ended, it was during the Georgian period that many of Bath’s most impressive buildings were erected. The iconic Royal Crescent is a must see on any day trip to Bath. Built in 1774, this sweeping crescent of terraced houses is a sight for sore eyes.

Another of Bath’s claims to fame is as the home of Jane Austen. The renowned author lived here from 1801 to 1806 and her former house is now the Jane Austen Centre, a museum which pays homage to her life and works. It also gives a fascinating insight into how life was in Georgian Bath.

A great way to see all of Bath’s top sights in a day is to take a guided walking tour. A 90-minute tour is ideal for getting your bearings and deciding where you want to focus the rest of your time on. This tour also includes a visit to Sally Lunn’s house. Sally Lunn was a baker who created the Sally Lunn Bath Bun, a sweet brioche style bun which is still made to the original recipe in her former house, as they have been since 1680.

Getting to Bath

Bristol and Bath are just 23 miles apart, so getting between the two is quick and easy. It’s no surprise that Bath is one of the most popular day trips from Bristol. The best way to travel is to take a train from Bristol Temple Meads. These run four times per hour and take around 15 minutes.

Another option is to take the bus. First bus X39 runs every 15 minutes from Bristol Bus Station, taking around an hour to reach Bath.

2. Weston-super-Mare

A classic English seaside resort, Weston-super-Mare is a local favorite day trip from Bristol during the summer. It’s famous for its Edwardian pier, sandy beaches and friendly donkeys which plod along them, making Weston-super-Mare an ideal day trip from Bristol for visitors of all ages.

Start your day learning a little about the town’s history and the role of tourism in its growth at Weston Museum. This free museum has an extensive range of exhibits, many of which were donated by the townspeople, which cover the history of Weston right back to the Iron Age.

Next, head to the Helicopter Museum. This unique space holds over 100 helicopters from all over the world including the Lynx which set the record for the fastest rotary aircraft. The museum’s hours vary by season, so check their website before heading their way as it’s around two miles out of town. You can walk in about 45 minutes, take a taxi or First bus 7 which stops right outside the door.

Local tip: When at the English seaside, there’s only one true contender for lunch. Head to Papa’s for some fresh, golden fish & chips, available to dine-in or take-out.

They’ve been frying since 1966 and have served high-profile customers including former prime minister Boris Johnson.

Weston Beach

Spend the afternoon relaxing on Weston’s miles of sandy beaches. The main beach is the most popular and where you’ll find all the attractions.

Local tip: If you fancy a quieter spot, head to Uphill Beach or Anchor Rock to get away from the crowds.

Weston is famous for its donkeys which offer rides for children along the beach. In the busy summer months, there are three groups of donkeys dotted along the beach, all of which offer the chance to go for a ride.

A highlight of any British seaside town is its pier, and Weston’s Grand Pier doesn’t disappoint. Opened in 1904, the pier’s pavilion is home to a whole range of rides and arcade games. Make sure you bring some loose change for the penny falls.

Getting to Weston

The easiest way to Weston from Bristol is to take the train. These run three times per hour and take around half an hour to reach Weston-super-Mare. Alternatively, First bus X1 leaves Bristol Bus Station every 20 minutes, taking just over an hour to Weston.

3. Exeter

The historic cathedral city of Exeter traces its roots back to the Roman period. Exeter is a popular day trip from Bristol due to its fascinating attractions from hidden underground passages to a beautiful riverside.

Around the Cathedral

The best way to get acquainted with the city is to take a free walking tour with one of Exeter’s Red Coats. These knowledgeable guides share their passion for their city free of charge every day through the summer months. There’s no need to book; just check the times online and head to the Hooker Statue on Cathedral Green.

The tours last around 90 minutes and end back at Cathedral Green, so the cathedral is the obvious next port of call. Built between 1112 and 1400, the awe-inspiring Anglican cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Exeter. The nave has the longest medieval vaulted ceiling in the country and is adorned with the oldest complete set of misericords anywhere in England.

Once you’ve soaked up the history, head back out to Cathedral Green for lunch at Eat on the Green. We love the funky murals here which tell the story of the owner’s journey to opening it. Eat on the Green serve a surprisingly big menu, featuring everything from salads to homemade burgers and fish and chips. Best of all, the fish are sourced just a few miles away in Brixham.

What else to see in Exeter

This afternoon, head to RAMM, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. The museum houses a collection of art, historical and cultural objects from all around the world. As the name suggests, the museum first opened in 1868 and was dedicated to Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. Better still, entrance is always free.

Spend the rest of your day exploring Exeter’s bustling shopping streets. Make sure you visit the recently developed Exeter Quayside, home to some top brand names and plenty of cafes and restaurants. Custom House Visitor Centre preserves a little of the traditional Quayside and has an interesting exhibition on the history and development of the area.

A final stop before returning to Bristol after your day trip, The Exeter Brewery is the perfect place to sample local craft brews. Their Tap Room is open at weekends and serves all their beers along with delicious locally made pies.

Getting to Exeter

The quickest way from Bristol to Exeter is by train. There are typically two trains per hour. You can expect the journey to take between an hour and 90 minutes, depending how many stops it makes.

An alternative is to take an intercity coach. These generally run several times per day and take just under two hours to complete the journey. Flixbus, Megabus and National Express all run the route, so it’s best to compare times and fares when you book your ticket.

4. Gloucester

Another historic cathedral city (there’s a fair few in England), Gloucester’s origins can be traced back to the Roman occupation of Britain just like Exeter’s. Despite that, it has a very different feel. If you have the chance to take both as day trips from Bristol, it’s well worth it to see the contrast.

Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester cathedral took almost 400 years to build, finally being completed in 1482 although its history goes back as far as 679 AD when a minster was founded on the site. The original minster didn’t last long though, being destroyed around a hundred years later and it wasn’t until the Norman conquest of Britain that work started on the new building.

Today, the cathedral is an amazing sight, with some impressive stained glass windows and a vaulted ceiling almost as mesmerising as Exeter’s. So iconic is the cathedral, it has been used in numerous films and TV shows including three of the Harry Potter movies and an episode of Doctor Who. If you’re a film fan, a guided tour of the cathedral is well worth your time.

Museums

One of Gloucester’s real highlights is the amount of fascinating museums it manages to pack in. My all-time favorite is the Jet Age Museum. This museum is staffed by former pilots and volunteer enthusiasts making for a unique aviation-related experience. It showcases a number of aircraft, some with open cockpits, memorabilia and photographs. Admission is free, but they don’t receive any public funding so donations are very much appreciated.

Another top museum is the National Waterways Museum in Gloucester’s historic dockyard. Housed in a restored grain house, the museum is an ode to the importance of canals and inland waterways in England’s development. They have a great café and even offer boat trips on their heritage vessel Queen Boadicea II.

If you prefer to spend time outdoors, head to Painswick Rococo Garden, just outside the city centre. Set in the grounds of the grand Painswick House, it was was created in the early 18th century, it is the only complete surviving rococo garden in the UK.

Where to Eat & Shop

If you have any time left during your day trip from Bristol, pop along to Gloucester Quays, a modern shopping development on Gloucester’s historic marina. Anatolian Palace is my top pick, dishing up delicious Turkish cuisine, or try Portivo Lounge which serves all the best comfort foods.

Getting to Gloucester

The best way from Bristol to Gloucester is to take the train. They leave Bristol Temple Meads twice per hour and take around 50 minutes to reach Gloucester.

An alternative is to take the National Express coach which runs four times per day from Bristol Bus Station. The journey to Gloucester takes between an hour and two hours, depending on what time of day you travel.

5. Cardiff

One of the great things about the United Kingdom is that it’s really easy to tick four countries off your bucket list in just one trip. One of the best day trips from Bristol is to Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. That said, you’ll be desperate to spend longer there because Wales is full of surprises, and Cardiff is another great base for exploring the area. Cardiff is also a major sports city for those so inclined.

But as much as Cardiff is an ideal place for a longer stay, it’s also an excellent option for one of the best day trips from Bristol. Thanks to a fairly compact city center, you can tick off a number of sights in a relatively short space of time.

Cardiff Castle & Museums

Cardiff Castle is the absolute must do on your day trip from Bristol. Like many castles around the UK, Cardiff Castle was built following the Norman invasion of 1066 and played a significant role in the English Civil War.

What’s different about Cardiff Castle is that it spent almost 200 years as a family home. From 1766 to 1947, it was home to the Bute family who eventually sold the land and donated the castle to the city to settle the debts of inheritance tax.

Visiting Cardiff Castle gives you the chance to see everything from the Norman Keep, and the Roman walls which existed long before it did, to the apartments lived in by the Bute family. It also houses an interesting museum which tells the story of The Royal Welsh and Queen’s Dragon Guards. The opening times vary by season, so check their website when planning your trip.

Another top Cardiff museum is the National Museum which is a free exhibition with a massive collection of Welsh art and historical artefacts. For a more modern view of Cardiff, head down to Cardiff Bay, a buzzing commercial district which surrounds the Wales Millennium Centre.

Where to Eat & Shop

Cardiff, and Wales, have a surprisingly good culinary scene, so it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to sample some traditional Welsh dishes during your time here. Head to The Welsh House for a delicious lunch. They do an amazing Welsh Rarebit and classics like Welsh Lamb and Shepherd’s Pie with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options available too.

Make sure you leave room for some Welsh Cakes or Cyflaith (Welsh toffee), too. The best place to find these is in Cardiff Market which is a great spot for picking up souvenirs. Cardiff also has a number of historic shopping arcades which date from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. High St Arcade, Morgan Arcade and Castle Arcade are some of the best ones to explore.

A special note for Doctor Who fans

One of Cardiff’s little-known secrets is that it was the main filming location for the more recent series of Doctor Who. Over the years the BBC has spent a lot of time and money in moving production of their programs away from London. When Doctor Who made a come back in 2005, the BBC’s Cardiff studios became the principal location, with many scenes being shot around the city.

Take a Doctor Who walking tour to see some of the places behind the iconic scenes. Even for non-fans, it’s a great way to see the city.

Getting to Cardiff

The quickest way from Bristol to Cardiff is by train. Four trains per hour run between the cities, taking between 50 and 65 minutes to complete the trip. Cardiff has two stations, so on your way back remember that trains to Bristol leave from Cardiff Central.

If you prefer to travel by road, there are frequent intercity coaches between Bristol and Cardiff. Flixbus, Megabus and National Express all run the route, so it’s best to compare options before you book. The journey typically takes just over an hour. Even more exciting is that you will be crossing the River Severn via a bridge, whereas the train crosses through a tunnel.


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