Bristol makes the perfect base to explore the very best the region has to offer. So why not add a few extra days onto your stay in the city and tick off some iconic sites at the same time?

Here’s our pick of the best day trips north of Bristol, from castles and historic towns to animal attractions. You can get to many of the closer attractions using public transport, or booking an excursion with Rabbie's Tours, who offer a two-day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford & the Cotswolds, as well as various day trips across the South West, as do Mad Max Tours.

Family Attractions

Bristol Zoo Project

Plan a city safari to Bristol Zoo Project, just a quick trip from central Bristol. Wander ancient woodland, beautiful open countryside and themed areas of parkland filled with animals. Attempt the Leap of Faith or try an exciting keeper experience.

A family at Wild Place Project
Image - Bristol Zoo Project

WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre

Go bird mad at Slimbridge, one of the UK’s best nature reserves, just a short drive up the M5. Lying to the east of the Severn Estuary, the reserve’s lagoons, meadows and grasslands provide a haven for thousands of wetland creatures. Get up close to wildlife, splash around in Welly Boot Land, take a canoe safari or let kids loose in the soft play area.

Stepping stone
Image - WWT Slimbridge

Aerospace Bristol

Get to grips with the principles of flight through hands-on activities at Aerospace Bristol, discover the fascinating stories behind some of the exhibits and step aboard Concorde Alpha Foxtrot - the last Concorde to be built and fly. Once you’ve learnt everything you need to know about launching aircraft into flight, see how high you can ping yourself at nearby Airhop- one of the first indoor trampoline parks in England.

Aerospace
Image - Aerospace Bristol

Wolfridge Alpaca Barn

Get up close with some fluffy alpacas at Wolfridge Alpaca Barn, which also has a café and craft workshop space. The site has plenty of parking and it is free to enter and walk around the paddocks to view the alpacas, or you can book experiences to get even closer to the animals.

Wolfridge Alpaca Barn
Image - Wolfridge Alpaca Barn

Old Down Country Park

Pack a picnic and enjoy the animals and adventure parks of Old Down, under an hour’s drive from Bristol. Take on the Zip wire or bounce to your heart’s content on the Jumping Pillow, wander through the Victorian Walled Garden, pop into the Yurt and Fairy Garden or just enjoy the grounds.

Cattle Country Adventure Park 

30 minutes north of Bristol you’ll find another winner with families. Giant slides and soft play take care of indoor activities, while outdoors you’ll find a climbing net, mini tractors, willow maze, adventure castle and a boating lake, plus lots more.  There’s also plenty of cute animals to coo over.

Spas

De Vere Tortworth Estate

This Victorian country estate lies on the fringes of the glorious Cotswolds, just a short drive from Bristol. Take a stroll in the beautiful grounds before heading to the spa for some proper pampering. They also do a delightful afternoon tea in their characterful wood-panelled restaurant which overlooks the extensive gardens.

Tortworth Estate
Image - Tortworth Estate

City visits

Cheltenham

Most famous for its Gold Cup Racing Day in March, Cheltenham – described as the ‘cultural centre of the Cotswolds’ is just a 50-minute drive from Bristol. In addition to horse racing, Cheltenham hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the year, such as Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 2000 Trees Festival and the famous Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse, featuring The Gold Cup. Its boating lake, architecture and parks and gardens are a real tourist draw.

Cheltenham
Image - Pittville Pump Room, credit VisitEngland/Cotswolds.com/Nick Turner

Stratford-upon-Avon

Visit the birthplace of one of the most famous people the world has ever known – Shakespeare. Just an hour and a half away from Bristol, this medieval market town also sits on the River Avon and its fascinating history, landmarks and attractions will give you a real taste of olde worlde England.

home of Shakespeare's wife.
Image - Home of Shakespeare's wife, credit VisitEngland/Shakespeare's Birth Trust/Amy Murrell

Iconic landmarks

Thornbury Castle

Venture off the motorway half an hour from Bristol to 16th century Thornbury Castle – where Henry VIII chose to honeymoon with Anne Boleyn, now a luxurious hotel. Roll up for afternoon tea or one of their gastronomic events throughout the year - it’s a foodie treat. Gin lovers should make time for a stop at 6 O’clock Gin for a distillery tour and tutored tasting on their way back to the city.

Thornbury Castle
Image - Thornbury Castle

Berkeley Castle

Discover the captivating history of Berkeley Castle, a great family day out just half an hour from central Bristol. Shiver at the stinking dungeon hole, walk in the footsteps of royalty (Queen Elizabeth I was once a guest), explore the beautiful gardens or play make-believe as medieval heroes and heroines before dining in a Yurt. Close by, you can visit Dr Jenner’s House, Garden and Museum (discoverer of the smallpox vaccine) and the beautiful village of Berkeley.

Berkeley Castle

Sudeley Castle

Walk in the footsteps of past kings and queens including Richard III, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey at this castle in the heart of the Cotswolds. It is the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within its grounds - Katherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s six wives. Explore Sudeley Castle’s magnificent gardens, see the exhibits around the historic castle and take the family to the award-winning Adventure Playground.

Sudeley Castle
Image - Sudeley Castle

Newark Park

Founded by an influential English courtier to Henry VIII in 1550, National Trust property Newark Park has stunning architecture, pretty landscaped gardens and sprawling parkland for you to explore.

Image - The grounds at Newark Park - Credit Hilary Daniel 

Escape to the countryside

South Gloucestershire and The Cotswolds

Bristol sits on the doorstep of South Gloucestershire and The Cotswolds, making the city a good base for lengthy strolls in two of the most beautiful locations in the UK.  Largely rural, the area is renowned for its classic English country charm - rolling hills, picturesque thatched medieval villages, honey-coloured stone, beautiful churches, cosy country pubs and handsome country houses. Outdoorsy people come here for the fantastic walks and bike-friendly countryside and families are spoilt for choice for activities. Badminton Horse Trials take place at Gloucestershire’s beautiful Badminton Estate in May - one of the most prestigious events in the equestrian calendar.

Cotswolds
Image - The Cotswolds

Westonbirt Arboretum 

Visit one of the finest collections of trees and shrubs in the world, about a 40-minute drive from Bristol. Whatever the season, exploring the magical grounds at Westonbirt will delight all ages, with family-friendly trails and tours available year round. In autumn, the trees blaze with fiery colours, come spring, the place erupts in candy-coloured blooms – admire it all from the treetop walkway.

Westonbirt
Image - Westonbirt, credit Paul Groom

Woodchester Valley Vineyard

The multi award-winning Woodchester Valley Vineyard is based across three sites in the Cotswolds. Visitors are welcome throughout the year for vineyard tours, wine tastings and other events. They also have a range of beautifully appointed accommodation at the vineyard with stunning views across the Stroud Valleys.

Woodchester Valley Vineyard bottles
Image - Woodchester Valley wines

Berwick Lodge

Venture just outside Bristol to this sophisticated country house for a memorable afternoon tea or 6-course tasting menu in the award-winning Hattusa restaurant. Set in beautiful grounds surrounded by countryside, guests can wander the grounds and glimpse the Severn Estuary through the trees.


Image - Berwick Lodge

Jekka's

Jekka’s is a family run herb farm on the outskirts of Bristol, where you can visit for masterclasses and tours, or check when their next Open Days are taking place. Jekka's Herbetum is a living encyclopedia of over 400 culinary herbs which are displayed at the farm in raised beds.


Image - Jekka's
 

Wye Valley and Forest of Dean

Adventure seekers should take a short hop (half an hour or so) across the River Severn and you’re in the beautiful green Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. Here you’ll find enchanting woodland, castles, caves and historic inns as well as popular tourist destinations, Symonds Yat and Tintern Abbey. Dive into an ancient forest, unleash your inner ape on a treetop adventure at Go Ape, follow in the footsteps of your favourite film and TV characters, explore a folk legend, mountain bike, kayak... it's the perfect natural playground.

Go Ape
Image - Go Ape

The Malverns

Yet another area of outstanding beauty, The Malvern Hills are a walker’s paradise. With a range of trails for all abilities, they make a great day out for ramblers of all ages and the views are extraordinary. Just an hour and a half from Bristol.

Malverns
Image - Malvern Hills District, credit Visit The Malverns @malverntic

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