Spring has officially sprung bringing with it longer days, colourful scenery, and – dare we say it – perhaps a little sunshine.
As we say goodbye to winter, a lot of us relish the chance to dust off our hiking boots and venture off into the great outdoors. Not only is walking terrific exercise, but it’s great for our mental wellbeing too.
Fortunately for those in and around Bristol, there are tonnes of walks, hikes, and rambles to enjoy. While setting forth and seeing where the day takes you does have its charms, there’s also something to be said for the well-worn routes that offer something different each season.
To help you get out and about this season, we’ve listed below what we think are the best spring walks in Bristol and the surrounding areas. These routes offer all the stunning natural beauty you’d expect alongside plenty of history, architecture, and points of interest.
As always with the great British weather, bring plenty of sunscreen alongside your umbrella and keep safe by always telling someone you trust where you’re going if you decide to go solo.
National nature reserve near the Avon Gorge
Offering unprecedented views across Bristol and the landscape beyond, Leigh Woods is one of the City’s most beloved retreats from brick and concrete. Most beautiful in the springtime, Leigh Woods is suitable for all walkers with a variety of paths available. Each offers unique, mile(ish)-long walks through the varying and interesting parts of the Woods with plenty to see as you go.
And for the bird-spotters, a spring walk through the Woods is one of the best chances to see some of Bristol’s feathered residents. As well as the surprisingly friendly marsh tit and song thrush, you’ll also find the bullfinch down on the Wood’s paths. This little bird is now on the red list for being a threatened species, with Leigh Woods now an essential natural habitat.
This 2-square-kilometre area of beautiful woodland is located on the south-western side of the Avon Gorge, near the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Parking is available but is quite limited, accessible via Abbots Leigh Road and recognisable by the avenue of Copper Beech trees planted to mark the Queen’s coronation in 1953.
Idyllic forestry area boasting thousands of species of plants and trees
Maintained by England’s Forestry Commission, Westonbirt Arboretum is renowned for being something of a floral treasure trove. Most famous for its rustic browns and golden hues come the Autumn, Westonbirt in spring is as delightful and all the more colourful. With blossom trees and flowers blooming all over this 600-acre Victorian project, the arboretum in Spring is also the Forestry staff’s favourite time of year. As well as 15,000 different kinds of trees here, Spring months offer the chance for visitors to see some of the Arboretum’s more exotic plants flowering, collected from all corners of the globe.
Here, you’ll find an ideal family destination with plenty of things to both see and do. For younger visitors, there’s the super educational but super fun Superworm trail and a natural play trail. There’s also the world-famous STIHL treetop walkway to traverse that will take you high up into the canopy of the Douglas firs planted over a hundred years ago.
It will take you 3 hours or so to get around the entire site and you’ll need to book a ticket in advance to gain entry. While not free, Westonbirt Arboretum ranks amongst one of the most diverse and well-maintained sites on this list and is well worth a visit.
Frome Valley Walkway
A long, rambling walk along the river Frome
Tracing the coursing path of the river Frome, the From Valley Walkway is an 18-mile long waterside trek. With the Frome flowing from as far as the Cotswold Hills, the water is clean and clear in the Springtime light giving you an idyllic setting for a long, or short, walk along the river.
The path pushed through a variety of different landscapes, including open countryside, South Gloucestershire rolling meadows, the historic town of Chipping Sodbury, the woods and forests of Winterbourne, and quaint village of Frenchay before finally arriving at the busy parks of Bristol.
Wildlife-wise, you can expect to see plenty, including nuthatches constructing nests with twigs and mud from the riverbank, and the pretty Dunnock singing high in the trees. For the lucky few, you may even spot a kestrel hovering above the fields looking for its next meal.
With several pubs and eateries in the towns along the route, the Frome Valley Walkway gives plenty of chances to divert for a drink or a bite to eat. With Bristol’s Castle Park sitting at the start or the end of the route, depending on your preference, there are plenty of nearby places to fuel up and get out into the spring air.
Popular greenspaces north of the city centre
With 440-acres of green open expanses, The Downs are one of Bristol’s most visited outdoor spaces. On the other side of the Avon, looking over the Leigh Woods, the Clifton and Durdham Downs are a favourite of dog walkers and visitors looking for spectacular views over the Avon Gorge cliff edge this Spring.
The Downs are largely flat and grassy, with footpaths making it ideal for joggers and those with young children in pushchairs. There are around 60-70 varieties of birds regularly seen around the Downs despite being a busy spot as well as a host of different trees and plants lining the borders. The trees here are numbered with discs too so should your interest be piqued, you can identify their species.
With the Downs a focal point for the local community, the area is also regularly used for events such as fayres, circuses, and the Bristol Downs Football League on the permanent pitches there.
Near Clifton and Bristol city centre, The Downs are a great spot for a meetup and a bit of lunch, with the nearest spot being the 360 Cafe in the Clifton Observatory. Free and open accessible any time of the day, the Downs are an essential visit.
Arnos Vale Cemetery
Interesting spring walk amongst a Greek necropolis-inspired cemetery
While the idea of walking through rows of tombstones on a lovely Spring day may seem a little morbid, Arnos Vale is not your ordinary cemetery. A site of conservation interest and a recognised nature reserve, Arnos Vale Cemetery is a beauty spot unlike any other you have visited before. A 45-acre site, the Victorian site is now bursting with plant life and colour, including some of the rarest flowers in Britain.
The short walk is not too taxing and takes between 30 minutes to an hour to stroll around the elaborate monuments, memorials, and headstones, enveloped in greenery. The first burial here was in 1839 and some of the buildings on site are now listed, including the Church of England mortuary chapel, the main entrance’s screen walls, and the Nonconformist mortuary chapel.
The site is free to enter and is, typically, open between 9 AM and 4 PM each day throughout Spring. While you can stroll around the site at your own leisure, guided tours are often available via the Arnos Vale Cemetery website. These tours include floral tours that explain the various species of plant life on-site, as well as historic guides around the Cemetery taking a look at some of the figures buried here.
With Spring regarded as the very best time of year to see any place, these walks around Bristol and the surrounding areas should give you an even better understanding what makes the city so great.