Circular Walks close to Bristol

The biggest change of lockdown for me was when we were suddenly allowed outside more than once a day for exercise, and were able to travel to get there. This opened up a huge range of different possibilities for going out walking and has meant that I’ve been able to go out and explore much more of our wider locality. James and I love walking and ever since we came back from New Zealand we’ve said we’ll do more walking at the weekends. However with one thing or another we’ve never quite done as much as we’d thought we might. With visits to other people (or them to us) off the cards and being able to get chores like washing fitted in around working from home, there’s never been a better time for us to get out and explore. Here’s a short selection of some of my favourite walks we’ve done so far.

Ashton Court Circular

Ashton Court is one of our favourite places in Bristol and we’re lucky that it’s currently within walking distance of where we live. The first time we visited during lockdown it felt very daring heading to the other side of the Suspension Bridge, but it was worth venturing over. We’ve been across to Ashton Court a few times now, sometimes looping round and returning the same way, but also following the Festival Way into Bristol and returning home via the city.

Ashton Court has plenty of green space, as well as woody shaded areas so even if it’s a really hot day you don’t have to worry about spending all your time in the sun. You can get good views over Bristol and there are deer to observe in the deer park. It’s a favourite place of walkers, cyclists and families and it feels a whole world away from the city, despite being so close.

Paradise Bottom and Leigh Woods

This is another walk that we could do from our house but rather than heading into Ashton Court as we crossed the Suspension Bridge, we headed left just before and made our way down to the cycle path alongside the river. It’s a nice wide path so there’s plenty of space but do look out for cyclists in both directions as it’s a popular route. We left quite early and were glad we did because it meant it was slightly quieter. Whilst the cycle path is very flat, it’s nice to be able to walk along the bottom of the Avon Gorge. We saw quite a few climbers the other side and it was funny watching them scattered like flies across the rock face.

We turned left into the woodland before we reached Pill and into the area known as Paradise Bottom. It was lovely and shaded (it was a hot day) and the only people around were those with dogs who were enjoying cooling off in the pools. We made our way back through Leigh Woods before heading back across the bridge into Bristol.

Wotton-Under-Edge Cotswold Circular

The Cotswold Way Circular walk at Wotton-Under-Edge is a lovely walk which will take you through meadows, forests and a rather magical gully (you can imagine elves and goblins living there). There are some great views from the highest point which makes a perfect stop for lunch and we were also treated to lots of sightings of different birds of prey. There is a very steep downhill slope before you head back into Wotton so do take care there!

Wotton-Under-Edge, North Nibley and Westridge

Having enjoyed our first circular walk from Wotton-Under-Edge, we decided to try another one, this one taking in North Nibley and Westridge. This was an interesting walk to say the least… Bits of it aren’t very well maintained and at one point it looked like we had to go directly through someone’s garden as that’s where the public footpath went. We weren’t comfortable doing this and made a small detour instead. The Tyndale Monument dominates most of the walk but if you follow the route it doesn’t actually take you to it, so I’d recommend a very short detour to actually see it and enjoy the views from the top. We didn’t enjoy this as much as the first walk from Wotton but it still had the same advantage of a free car park and some good views out over the countryside.

Bath Skyline Walk

I’d wanted to do the Bath Skyline Walk for a very long time and I wasn’t disappointed by it. There are bits that are busy, and it does feel like you’re doing a strange selection of lots of different walks taking you through meadows, around the University of Bath campus and through woodland. The first section was probably my favourite as we came across unexpected rocky outcrops in the woodland but there are some wonderful views across the city and surrounding countryside. There is limited on street parking available but only if you arrive early!

Marshfield to Cold Ashton Circular Walk

One thing I hadn’t realised when we decided to do the Marshfield to Cold Ashton Circular Walk was how pretty both villages are. It’s a great place for house spotting and dreaming about which cottage would be your perfect future home. The walk starts off down a long track but don’t get put off by this. You’ll soon be in the meadows and rewarded with lovely green valley views. Make sure you treat yourself to a Marshfield ice cream before you go home!

Ebbor Gorge and Wookey Hole

I really like Ebbor Gorge. There’s a great view at the top (although my stomach churns as people get too close to the edge) and walking up through the gorge feels very adventurous. However the walk itself isn’t actually that long. We found a circular walk that went through Wookey Hole and the West Mendip Way and this felt much more satisfactory by the time we had finished. There are some steep uphills but you will be rewarded with fantastic views over the Somerset levels and towards the Quantock Hills. I’d advise doing the walk on a clear day so that you are able to see further.

Langford and Churchill Tree Trail

The Langford and Churchill Tree Trail was another circular walk that I stumbled across online and looked like it would be the right sort of length that we fancied doing. The trees were an added bonus as it was quite a showery day that we decided to do it, so offered us some shelter. There are parts of this walk which feel a little random, such as when you end up walking through a housing estate, but most of it is either in fields or forest. There was a particular section of the path which couldn’t have been more than 50m which was really difficult as it was simply covered in brambles. I think if we repeated this walk we’d attempt to find an alternative route for this section rather than fighting our way through.

Cheddar Gorge

The Cheddar Gorge walk is a very popular walking route, partly because Cheddar itself is very popular with tourists but also because it’s a great way to get great views of the gorge and the surrounding area. I’d advise getting there early to get a parking space and to try and avoid most of the tourists. The walk takes you along both sides of the Gorge and does include some steep bits.

Tintern Abbey Circular

The Tintern Abbey walk isn’t one we’ve done recently due to the restrictions in Wales but it’s one I’ll look forward to doing again once the restrictions are lifted. From the Anchor Inn in Tintern it takes you along banks of the Wye and then up to follow some of the Offa’s Dyke path to the Devil’s Pulpit. There are great views over Tintern Abbey and the woodland feels incredibly old and magical.

Each of these circular walks are within easy reach of Bristol and take less than an hour’s drive to get there. I can’t take credit for coming up with these walks but wanted to share a selection that we’ve found to be a decent length and enjoyable. Whilst we’ve come across other people on each of these walks it’s usually been easy to maintain a social distance and not feel crowded.

Do you have any circular walk recommendations near Bristol?

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