Travel writer Justine Cross gives us the lowdown on the sleepy Greater Bristol suburb of Downend, from indulgent desserts to peaceful riversides strolls...

Freak Shake at The Beehive

Downend, a small suburb to the north-east of Bristol (and actually located in South Gloucestershire), is not somewhere many would think of travelling to, unless you’re coming for the now famous ‘Freak Shakes’ at The Beehive Coffee House!

So, intent on helping to put my home on the map a little, here is my local’s guide to Downend, including what to see, what to do and where to eat…

Freak Shakes at The Beehive Coffee House

The Beehive Coffee House is a charming independent cafe found on the Downend High Street, which is incredibly popular with locals and Instagram lovers alike.

Their Freak Shakes most definitely caught my eye on social media and so were one of the first things I wanted to try after moving to Downend. And once the milkshake arrived at the table, I could feel my eyes popping out of their sockets - wouldn’t yours?

Not only are you greeted with a frothy, creamy milkshake from a whole myriad of flavour choices, but they also like to top their shakes with whipped cream, marshmallows, topping sauce, sprinkles and even a doughnut!

Beehive Coffee House

Additionally, as can be expected from a thriving indie coffee house, you can expect fine coffees, teas and handcrafted cakes - all locally sourced of course.

W.G. Grace Memorial Ground

Home to the Downend Cricket Club, the W.G. Grace Memorial Ground is a great place to come to if you’re into sports. Many locals support the team, cheering from the sides of the grounds, making this a friendly community spot.

When coming here, I was first intrigued as to who the grounds were named after. It turns out that legendary cricketer William Gilbert Grace was born in 1848 in a house overlooking the cricket grounds.

He later went on to play 44 seasons worth of cricket with the team before retiring aged 60.

>>> Read more about Cricket in Bristol

Walk Along the Leap Valley Trail

Throughout Downend runs the Leap Valley and part of the River Frome, which is a great place to head to for an afternoon’s walk or a refreshing morning ramble. 

Despite winding its way through housing estates, once you’re walking along the waymarked Leap Valley trail, you will feel like you’ve left the hustle and bustle behind and wandered straight into the countryside.

Along the walk, keep your eyes peeled for various types of birds, pond life and flowers, and just breathe in the country air!

>>> Find out more about walks in this area on page 16 of this guide

Leap Valley

Cycle Along the Bristol and Bath Railway Path

When in Bristol, cycling is an absolute must, isn’t it? 

You can get onto the Bristol and Bath Railway Path via a number of entrances around Downend, making the area a really safe (and enjoyable) place for cycling.

If you can’t quite manage a ride all the way to Bath, then it’s possible to cycle into Bristol City Centre in about 30 minutes, with a number of other decent suburbs to stop at on the way if you prefer as well.

>>> Find out more about the railway path in the Local's Guide to Fishponds

Fireworks at The King George V Playing Fields

With Bonfire Night right around the corner, we should all be looking out for the best places to see fireworks, shouldn’t we?

The King George V Playing Fields in Downend are a large garden and park area, which sees some of the best firework displays every year, and also claims to be Bristol’s biggest fireworks display! 

Downend in Bloom Flowers

Organised by a group of local volunteers, large flower displays brighten up the day of any passer-by in Downend. 

These displays are only possible with the help of local business’ support as well as many residents who choose to donate money towards the displays too. And with how large and varied the displays are, I can most definitely tell you that they’re worth it!

Downend in Bloom

Traditional fish & chips at Good Frydays

Consistently offering delicious fish ‘n’ chips, family run chippie Good Frydays is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. 

Although they are very popular, service is speedy so it won’t be long before you can tuck into flaky cod, chunky chips and a whole host of other tasty chip shop dishes.

So, head on over to Downend now to bag yourself some delicious (and traditional) English fish ‘n’ chips!

>>> Get more food tips in the Local's Guide to St George

Play Pirate Bay Adventure Golf

Whilst you’re in Downend, there is lots of fun to be had in the surrounding areas too. One firm favourite of mine is Pirate Bay Adventure Golf at the Bristol Golf Centre in Hambrook.

This pirate-themed miniature golf course is 18 holes of complex trickery to keep kids, adults and grandparents alike entertained for a few hours. This, combined with the fact that some of the holes require you to pull your own boat across water to get to them makes this a perfect day out.

Although not strictly in Downend, it’ll only take you 10 minutes by car to get there, so it is definitely worth doing whilst you’re in the area!

>>> Make it a swash-buckling day by following the Treasure Island Trail

Pirate Bay Golf

There you have it: my recommendations for Downend. Now all you’ve got to do is decide which of these places will be first on your list...

About the author

Justine Cross is a travel writer and business blogger based in colourful Bristol.

You can read more of her travel stories, recommendations and tips for Bristol and the rest of the world over on her travel blog: Wanderer of the World

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