As the city gears up to be a host venue of the Tour of Britain (Tues 4 Sept) for a third time, leaving Ladies Mile, Clifton Down at 11am and returning to finish there at approximately 2.30pm. We take a look at where you can watch the races and do some Bristol pedalling of your own.

The Tour of Britain in Bristol

Bristol will host the third stage of the prestigious Tour of Britain cycle race, which promises to be bigger and better than ever this year. The world’s top riders will have to tackle a short, sharp, out-and-back leg into the North Somerset hills, climb Cheddar Gorge, race along the Portway and brave the steep Bridge Valley Road to finish on Clifton Down, following a 125km circular route.

Where to watch the riders in Bristol

The grassy parkland next to Sion Hill and Observatory Road or the pretty tree-lined avenue of Clifton Down near Clifton Suspension Bridge are good places for families to base themselves to watch the tour riders whizz past. Clifton Down is where the Tour Village will be located, offering fans a big screen showing full live coverage of the stage. Or grab a spot close to the finish line along Ladies Mile on the Downs. Due to its nature, car parking is extremely limited at Clifton Down. Race fans are advised to use the nearby Clifton Down shopping centre (360 spaces, £10 for day parking) and complete their journey by foot. You can find detailed timings on the Tour of Britain site and a detailed spectator guide here.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Image - Clifton Suspension Bridge, credit Angharad Paull

Famous attractions along the Tour of Britain route third stage

The route passes close to Bristol Zoo Gardens, a stone’s throw from The Downs. Set in 12 acres of vibrant, beautifully-kempt gardens, the zoo is home to over 400 species, including several gorillas which you can watch pace above your head in a 180 degree view gorilla house.

Victorian Engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The cyclists’ crossing over the Suspension Bridge on the Tour of Britain course is set to be a spectacular sight.

Ashton Court Estate’s many acres are known for their mountain bike trails, bridle paths, scenic picnic spots with lovely views back over Bristol and Europe’s largest hot air balloon festival Bristol International Balloon Fiesta (which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year). There’s also a miniature railway and golf.

Ashton Court Estate

Image - Ashton Court Estate, credit Angharad Paull

On the other side of Clifton Suspension Bridge is glorious National Trust woodland, Leigh Woods. Under the trees you’ll find a woodland play trail for kiddos plus several trails for walkers and mountain bikers.

The tour goes directly past Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Wraxall, about a 25-minute drive out of central Bristol. Home to big zoo animals, including tigers, African elephants, white rhinos as well as farm animals, Noah's Ark's most recent addition is 26-year-old bull elephant Shaka, who joins two younger bulls in the 20-acre 'Elephant Eden' to form the UK’s first African Elephant bull facility.

The Tour will skirt round the edge of Tyntesfield, a spectacular National Trust Victorian Gothic Revival estate situated near Wraxall, North Somerset. If you watch the BBC’s Sherlock or Dr Who, chances are you’ve already seen a fair bit of the house and gardens as it was used for filming in both programmes.

Tyntesfield

Image - Tyntesfield, credit Andrew Butler

The cyclists will also be pedalling through the glorious Mendips and climbing the Cheddar Gorge, one of the UK’s most spectacular natural sights and a local wildlife hotspot. The area is also known for Wookey Hole Caves – a great day out for families and Cheddar Gorge & Caves Adventure Activities for adrenalin-seekers.

Cheddar Gorge

Image - Cheddar Gorge

The Tour of Britain third stage also passes the outskirts of Clevedon, 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. Much of ITV’s award-winning drama Broadchurch was also filmed here.

Chew Valley Lake is the 5th biggest artificial lake in the UK. Organic, family-friendly festival Valley Fest takes place at The Community Farm overlooking the lake at the beginning of August. And if watching all that cycling has given you an appetite, head to Michelin-starred country pub The Pony and Trap, in Chew Magna, owned by Josh Eggleton.

Pony and Trap

Image - The Pony and Trap

Places to stay

Luckily for cycling spectators, Bristol has lots of hotels conveniently located near the Tour of Britain route. The new-look Avon Gorge Hotel by Hotel du Vin has awe-inspiring views of Clifton Suspension Bridge, and brand-spanking new rooms, restaurant and bar in line with Hotel du Vin’s distinctive brand. Berkeley Suites, The Rodney Hotel, Berkeley Square Hotel, The Washington and The Clifton Hotel are all nearby. AirBristol also has a range of accommodation – from studio apartments to townhouses that are available to rent short term. Around the Harbourside there's The Bristol, Bristol Marriott Royal HotelMercure Bristol Brigstow Hotel and Radisson Blu Bristol. Elsewhere in the city centre, take your pick from Mercure Bristol Holland House Hotel and SpaMercure Bristol Grand Hotel, DoubleTree by Hilton and Novotel Bristol Centre.

Backwell House is very close to where the route passes through Barrow Gurney, just outside of the city. Similarly, Ston Easton Park is perfectly placed for catching a glimpse of the cyclists near Midsomer Norton and onwards towards Cheddar Gorge.

See here for even more places to stay in Bristol. 

Backwell House

Image - Backwell House

Cycling hangouts

Mud Dock cycleworks and café is Bristol’s original bike café and has been serving the cycling community for more than 20 years. The upstairs café has a sunny outdoor terrace overlooking the water, while downstairs you can get your bike serviced or repaired and browse the shop. It also has covered bike parking for more than 50 bikes. Cycle the City hires bikes and leads themed tours (including wine, food and street art) from its base at No.1 Harbourside café bar on the waterfront, so you can enjoy a scenic cider and dine on yummy locally-sourced, seasonal produce when you return your hire bike.

No.1 Harbourside

Image - Mud Dock

Hire a bike

If all the excitement of the Tour of Britain has inspired you to get back in the saddle, Bristol is definitely the city to do it! Bristol has 57km of open National Cycle Network and 143km of other open cycle routes. As well as hosting various cycling events year-round, including Bristol Grand Prix and Sky Ride, it's also the country's first designated Cycle City

In addition to Cycle the City (above), you could also hire from Webbs Custom Cycles at Warmley on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, or make use of First Great Western’s Brompton folding bike hire scheme, aimed at travellers arriving into Bristol Temple Meads railway station. To cycle off into the sunset on a bicycle made for two, try Bristol Tandem Hire.

Cycle the City

Image - Cycle the City

Bike rides around Bristol

There are some excellent routes traversing the city. Bristol and Bath Railway Path is a true classic of the National Cycle Network. 16 miles of traffic-free and largely flat riding from Bristol centre to Bath centre – a perfect cycle ride for those who want to explore two fabulous West Country cities by bike. Warmley Waiting Room – a little café right by the trackside – is a great spot to stop and sit on the platform with one of their delicious cakes.

The 9-mile Festival Way leads from Bristol Harbourside to Millennium Park in Nailsea, via the beautiful Ashton Court Estate - a great traffic-free route for families.

Redcliffe Bridge - Bristol Tandem Bike

Image - Redcliffe Bridge, Bristol Tandem Bike Hire

The Mendhip foothills from Axbridge to Rodney Stoke make up the 'Strawberry Belt' where strawberries have been grown since the Victorian era. The Cheddar Valley railway line was dubbed the 'Strawberry line' due to the sheer volume of strawberries that it transported to markets in London. These days the Strawberry Line is an 11-mile footpath and cycle path which runs from Yatton (where the Eisberg Sprint takes place in the third stage of the Tour of Britain), into the Mendip Hills and ending at the impressive Cheddar Gorge and Caves.

If rugged mountain bike trails are more your thing, head for the MTB trails of Ashton Court and Leigh Woods. Pedal Progression is a hire centre at Ashton Court with a café on site for that post-refuel.

Mountain Bike trails Bristol

Image - Mountain bike trails, Leigh Woods

  • For more on cycling in Bristol, see here

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Gear up for the Tour of Britain in Bristol

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