As capital of the South West, Bristol makes an ideal base to discover the very best the region has to offer. Iconic attractions, historic landmarks and stunning countryside are all just a short bus, train journey, car ride or cycle away! So why not add a few extra days onto your stay in the city and tick off some world-famous sites at the same time?

As part of our new blog series, here’s our pick of the best day trips SOUTH of Bristol:

Family attractions

Weston-Super-Mare on the Somerset coast is home to the famous Grand Pier, which offers family fun for all ages including a 300-metre indoor go-kart track, F1 simulators, arcades and rides. Or opt for a traditional English seaside experience and seek out a donkey ride, ice cream and proper fish and chips. Weston also hosts lots of family-friendly events throughout the year, including a motorcycle beach race, illuminated carnival, air show, sand sculpture festival, food and real ale festivals, water-ski championships, and more. Travel by bus, car or train.

Weston-super-mare

Image - Weston-super-Mare at sunset, (c) Roger Fry/Visit England

  • Wookey Hole

North Somerset’s green hills lie just across Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge. Keep on heading south and you’ll hit the glorious Mendips, where you can explore Wookey Hole Caves. Nearby Cheddar Gorge is one of the UK’s most spectacular natural sights and a local wildlife hotspot, offering a hilltop gorge walk with breath-taking views, dramatic cliffs, crags, pinnacles and caverns. Daredevils can try a range of rocksports, including climbing and adventure caving with Cheddar Gorge & Caves Adventure Activities.

Cheddar Gorge

Image - Cheddar Gorge

Just over an hour south of Bristol is the UK’s original Safari Park, Longleat. Glimpse a tiger or roaming lion on a Safari Drive-through, or marvel at sea lions swimming beside your Jungle Cruise boat. There’s also Meer cats, gorillas, giraffes and lots more. Be sure to explore Longleat House, one of the finest Elizabethan stately homes in the country, and look out for special events such as the Sky Safari, Longleat Food & Drink Festival or magical Festival of Light.

Longleat

Image - Lake boat trip at Longleat

About 40 minutes away from the city is Puxton Park, a great family day out rain or shine thanks to a whole host of indoor activities, including slides, mouse tunnels and obstacle courses. Animal lovers can feed rabbits and guinea pigs, ride ponies or meet owls. Outdoors, Jumping Pillows, a mini railway, bumper boats, zorbs and rowing boats await.

Bumper boats

Image - Bumper boats at Puxton Park

Bookbarn International houses a humongous collection of books, covering thousands of topics and spanning every corner of fiction and non-fiction from the 17th century to the modern day. You’ll find thousands of pre-loved books for just £1, a remarkable collection of rare books, a children’s area with story time events and yummy homemade food at the Full Stop Café.

bookbarn

Image - Bookbarn International (c) Christopher Wilkins

'Fly' by helicopter to the replica flight deck of the HMS Ark Royal, step on board the first British concorde and see Europe's largest naval aviation collection at Fleet Air Arm Museum. About an hour and a quarter drive from Bristol.

Fleet air arm

Image - Fleet Air Arm Museum (c) Nigel Cheffers-Heard

City visits

Within an hour’s drive of Bristol, sitting at the foothills of the Mendips is England’s smallest city, Wells. Popular with film-makers and tourists for its medieval architecture and quaint streets, Wells is also well known for its year-round cultural offerings – film, comedy, art, literature and music festivals and of course the famous Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral

Image - Wells Cathedral at dusk

  • Exeter

Bristol to Exeter by train takes just one hour of your time. An ancient city that dates back to Roman times, there are lots of fascinating attractions to explore. Discover underground passages, a beautiful cathedral or visit the exciting museums and galleries.

Iconic landmarks

  • Glastonbury Tor

Myth and legend swirl around one of the West Country’s most famous landmarks, Glastonbury Tor, which looms over the landscape just a short distance from the site of the famous Glastonbury music festival. The Tor has long-held spiritual connections with Arthurian legend, the Holy Grail and the Isle of Avalon. The ruined remains of Glastonbury Abbey and the bohemian town of Glastonbury itself are also well worth a visit. Reachable in just over an hour from Bristol.

Glastonbury Tor

Image - View of Somerset countryside and Glastonbury Tor as seen from the top of Wells Cathedral (c) Iain Lewis, VisitEngland

Places to stay

Ston Easton Park, a luxury country house hotel in Somerset, was listed in the book ‘1000 places to see before you die’. About a 40-minute drive from Bristol, the hotel is set in 36 acres of beautiful parkland. Inside the 18th century Palladian mansion house, you’ll find original antique furniture, chandeliers and lavish fabrics, plus a welcoming atmosphere. The hotel’s Georgian oak-panelled Sorrell Restaurant, is open every day to non-residents and hotel guests and has just welcomed a new Head Chef, Ashley Lewis. 

Ston Easton

Image - a beautiful room at Ston Easton Park

Escape to the countryside

  • Somerset

Cyclists and walkers should seek out The Strawberry Line which runs between Yatton and Cheddar, an 11-mile bike route which passes through dramatically changing landscape - from the flat Somerset levels to the steep cliffs of the Cheddar Gorge. You'll also go through Thatchers cider orchard and pretty Axbridge town along the way - perfect stop off points for an obligatory Somerset cider sampling... 

Strawberry Line

Image - Cycling on the Strawberry Line, (c) Sustrans

  • Chew Valley

Take a short drive out of Bristol for a lovely rural ramble in the Chew Valley. Discover Blagdon Lake, go strawberry picking in summer at a Pick Your Own farm, or stop into Michelin-starred pub The Pony and Trap, which does a phenomenal roast – perfect for ravenous walkers. Visit in August and you'll be in time for Valley Fest (3-5 August), a family-friendly festival celebrating music, organic food and farming in an awe-inspiring location overlooking Chew Valley lake.

Chew Valley

Image - Chew Valley Lake, credit Oliver Jordan

  • Quantocks

The Quantock Hills in Somerset were England’s first designated area of outstanding beauty and are a dreamy place for walking, biking and horse riding. Follow in the footsteps of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth who drew inspiration from the rugged coastlines and heaths with their views over the Bristol Channel, Mendip and Blackdown Hills, Exmoor and the Somerset Levels. Around an hour or so from Bristol.

Quantocks

Image - The Quantocks Hills, (c) Stephen Spraggon, VisitBritain

  • Exmoor National Park

Keen walkers will love Exmoor, renowned for its dramatic coastline, magnificent moorland, ancient woodland, steep combes and Exmoor Ponies. Reachable in just over an hour and a half from Bristol, the area is also home to 12th century Dunster Castle, attractive villages and plenty of quintessentially English tea rooms.

Exmoor national park

Image - Exmoor National Park, credit @ExmoorNP

  • Blackdown Hills

The Blackdown Hills are a range of hills along the Devon and Somerset border. This unspoilt area of rural countryside is made up of steep ridges, high plateaux, valleys, iron age hill forts, rivers, villages and farms. It was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1991. 

  • Dorset

The Jurassic Coast, which spans 95 miles of beautiful Dorset and Devon coastline was the first ever site to be inscribed as a 'natural' World Heritage Site. The dramatic rock cliffs and rock formations are filled with fossils and provide an almost continuous geological 'walk' back in time, through 185 million years of the Earth's history. Go for unspoilt countryside, sandy beaches, English seaside towns, amazing natural landmarks, brilliant family attractions and ancient castles in the area. Dorset is around a 2 hour drive from Bristol.

Image - Durdle Door, Wareham, credit VisitDorset, VisitEngland 

  • Stourhead

Just over an hour south of Bristol, is Stourhead, one of the National Trust’s most visited properties. The estate includes world-famous landscaped 18th century neoclassical gardens, a Palladian mansion, lake, the village of Stourton, farmland, and magical woodland.

  • Barington Court

Journey into mesmerising Somerset countryside to discover the mystery and atmosphere of this beautifully restored National Trust 16th Tudor manor house. Nature-inspired family activities take place all year round and the gardens are lovely with each changing season.

Beach breaks

  • Weston-Super-Mare

Weston is a lovely coastal spot with miles of sand to play on. Nearby Sand Bay is well-loved by horse riders and dog owners for the expanse of quiet sand overlooking old Birnbeck Pier, there are also numerous nature reserves in the area.  For impressive views over the Bristol Channel to Wales, try Sand Point's challenging hill top walk. Discover all things ‘Mod’ at the Lambretta Museum (once visited by the Gallagher Brothers when they stopped in Weston-super-Mare and used the beach for an album cover). Just outside the town, The Helicopter Museum also offers a great day out.

Weston Super Mare

Image - Weston-Super-Mare, credit Liz Milner

  • Brean Down

Roughly an hour or so from Bristol is this quiet National Trust area, a seven mile stretch of sand running to Burnham-on-Sea. Take a walk, ride your bikes, discover a Roman temple and Palmerston Fort. The area offers striking views out across Bristol Channel, it's also a great spot to watch the aircraft when Weston has its annual air day on the beach in June.

  • Clevedon

Clevedon is a charming Victorian seaside town with a Marine Lake and restored Grade I* listed Victorian pier - you may recognise the latter as the backdrop in One Direction’s You and I video or from the film, Never Let Me Go starring Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield. Broadchurch fan?  Much of ITV’s award-winning drama was filmed here - see how many locations you recognise! Clevedon Golf Club poses a challenge to golfers of all abilities, set high above the Severn Estuary, the view from the cliff-side opening holes over the Bristol Channel is spectacular.

  • South Devon

The rolling green hills, estuaries, beaches, spectacular landscapes, festivals and seaside towns (Brixham, Dartmouth, Babbacombe, Paignton and Torquay to name a few) of South Devon are some of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations. Easily reachable by car in around two hours, the Bristol-Totnes train takes just an hour and a half. On certain dates throughout the year, travel in steam age style on the Torbay Express steam train which leaves from Bristol Temple Meads in the morning and follows Brunel’s picturesque Great Western Railway all the way to the English Riviera. Spend several hours exploring before returning to Bristol in the evening.

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