This walk gives you three alternative views of the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, while visiting several of Bristol’s most-loved sites. Some are well known, such as Avon Gorge, but a few less familiar attractions, such as the rockslide, are off the tourist radar but cherished by locals.
From the main entrance to Bristol Zoo, walk left along Clifton Down then turn left and pick up an attractive path to the side of the road. Follow the path as it bears right away from the road to a viewpoint over the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Walk past the camera obscura – a convex lens and sloping mirror that projects a bizarre panoramic moving image on to a round table. Continue along the path and bear right past the rock slide – a section of rock that has been worn smooth by countless bottoms.
Cross the suspension bridge. A symbol of Bristol for the past 150 years, the design grew from a competition in 1829, judged by leading civil engineer of the day Thomas Telford. Telford declared his own design the winner, but when this proved unpopular, 24-year-old Isambard Kingdom Brunel won a chance to be project engineer in a second competition in 1830. Sadly Brunel died before his project was completed in 1864.
1. ONE MILE
Take the first right up North Road, past some grand houses. Turn right when you reach Leigh Woods and take the left path, following blue markers. This ancient broadleaf woodland has been part of Bristolian life for centuries, and has a rich variety of trees, including the rare Bristol whitebeam. Along with the Brecon Beacons, Avon Gorge is home to six of the 11 threatened tree species in the UK.
Turn right towards the National Trust building, then left. Bear right at a stone wall and carry on as the blue Sustrans path turns left. Turn left at the purple fence post marker 18, then left again at marker 19. Turn right on to the estate road, then bear left at signs for Paradise Bottom.
Carry on downhill (left), ignoring the path that bears right through barriers, and past a cottage called Oak Wood Lodge. Go through a barrier then, when Sustrans route 41 goes right, keep ahead towards Paradise Bottom. The path becomes a wide gravel track. Follow it past a pond to a car park.
2. THREE AND A HALF MILES
Take the path directly behind the noticeboard. Cross a bridge then turn left. Head downhill and around a pond, then uphill through woods and one of the prettiest parts of the walk. Go through a gate then turn left at the main track (from earlier). After 300m, turn left down Sustrans route 41. Head downhill towards the River Avon, until you reach a cyclepath beside the river.
3. FOUR MILES
Turn right and follow the path past several railway bridges, with views up to the suspension bridge. Turn right just before the bridge and follow this path back to the entrance to Leigh Woods. Turn left back over the bridge and left past the camera obscura to return.
Mainly family-friendly tracks. Paths can get confusing in Leigh Woods, but it’s difficult to get totally lost. There is a good network of hard surfaced paths suitable for wheelchairs and prams.
HOW TO GET THERE
By car: Leave the M5 at J19, then follow the A369 towards Bristol. Leigh Woods is signposted off the A369, Portishead to Bristol Road. There is a free car park on Coronation Avenue, opposite the Bath and Bristol Tennis Club (ST 553 740), or you can park beside the entrance on North Road.
By public transport: First Buses 357/358/359 depart daily from Bristol Bus Station, or by the harbourside on Anchor Road. Alight at Beggar Bush Lane via Valley Road. Alternatively take First Bus 8/8A from Bristol Temple Meads, alight at Clifton Village, then walk across the bridge to Leigh Woods.
Avon Gorge Hotel
☎ 0117 9738 955
Bristol Zoo Gardens, Clifton, Bristol BS8 3HA
☎ 0117 974 7399
Entry (inc voluntary donation) adults £12.50, children £7.75, under 3s free, family £36.50.
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 154.
Grid ref: ST 568 741