Travelling along the M5 this summer? Long car journeys don’t have to mean constant cries of ‘are we neeearrrly there yet?’, expensive, soggy service station sandwiches and hours and hours of pure motorway. 

If you’re passing through the West Country along the M5 this summer, there are some great places to break up the journey around Bristol. 

Stretch your legs at a castle, fend off hunger rage with an afternoon tea and ward off boredom with some wonderful wildlife encounters...

  • Junction 13 

Berkeley Castle

Image - Berkeley Castle Lily Pond, credit Angharad Paull

Berkeley village and castle

You’re spoilt for choice here. The picturesque village of Berkeley is home to a number of wonderful pubs but is also the seat of Berkeley Castle - a gorgeous fortress that has been continuously inhabited by the Berkeley family for nine centuries. The castle has been embroiled in all sorts of historic events, from a murdered king to a wedding that spawned Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These days the castle also runs family-friendly events and open-air theatre performances. Close by, you can visit Dr Jenner’s House, Garden and Museum. (he discovered the smallpox vaccine). Plenty to talk about on the rest of your journey!

Stepping stones

Image - Stepping Stones at WW Slimbridge Wetland Centre

WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre

Junction 13 is also the turn off for WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre. Wear out restless children with a visit to see the Severn estuary’s birdlife. As well as up close experiences with wildlife, there’s a Welly Boot Land for splashing around, canoe safari, soft play area and playground. Just try keeping them awake on the car journey after all that! You’re welcome.

Cattle Country Adventure Park

Cattle Country Adventure Park makes a welcome break from nursery-rhyme singing and ‘Let it go’ on repeat. Giant slides and soft play take care of indoor activities while outdoors you’ll find play a climbing net, ride on mini tractors, willow maze, adventure castle and a boating lake, plus lots more.  There’s plenty of animals to coo over too. 

  • Junction 14

Tortworth court

Image - Tortworth Court hotel

De Vere Tortworth Estate

On the fringes of beautiful Cotswold land, just a few minutes from junction 14, Victorian country mansion De Vere Tortworth Court hotel makes a great stopover to extend a holiday or stretch sleeping legs.  Set in 30 acres of grounds, with their own arboretum harbouring some 300 trees, a gym and spa, you’ll leave refreshed, relaxed and ready to hit the road again. Make sure you fuel up in one of their restaurants before you go.

Thornbury Castle

Image - Thornbury Castle

Thornbury village

Venture off the motorway at junction 14 (southbound) or 16 (northbound) to the pretty market town of Thornbury - a great place to potter round shops and sample excellent restaurants like Romy’s Kitchen Restaurant or gather some ‘ginspiration’ from Bramley & Gage’s distillery tour, where 6 O’clock Gin is made. 

Thornbury Castle

Don’t miss luxurious Thornbury Castle - once owned by King Henry VIII and now a gorgeous hotel with exquisite food. Reward yourself after a stressful drive with afternoon tea in the elegant surroundings before sleeping like royalty in one of the sumptuous bed chambers, including one which has the widest bed in the Kingdom!

  • Junction 16

Mercure Bristol North The Grange Hotel

Image - Mercure Bristol North The Grange Hotel

Doubletree by Hilton Bristol North 

Journey-jaded travellers should swing by the Doubletree by Hilton Bristol North, just off junction 16. Just 8 miles from the centre of Bristol, why not turn it into a micro break - there’s usually a festival going on in the city during summer or you could explore Bristol’s fantastic attractions, restaurants and street art. If you’d rather stay put before getting back en-route, relax in the sauna, go for a swim or book in for their fabulous Sunday Carvery at Brunel’s Hat restaurant.  

Mercure Bristol North The Grange Hotel

Just four miles from the M5 but with 18-acres of landscaped gardens, Mercure Bristol North The Grange Hotel has a peaceful country house feel.  Guests at the Acorn Restaurant can dine on British favourites while overlooking the lovely grounds.

  • Junction 17

Camp baboon

Image - Wild Place Project's Camp Baboon

Wild Place Project and Camp Baboon

Tired of tarmac? Hop off the M5 at junction 17 for Wild Place Project, in the midst of wide open, beautiful countryside. Here you'll find woodland walks and habitat-themed areas of parkland filled with their native wildlife. Visit eland, cheetah, zebra and Gerry the Giraffe in Banoue National Park, let kids run wild in the Fun Fort or get adrenaline pumping in Leap of Faith.

For those who want to plan ahead, book a glamping adventure at Camp Baboon. A unique opportunity to get after hours tours, up-close animal encounters, bush craft skills and entry into Wild Place and Bristol Zoo Gardens.

The Mall

Image - The Mall at Cribbs Causeway

The Mall at Cribbs Causeway

Bristol has some of the best shopping in the South West and you’ll find a sprinkling of indoor retail therapy just off junction 17.  The Mall offers free parking, over 150 shops including department stores and High Street favourites as well as a whole host of restaurants and cafes - many of which are open until 9pm.  Don’t fancy dragging the kids round the shops? Send them off to interactive exhibition Morph Still Naughty at 40 taking place at the Mall from 14 July - 5 Sept.  There’s also AirHop Bristol - one of the world’s biggest trampoline parks, a bowling alley, soft play and cinema nearby. 

Afternoon tea at Berwick Lodge Hotel

Berwick Lodge

Image - Berwick Lodge Hotel

A classy country house in magnificent grounds just outside Bristol, a visit to Berwick Lodge Hotel will make you feel like you’re a world away from your long motorway journey.  Indulge in a wicked afternoon tea in their sunny garden or linger over an 8-course tasting menu in the award-winning Hattusa restaurant. Spend the night in one of their beautiful rooms for some proper R&R before continuing on your way.

  • Junction 18

Suspension Bridge

Image - Clifton Suspension Bridge, credit Destination Bristol

Let someone else take the wheel by using the park and ride off junction 18 to enjoy a visit into central Bristol.  On your way into the city, you’ll follow the River Avon and pass under the breath-taking Clifton Suspension Bridge.

  • Junction 19 & 20

Tyntesfield

Image - Tyntesfield House, credit Angharad Paull

Tyntesfield House & Gardens

If you watch Sherlock or Dr Who, chances are you’ve already seen a fair bit of Tyntesfield House & Gardens.  Owned by the National Trust, there are trails and walks in the grounds, an adventure and sculpture trail for youngsters and exciting events taking place this summer, including Junior Rangers Club which will be running activities like 'feeling sheepy', 'nuts about birds' and 'hairy caterpillars'.  The Cow Barn restaurant serves locally-sourced food, or there’s afternoon tea in the Pavilion Cafe. You can also stay in the pretty cottages in the grounds.

Oakham Treasures

Swap your journey along the M5 for a journey down memory lane. Oakham Treasures, a trove of retail and farming memorabilia from the last century, will fascinate young and old alike. Investigate a collection of over 100 tractors dating back to 1910 as well as farm machinery and old engines used on the land from days of yore.

  • Junction 20

Clevedon Pier

Clevedon

The M5 runs parallel to some spectacular North Somerset coastline and where better to ease stiff limbs than with a wander along the beach? Come off at junction 20 for quintessentially English seaside town, Clevedon (where much of ITV’s Broadchurch was filmed). Eat at one of the cafés overlooking the Bristol Channel, go for a splash in the Marine Lake and wander along the Victorian pier, before skimming pebbles into the sea.

  • Junction 21

Puxton Park

Image - bumper boats at Puxton Park

Puxton Park

Just half a mile from junction 21, Puxton Park is a great one for families rain or shine as there’s plenty of indoor activities - slides, mouse tunnels and obstacle courses to name but a few. If it’s dry you’ll need a full day to make the most of everything. Outdoors there are pillow trampolines, a mini railway, bumper boats, zorbs and rowing boats. Animal lovers can feed rabbits and guinea pigs, ride ponies or meet owls. Meadows restaurant serves meals all day and there’s also a farm shop on site for those that want to stock up on fresh groceries.

Weston-super-Mare

Grand Pier Weston

Image - Grand Pier, Weston-super-Mare

Weston-super-Mare is a lovely coastal spot with miles of sand to play on. Don’t miss the Grand Pier - home to a 300-metre indoor go-kart track, F1 simulators, arcades and rides. Or opt for the more traditional English seaside experience and sniff out donkey rides, ice cream and fish and chips.

Find more inspiration for things to do in Weston-super-Mare

  • Junction 22

Cheddar Gorge

Image - caving at Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Steer away from the motorway to world-famous beauty spot, Cheddar Gorge and its striking cliffs and caverns - the 3-mile cliff-top Gorge Walk is one of the finest in the country. Daredevils can clear driving-fogged minds with an X-treme adventure caving expedition deep inside the Mendip Hills. Also nearby you’ll find Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions  - stroll through the prehistoric Valley of the Dinosaurs before seeking out the famous Witch of Wookey Hole.

Bikes on board? Cyclists should head to The Strawberry Line which runs between Yatton and Cheddar and is part of the West Mendip Way.

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