Bristol and the surrounding area is home to a variety of landscapes, from rolling hills to miles of coastline. Here are some of the most impressive cliffs, gorges, caves and waterfalls within easy reach of the city...

Avon Gorge

The Avon Gorge is a breathtaking limestone ridge which runs for a mile and half along the River Avon on the outskirts of the city centre. One of the best viewpoints is from the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge which spans the gorge (a dizzying 75 metres above the river), or the viewpoint from the Giant's Cave. Or take a seat at terraces at The White LionThe Avon Gorge by Hotel Du Vin or 360 Cafe for an equally impressive view, which you can combine with some food and drink!

The gorge is home to rare plants, wildflowers and ancient woodland in Leigh Woods, and is a great sport for birdwatching, particularly buzzards and peregrine falcons. The Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project have a range of walking guides and nature trails listed on their website, and also run guided tours of the area. 

A view down the Portway in Bristol along the Avon Gorge and River Avon - Credit Paul Box
Image - A view of the Giant's Cave and Avon Gorge from Clifton Suspension Bridge 

Learn more about the geological history of the gorge and soak spectacular views of the Avon Gorge on a walking tour with Steps in Stone. Their 'Bristol from the Bridge' walk goes from Clifton along the Harbourside, exploring how Bristol was once a warm tropical sea full of corals, leading to the discovery of coal under the city, which helped  develop Bristol's industrial economy and wealth.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can climb or abseil the Avon Gorge with the Adventurous Activity Company, or take a boat trip along the River Avon with Bristol Packet Boat Trips or aboard The Matthew, to marvel at the gorge cliffs, gullies and rock formations as sailors would have done hundreds of years ago.

A climber scaling Avon Gorge in West Bristol - credit Martin Crocker
Image - Adventurous Activity Company

Wookey Hole

Wookey Hole is under an hour from Bristol by car and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its stunning caves, rock formations and biological elements. You can explore the caves with a day ticket to Wookey Hole Caves, which also includes access to other attractions including a 4D Cinema, Pirate Mini Golf, soft play and penny arcades.

Cave at Wookey Hole near Bristol - credit Wookey Hole
Image - Wookey Hole Caves

Archaeologists estimate that the caves were occupied by humans and hyenas all the way back to 35,000 BC. Explore the onsite museum to learn more about items found in the caves over the years, including a horde of Roman coins, prehistoric flint tools and bones from Ice Age animals such as mammoths, bears and lions. Explore more of the caves with abseils and ferrata climbs in Wild Wookey.

The caves were the site of the first cave dives in Britain in the 1930s and were also the location of one of the deepest cave dives in history (to a depth of 90 metres). Wookey Hole has also featured in many film and television productions, including the Doctor Who episode 'Revenge of the Cybermen'.

A group participating in the Wild Wookey caving experience at Wookey Hole in Wells, near Bristol - credit Wookey Hole
Image - Wild Wookey

Cheddar Gorge 

One of the most spectacular sights in the UK, the largest gorge in England (400 metres deep and three miles long) is just a 45 minute drive from Bristol! Cheddar Gorge started forming during the last Ice Age (one million years ago!), creating steep, winding and dramatic cliffs in the limestone rock. The area is also home to subterranean stalactite show caves and is an international centre for caving and rock climbing. 

Gorge Walk with family and dog at Cheddar Gorge near Bristol - credit Cheddar Gorge & Caves
Image - Cheddar Gorge

A ticket to Cheddar Gorge and Caves include access to Gough's Cave with its stalagmites and stalactites, Cox's Cave with new immersive experience 'Yeo's Journey', telling the story of how the caves were formed, a museum of prehistory, a clifftop walk and Jacob's Ladder viewpoint. You can also book on to rocksport adventures such as rock climbing, caving and a freefall experience.

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

Aust Cliff 

Located next to the first Severn Bridge and a short distance from central Bristol in South Gloucestershire, the red and white cliff is a dramatic site when you are coming in to Bristol from South Wales, and is a popular spot for fossil hunting, with countless finds dating back to the Triassic period.

Severn Estuary

Located to the west and north of Bristol along the River Severn (the longest river in Great Britain), the Severn Estuary has the highest tidal range in Europe - up to 14.5 metres at some points in the year! The Severn Bore is one of the biggest in the world and can be seen at key times during the year, with the tide sometimes reaching just over 10 metres. The area is also has many important wildlife habitats including mudflats, sandflats, rocky platforms and islands, so is a great place for walking and nature spotting.

Waders on the Severn Estuary near Bristol -  Credit WWT and James Lees
Image - Waders on the Severn Estuary - Credit WWT & James Lees

The Cotswolds

Stretching for almost 800 square miles, the Cotswolds are one of the best-known rural areas in the England and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, featuring rolling hills, beautiful views, pretty villages and numerous historic sites. The Southern Cotswolds start just to the east of Bristol around the city of Bath, with many scenic market towns and villages worth visiting, such as Lacock, Malmesbury, Cirencester, Tetbury and Castle Combe.

There are several companies who offer day trips or multi-day excursions to the Cotswolds from Bristol, including Rabbie's Tours (who combine trips to the Cotswolds with visits to Stonehenge, Oxford and more), bespoke trips with Mad Max Tours, and coach tours with Sulis Guides.

The grounds at Newark Park in Wotton-under-Edge near Bristol - credit Hilary Daniel
Image - Newark Park in Wotton-under-Edge 

Mendip Hills

Around 45min to the south of Bristol, the Mendip Hills National Landscape is a popular area for walking, cycling and adventuring with its countless nature reserves, hilltop views, grasslands and woodland. Some of the best viewpoints include Brean Down, Brent Knoll, Crook Peak and Cheddar Gorge.

Views across Mendills Hills and Brent Knoll - credit Visit West
Image - The Mendips and Brent Knoll

The area is bordered to the north by the picturesque Chew Valley, which is home to lakes, quaint villages and some of the region's best farms and producers, including Thatcher's Cider, Butcombe Brewery, and a range of vineyards. Take a tour of the areas best wine producers and cheesemakers with GOOD Stories in Food on their Wine and Cheese Tasting in the Cheddar Valley tour.

A view over Chew Valley Lake in North East Somerset, near Bristol
Image - Chew Valley Lake

Explore more of the area by walking part of the Mendip Way trail, cycle along the 10-mile Strawberry Line, or book on to climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding and abseiling sessions with Mendip Activity Centre.

Mendip Activity Centre Stand up paddle boarding - credit Mendip Activity Centre near Bristol - credit Mendip Activity Centre
Image - Stand up paddleboarding with Mendip Activity Centre

Other natural wonders within an hour or so of Bristol include:

  • Cleddon Shoots - a waterfall in the pretty Wye Valley, around 45 minutes from Bristol.
  • Somerset Levels - a protected landscape of wetlands and plains, with great views across the area from Glastonbury Tor.
  • Forest of Dean - a wild and large woodland with various walking trails, hikes and viewpoints, just under an hour from Bristol.
  • Black Mountains - National Park in the Brecon Beacons in southeast Wales, popular for walks, cycling and pony trekking.
  • Quantock Hills - England's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with heathland, coast, woodlands and ancient parklands. 
  • Kilve Beach - dramatic cliffs, fossil finds and impressive views of the Severn Estuary. St Audries Bay waterfall is also nearby.
  • Jurassic Coast and Durdle Door -  beautiful coastline with an impressive natural limestone arch in Dorset.

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