Bristol has some small parks close to the city centre. These are College Green, Queen Square, Castle Park and Brandon Hill. Larger parks on the outskirts of the city are Blaize Castle Estate, Ashton Court Estate and The Downs. A footpath running along the top edge of the Downs gives magnificent views of Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge.
College Green is situated in front of Bristol Anglican Cathedral, off College Green (street) just to the west of the Floating Harbour’s Narrow Lock. This public park is well used by university students and office workers enjoying the lunch time sun.
Queen Square is situated between the Arnolfini on Narrow Quay and the Bristol Old Vic - Theatre Royal between Prince Street and the Grove, about fifteen minutes walk from the city centre. This square dates from 1727, however in 1831 during the Bristol Riots, the north side and most of the west side was destroyed. This was rebuilt during the 1830s.
This is now a quiet Square surrounded by 19th and 20th century buildings. There is the Customs House, Port Authority Office and the Sailors Refuge, reminding the visitor of Bristol’s maritime trading past.
On the south side of the square is the site of the first American Consulate in Britain. It was established in 1792. Even after America obtained its independence, the trade between Bristol and the Northern and Southern States continued.
The well known Hole in the Wall pub on the corner of the square nearest the docks used to be called ‘The Coach and Horses’. Being close to the docks the pub was a favourite hunting ground for the ‘press gangs’. In the 18th century men were kidnapped and ‘press ganged’ (forcibly recruited) into the King’s Navy. The seafarers who frequented the pub were often sought by these Navy recruiting gangs and there is a lookout on the dock side of the pub to warn them when press gangs were in the area. Today this is a pleasant family pub with a front garden. Children are welcome.
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Castle Park borders Newgate Street and the Floating Harbour. This park came into existence after the medieval buildings that stood in this part of the city were destroyed during WW II. Now a quiet, pleasant place to walk or have a picnic lunch, especially as the city harbour borders its southern side. It has a number of pieces of public art.
In the park are a few remains of the Norman Keep of Bristol
Castle. The Keep was built by Robert of Gloucester
whose unique wooden funeral effigy can be seen in Gloucester Cathedral
. The bombed out remains of the two churches which stood there belong to St Peter and St Mary-le-Port.
All that is left of the Saxon St Mary-le-Port is its 15th century tower. St Peter’s was built at much the same time as Bristol Castle. Now only the tower and some of the walls survive. The Blitz was not the only time that the church was placed in peril – in 1643 during the Civil War the church was marked for demolition to stop the Cavaliers using it as a position from which to besiege the Roundheads. This destruction was thwarted by the timely arrival of a strong Royalist army.
Brandon Hill & Cabot Tower
Brandon Hill, just to the west of College Green is one of Bristol’s favourite parks. The bottom of the park and children’s playground is only a 2 minutes walk from the city promenade, access is from Great George Street (off Park Street), Jacob Wells Road and Berkely Square. The hill is some 260 feet (79 metres) high and gives glorious views over the city and the Floating Harbour making it a perfect place for the visitor to pause and plan a tour of the city. The hill is quite steep and not suitable for disabled visitors.
Part of Brandon Hill is set aside as a nature park and the grass is left long to encourage wildflowers and wildlife. Visitors are requested not to feed the squirrels.
At the top of the hill is Cabot Tower
– a 105 feet (32 metre) structure commemorating the exploits of explorer John Cabot. The Tower is open daily with no entry fee charged. There is however only one way to get to the observation floor – a steep spiral staircase. But the views are well worth the effort.
Ashton Court Estate
Ashton Court Estate
has 850 acres (344 hectares) of woodland and grassland where Red and Fallow deer graze. Here are ancient oak trees which date back some 900 years. There are stunning views over Bristol
from the Estate.
Google Map - Bristol Parks