Guide to Bristol: Touring Guide for Caravans & Motorhomes
Bristol really is one of the UK’s most wonderful holiday destinations. A huge city with a rich heritage, the unofficial capital of the South West is tucked away amidst rolling hills, meaning that despite its fantastic urban centre, you’re also close to some stunning countryside.
If you’re looking to venture out on a caravan or motorhome holiday, then we’d definitely recommend you give Bristol some serious consideration. In this guide you will find some top tips for things to do in Bristol and its surrounding area, whether you’re looking for a lovely countryside walk or free things to do in Bristol.
Free things to do in Bristol
Bristol is full of fun activities, fascinating historical sites, great shopping opportunities, and amazing restaurants. And to top it off, there are also a number of great free things to do in Bristol that you might want to add to your itinerary during your stay. Below are some of our favourite free activities in Bristol.
M Shed Museum
Lovers of history can explore over 2,000 years of Bristol’s history at this fantastic museum that sits within a gigantic transit shed from the 1950s. Located on Bristol’s harbourside, this museum offers you and your loved ones the chance to learn about the people and places of Bristol over the years.
The adjoining L Shed is also worth a visit and is home to thousands of items from the industrial, maritime, and social history collections. The M Shed Museum also puts on special exhibitions on the top floor that might be of interest to you!
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Another great free day out is the superb Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, which offers 19 galleries spread out across three floors. With a vast collection of nature, history, and art on display, this wonderful museum offers you the chance to pour over the last billion years of the Earth’s history.
Add to this the local aspect, which allows you to explore Bristol and the surrounding region’s natural wonders, and you’ve got a lot to fit in! We particularly love the ‘Bristol Dinosaur’ on display!
Nestled at the southern edge of Bristol's historic docks within a refurbished Brooke Bond tea packing factory, Spike Island plays a pivotal role in the vibrant tapestry of creative and cultural endeavours within the Bristol Harbourside community.
Throughout the year, Spike Island presents a diverse program of exhibitions, events, and family activities in its expansive, well-lit gallery spaces. Additionally, it offers artists' studios and commercial workspaces, supporting both emerging talents and established figures in the realm of design and creative enterprises.
The annual Open Studios event at Spike Island attracts numerous visitors, providing an opportunity to go behind the scenes. Artists graciously open their studio doors, inviting you to explore their workspaces, sharing insights into their practices, motivations, and methodologies.
Visit Underfall Yard
Lovers of maritime history and all things nautical will want to take some time out of their trip to visit Underfall Yard.
Underfall Yard is a functioning boatyard that is open to visitors, offering an ever-evolving panorama of boats crafted by the adept maritime businesses that reside within the yard. These establishments specialise in various aspects of the maritime industry, encompassing boat building, rigging, blacksmithing, marine engineering, marine safety, maritime training, and leisure pursuits. This means there’s a lot for any nautical enthusiasts to take in!
The Visitor Centre at Underfall Yard provides an opportunity to delve into the captivating narrative of Bristol's Floating Harbour through hands-on exhibits, a sizable interactive map, and the assistance of their dedicated volunteers.
Visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge
How could we put together a list of free things to do in Bristol without including the city’s most iconic attraction? The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a triumph in engineering and is completely free to gaze upon and walk across.
Make sure you head on up to witness the bridge in all its glory, before enjoying a walk across and taking in the incredible views of the surrounding countryside.
You may also wish to go on one of the free guided tours of the bridge, which take place at 3pm every Saturday, Sunday, and Bank Holiday from Easter to October. Simply turn up to the bridge and keep your eyes peeled for the volunteer guides who will stand by the Clifton Toll Booth on the Bristol side of the bridge.
You may also wish to visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre on the Leigh Woods side of the bridge, to see displays and artefacts explaining the history, construction, and maintenance of the world famous bridge. Admission is also free!
View the street art throughout the city
Bristol is home to the world famous Banksy and is also awash with a vast array of incredible street art. This means you can wander the streets and take in an ever-changing gallery of artwork from a number of renowned graffiti artists from across the globe. Whenever and wherever you go, there’s always something new to discover.
Be sure to meander through narrow alleys, down side-streets, and through under-passages and you’ll be presented with a varied range of eclectic artwork that offers a mixture of wry humour and subversive pop-culture references.
Unique Things To Do In Bristol
Bristol being the vibrant and quirky place it is, there are lots of wonderful ways for people to spend their time. Here are some of our favourite unique things to do in Bristol!
We have already mentioned the vast array of graffiti on display across Bristol but one artist stands ahead of all the rest, and that’s the world famous Banksy.
Bristol is Banksy’s hometown and across the city you can see plenty of his work on display. You can head out on your own on a self-guided tour using the Banksy Trail smartphone app, or join the experts on one of their street art walking tours to get a more in-depth view of what’s on offer.
Visit Vale Street - England’s steepest street
If you want to see something truly unique, you can visit this country’s steepest street - Vale Street.
Vale Street has an approximately 22-degree incline, which means that walking from the bottom to the top is quite a tall order! In fact, the street is so steep that locals park their cars perpendicular to the road for added peace of mind, whilst some even go to the lengths of tying their vehicles to lampposts when the road gets icy to stop them from sliding away.
Cyclists often see Vale Street as a challenge and see if they can cycle to the top. So why not bring your bike with you, give yourself a speedy run up, and see if you can make the climb?
Clifton Rocks Railway
Hidden behind a gate along the River Avon road lies an abandoned Victorian-era funicular tunnel, initially built in 1893 by entrepreneur George Newnes for a spa atop a gorge. The town mandated its underground construction with secret entrances to preserve scenic views, however, the funicular was rendered obsolete by cars in the 1920s.
The Clifton Rocks Railway found a new purpose during World War II as a refuge from bombs, housing the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Post-war, it served as a Cold War backup studio until 1960. Abandoned, it was later restored by volunteers in 2008, preserving remnants of its bomb shelter days. The tunnel, with rusted tracks, remains a silent witness to its historical journey and makes a great place to see for anyone who is visiting Bristol.
Visit a haunted pub
Constructed in 1664, the Llandoger Trow is a historic pub on King Street that offers a beautiful place to enjoy a drink with your loved ones. Initially comprising a row of three houses, the pub endured the ravages of World War II, emerging with commendable resilience, retaining three of its original five gables despite a bombing incident.
Named by its proprietor, Captain Hawkins, a seafarer hailing from the Welsh village of Llandogo, approximately 20 miles from Bristol, the pub derives its name from the "trow," a type of cargo boat commonly employed in trade along the rivers Severn and Wye.
In addition to its historical significance, this pub is supposed to be haunted! According to locals the Llandoger Trow is home to no fewer than 15 ghosts. Among them is a young boy with a limp, whose ghostly footsteps echo throughout the establishment. So be sure to visit for a drink and keep an ear out for one of the many spirits that wander the premises.
Walks To Do in Bristol
Bristol and the surrounding area is full of wonderful walking opportunities. Whether you’re winding through beautiful woods, exploring grand estates, strolling along the banks of the River Avon, or taking in the sprawling harbours, Bristol has a lot to offer. Here are some of our favourite walks to do in Bristol.
Venture across the marvellous Clifton Suspension Bridge to discover the splendid National Trust woodland of Leigh Woods. This walk offers breathtaking views of the Avon Gorge and is perfect for walkers, mountain bikers, and young adventurers.
The walking route takes you on a variety of trails, a natural play area, and the remains of an Iron Age Hill fort! Designated pathways will take you through oak, small leaf lime, and ash forests and springtime brings an abundance of bluebells and wood anemones.
Blaise Castle House Museum & Estate
If a peaceful stroll in a grand, open estate is your thing, then be sure to visit Blaise Castle Estate, which offers acres of land and winding pathways to explore. Head into the woodland and ascend to the hilltop to discover a folly castle and breathtaking views of the gorge stretching over the treetop canopy. Afterwards make your way back down to encounter a babbling stream.
As part of the mythical Bristol giants walking tour, the estate features 'Goram’s Chair' and the 'tantrum' footprint, along with mysterious tunnels and a cave carved into rock. Popular among dog-walkers, the estate also boasts a vast children’s play area and a museum housed within the 19th-century mansion.
Ashton Court Estate
Ashton Court Estate is yet another fabulous estate that is situated just beyond the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Easily accessible from the city, during spring, the gardens surrounding the mansion house burst into a vibrant display of daffodils that we’re sure you’ll love.
This location is ideal for both walkers and families with children thanks to its on-site cafes, miniature trains operating on selected dates, and delightful vistas that encompass Cabot Tower and the colourful houses of the city of Bristol. Don't forget to watch out for hot air balloons ascending in the early morning and evening!
Brandon Hill and Cabot Tower
Brandon Hill is the oldest of Bristol’s parks and provides excellent views across the city down to the harbour. You can stroll to the park by heading off Park Street in Bristol’s West End. The park itself has some beautiful paths, a great kids’ play park, and a lovely nature conservation area.
On top of this, the park is also home to the iconic Cabot Tower. Designed by the Bristol architect William Venn Gough and paid for by public subscription, the tower sits in the centre of the park and is free to climb when open.
The tower is built from red sandstone and covered with cream Bath stone. When you make your way up the narrow, steep, winding steps, you will be able to enjoy an outstanding view from the top.
River Avon Trail
The River Avon Trail winds its way from Bristol’s ancient port through various captivating landscapes, including the historic harbour village of Pill and the stunning Avon Gorge.
Pack a lunch and grab your walking boots and explore this picturesque trail that takes you along the river’s edge and ends up at the renowned Pulteney Bridge in the city of Bath.
Best Caravan and Motorhome Sites in Bristol
With everything covered here, why wouldn’t you want to pack up your caravan or motorhome and head straight for Bristol. There are plenty of great places to stay in Bristol with your caravan or motorhome, but we have created a list of our favourite caravan and motorhome sites in and around Bristol.
Boyd Valley Lake
Boyd Valley Lake is a serene family-operated caravan and motorhome site that is situated midway between Bristol and Bath. The site is perfect for families, anglers, and nature lovers, featuring its own spacious on-site fishing lake.
The site provides non-electric camping and touring pitches across multiple camping fields, and for those seeking a touch of luxury, two bell tents are available to hire. Accommodating up to four individuals each, these tents are an excellent choice for family gatherings and can be furnished at an extra cost.
Amenities include an on-site toilet and shower block, with car parking available by pitch or unit. Additionally, fire pits can be rented onsite for a cosy outdoor experience.
Swallow Barn Farm Camping
Unplug and relax in this marvellous and serene off-grid farm retreat that is tucked away in the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You and your loved ones can embrace a simple, nature-centric stay, awakening to picturesque rural vistas! The surrounding area offers you the chance to explore country lanes, delightful villages, and quaint rural pubs.
The Swallow Barn Farm Camping site features only 20 non-electric grass pitches suitable for tents and campervans. Each pitch accommodates up to six guests, offering ample space without designated markings, allowing freedom to set up tables and chairs.
Onsite amenities are intentionally basic, making it an ideal haven for those seeking a close-to-nature experience. For those desiring day trips, popular destinations like Cheddar Gorge and Weston-super-Mare are easily accessible, whilst day trips to Bristol are also a breeze.
Evenings can be spent grilling up a BBQ and dogs are welcome to join your stay, with the surrounding countryside providing an ideal setting for leisurely walks.
Mendip Ski Camp
Nestled in the serene surroundings of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Mendip Ski Camp is an ideal retreat for enthusiasts seeking outdoor activities. The expansive grounds cater to families, small groups, and even four-legged companions, offering a laid-back break. Feel free to enjoy campfires and BBQs during your stay.
Adjacent to the camp is a dry ski slope facility, allowing guests to refine their skiing skills or partake in thrilling activities like tobogganing, archery, watersports, and abseiling (advance booking with the centre is recommended).
The nearby village boasts a welcoming pub, and nearby, you'll find the Thatchers Cider Farm, adding to the local charm. You’re also nicely placed for day trips into Bristol.
Avon Valley Camping
Avon Valley Camping offers a great camping spot within the 60-acre parkland of Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park. This provides you with the unique opportunity to camp within the park's boundaries amidst its resident animals! Your pitch fee also includes complimentary entry to the Adventure and Wildlife Park for the entire duration of your stay, so you and your loved ones can explore the park whenever you wish.
Avon Valley Camping offers a variety of grass pitches, some equipped with electric hook-ups if needed. In addition to the well-loved grass pitches, there's the Base Camp at Avon Valley, offering pre-pitched tents ready with beds to accommodate up to five guests, and Lazy Daisy Tents, pre-pitched with camping beds and electric hook-ups.
Dogs are welcome on-site and incur an additional charge. Firepits and wood can be hired or purchased on-site too!
Let us know if we’ve missed your favourite Bristol highlight from our list!