Jo’s Monday walk : Clifton Suspension Bridge and Observatory

Clifton Suspension bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

You may remember in The Time of my life I wished I could be in two places at once?  I was watching the hot air balloons launch at Ashton Court in Bristol, but wishing I could be up at Clifton Suspension Bridge to see them float overhead too.  The bridge has a spectacular location at the head of the Avon Gorge and I thought I might take you there this week.

I left home on an early morning flight, bound for The Washington Hotel in Clifton.  The receptionist there very kindly pointed me in the direction of the bridge and I did what I do best- follow my nose!  I was extremely pleased to turn a corner and see before me the Avon Gorge Hotel.  It has a highly recommended sun terrace with views out over the bridge.

And towards Bristol!

And towards Bristol, in the other direction

A good place to start our walk, I think.  I had rather a surprise when I turned to look at the suspension bridge.  A sheep was keeping his watchful eye on me!

That’s put a smile on your face, hasn’t it?  And a good thing too because I should warn you, there’ll be a bit of ‘uphill’ involved in our walk today.

‘Wish Ewe were here’ is one of 70 Shauns liberally scattered around Bristol’s many attractions this Summer.  You can follow the Shaun in the City trail around Bristol until 31st August, after which the flock will be herded in the direction of Covent Garden in London. Aside from delighting adults and children alike, the sheep are raising money for charity.  I did spot quite a few, which I’ll share with you in another post, but today you might like to take a look at Viveka‘s.

A look out at the bridge and we're on our way

A look at the bridge, and we’re on our way

Turning left out of the hotel, you can see the bridge ahead.  I was a little disappointed that one pillar was swathed in white, but repairs were necessary.  Clifton Suspension Bridge was opened in 1864 and is a Grade 1 listed toll bridge, though foot passengers can cross for free.

Initially we are going to climb the hill to Clifton Observatory.  I promise you, the views are worth it!  Site of a former mill, 337 feet above the Avon Gorge, the cliff top was used as a look out post as far back as the Iron Age.  Today the building functions as a camera obscura.  William West, an artist, rented the mill as a studio and installed telescopes and the camera obscura to facilitate drawing the gorge and Leigh Woods on the opposite bank of the river.

Looking down from the Observatory to the bridge

Looking down from the Observatory to the bridge

A plant lovers paradise

A plant lover’s paradise

I think you will agree that the view is magnificent

I think you will agree that the view is magnificent

Samuel Jackson's watercolour from 1825

Samuel Jackson’s watercolour from 1825

Looking down into the gorge

Looking down into the gorge

Having gazed our fill, it’s time to head back down and cross the bridge itself for still more magnificent views.  I hope you have a head for heights?  Suspended 75 metres above the Avon Gorge, it is an awesome feat of engineering.

Looking up!

Looking up!

The Observatory seen from the bridge

The Observatory seen from the bridge

The River Avon below twists and turns into the distance

The River Avon below twists and turns into the distance

One of the things I’d hoped to do was to take a boat trip through the Avon Gorge, to see it properly from the river.  The gorge is home to many rare plants, in particular the whitebeam trees, some of which grow nowhere else in the world.  Amongst these are Bristol whitebeams, Wilmott’s, Houston’s and Leigh Woods varieties.  Rock cress and Bristol onion can be found clinging to the cliffs and in late Summer the delicate lilac flowers of Autumn Squill.

An evening visit would find the bridge beautifully illuminated, and in the dusk, Jackdaw and horseshoe bats swooping from their homes in the caves.  The Visitor Centre on the Leigh Woods side of the bridge will provide you with a full and fascinating history, and on Summer Saturdays and Sundays you can take a free tour of the bridge itself.

The supporting tower on the Leigh Woods side of the gorge

The supporting tower on the Leigh Woods side of the gorge

Looking back through the tower

Looking back through the tower

Although similar in size, the supporting towers of the bridge are not identical.  I was unable to verify this as the tower on the Clifton side was under wraps.  The visible tower stands 85 feet tall. Roller-mounted ‘saddles’ at the top of each tower allow slight movement to the chains when loads pass over the bridge.  I was amazed at how ‘solid’ the bridge felt beneath my feet, despite the fragility of its appearance.

The bridge is credited to a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but has a colourful history.  I was interested to find that its predecessor was a stone bridge, built in the 13th century, on which were built houses 5 stories high.  Wikipedia is very informative on the subject if you would like to know more.  Our little walk can be completed with a return over the bridge, and maybe lunch at the Avon Gorge Hotel with those wonderful views.  Or you might like a wander through charming Clifton Village for a wider choice.  I’m going to head down beneath the bridge for a different view, but you don’t have to follow.

The bridge in silhouette

The bridge in silhouette

Looking back up

Looking back up

I hope you enjoyed my Monday wander as much as I did.  Perhaps you can see now why I would have liked to see those hot air balloons above the bridge. Maybe another time?  For now let’s get that kettle on, relax, and put our feet up.

walking logo

Grateful thanks, as always, to my many contributors this week.  I love walking with you all and sharing your company.  For anyone wishing to join in, my Jo’s Monday walks page will give you the details if you just click on the logo.


The first two lovely ladies had to wait patiently while I was away last weekend, so please do visit :

In our topsy-turvy world- fabulous snow shots from Ruth in Tasmania- brrrrh!

A walk in the snow

And a gentle piece of reminiscence with Jill.  Stories beautifully told- don’t miss this!

The Old Custom House : a photographer’s delight

If you’d like to be transported to an Impressionist world, Drake will take you there :

Heaven on earth, a paradise

Debbie always stops to admire interesting architecture.  Take a look!

On Emerald Hill

Just what I could do with right now- a stroll in beautiful botanic gardens.  Many thanks, Anabel!

Dawyck Botanic Garden

Can I count this as my entry this week, Jude?  Only joking!  Thanks a lot, Amy!

Monday Walk : Banff Springs and Bench Series

Geoff is prone to a bit of a ramble :

In search of an identity- one walk, one dream

Planting acorns seems like a nice idea.  Find out how with Denzil :

Erezee: A breath of fresh Ardennes air

Drake tugs at my heart strings with a second walk this week :

Wondering walk in Paris

While Meg showers me with the most delicious orchids!  And that’s not all!

Gilgandra Flora Reserve

Still in Australia, Rosemay shows us just why Perth is the perfect home for her :

Our Adopted Home- Perth and South Western Australia

I’ve had some beautiful shares in the 18 months of Jo’s Monday walks but none lovelier than this. Thanks, Jude!

I promised you a rose garden

I hate for it to end in tears, but I’m afraid it rather does for Pauline and Jack!  Get well soon, sir!

Ups and downs in Brisbane

That’s it for another week!  Next week I think I’ll take you harbourside.  Don’t forget, those folks at Monday Escapes have lots to entertain you too.  But the main thing is to have a happy week ahead.  See you next time.


  1. Pingback: Monday Escapes #14
    1. Happy to exchange a few smiles 🙂 I’ve just been to zumba and am out meeting a friend for lunch as soon as I’ve showered so I’ll save this for later. Much thanks for all your comments and likes 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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