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 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!

Berkeley Castle Lily Pond, credit Angharad Paull
Image - Berkeley Castle, credit Angharad Paull

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.

Stepping Stones at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre. Credit WWT
Image - WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre

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

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 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 their award-winning restaurant before you go.

Gothic exterior of De Vere Tortworth Court mansion house. credit De Vere Tortworth Court
Image - De Vere Tortworth Court

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 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!

Thornbury Castle exterior in sunlight. Credit Thornbury Castle
Image - Thornbury Castle

Junction 17

Bristol Zoo Project 

Tired of tarmac? Hop off the M5 at junction 17 for Bristol Zoo 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.

An exterior view of The Mall at Cribbs Causeway - Credit VijayForVictory
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. 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

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.

Fountain in garden at Berwick Lodge - credit Berwick Lodge
Image - Berwick Lodge 

Junction 18

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.

A view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge from River Avon - credit Visit West
Image - Clifton Suspension Bridge

Junction 19 & 20

Tyntesfield House & Gardens

If you watch Sherlock or Dr Who, chances are you’ve already seen a fair bit of Tyntesfield house and gardens. Owned by the National Trust, there are extensive trails and walks in the grounds. The Cow Barn restaurant serves locally-sourced food and you can also stay in the pretty cottages in the grounds.

Gothic mansion house with spring flowers
Image - Tyntesfield House

Junction 20

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.

Clevedon Pier
Image - Clevedon Pier

Junction 21

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.

 

Weston-super-Mare beach and Grand Pier
Image - Grand Pier, Weston-super-Mare

 

Junction 22

Wookey Hole

Marvel at the stunning show caves, stroll through the prehistoric Valley of the Dinosaurs, have a game of pirate cray golf or watch a 4D film before seeking out the famous Witch of Wookey Hole. There's a whole day of fun to be had here, and if you're tired after a day of adventuring, you can stay next door at the Wookey Hole Hotel or Mendip View Lodges.

A family in a cave at Wookey Hole in Wells, near Bristol - credit Wookey Hole
Image - Wookey Hole

Brean Leisure Park

You're spoilt for choice at this family resort, whether you opt for Brean Theme Park with its 40+ rides and attractions, the Splash Waterpark or Brean Play with its large soft play areas and activities. You can also stay on site at Holiday Resort Unity which has a variety of lodges and holiday homes within easy reach of the family attractions.

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.

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

Exploring the interior of the caves at Cheddar Gorge & Caves near Bristol - credit Cheddar Gorge & Caves
Image - caving at Cheddar Gorge

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