You cannot deny there is something special about London, it has it all, almost. Let me tell you why, on my latest trip, I didn’t need to go to London to have a wonderful time in the UK.
I decided to bypass London and on my pre-booked ticket, caught the National Express bus from Heathrow airport and headed directly to Bristol (population 420,000) to spend time with dear friends. They live just out of Bristol in the southwest of England, around the River Avon. and we were able to drive from this base each time.
The following are some of our destinations we visited from Bristol, suitable for anyone who travels solo or with family.
Chew Valley Lake – set in an area of meadows it is a 35 minute drive south to a natural beauty surrounded by the Mendip Hills that offers a variety of species for bird watching, fishing and nature trails. You can relax on the grass that over-looks the lake, take your own picnic or buy fish and chips from the local Teashop or Woodford Lodge Restaurant.
Bristol Portishead – easy 30-minute drive from Bristol for a great view of the inlet with a small lake close by. The big attraction is the open-air swimming pool, fabulous for families in UK’s summer. On a hot day at peak time, when everyone wants to be in the pool, a rotation system is applied to manage the large number of people. There are 20-minute swim sessions rostered for large groups. You need to line up in a designated area near the pool and wait your turn for your next dip. I chose to watch!
Wadebridge, Polzeath & Rock – it took 2.5 hours on the M5, in a south west direction from Bristol however it was worth every mile. On arrival, we caught the ferry from Polzeath to the Rock and had spectacular long walk through the sand dunes and along the tidal water to be greeted by seaside village surf shops, and a well-earned lunch by the beach.
Padstow – approximately 3-hour drive to the popular fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall, a picturesque village with trendy village shops and superb local seafood. Celebrity chef Rick Stein owns many of the places around town. Locals call it “Padstein”. Rick has invested heavily in the local area and provided many jobs. We stayed at the historical Metropole Hotel. It took only a short walk down the hotel steps to the main village, to consume homemade Cornish pasties.
Straton-upon Avon – it is a 1.5 hours drive to visit William Shakespeare’s birthplace. It was fascinating to visit. He wrote 37 plays, 154 sonnets and 5 titled poems, leaving a legacy of nearly a million words of text. Pre-purchased tickets on line made life easy to avoid the queues, however midweek seems to be the time to go as no long waits. We walked around Bancroft Gardens and photographed bronze sculptured characters in honour of Shakespearean characters and toured The Clopton Chapel to see Shakespeare’s grave. You can take a relaxing boat ride on River Avon, graced by numerous white swans.
Bath – approximately 35minute drive by car from Bristol. A number of notable attractions to visit are The Jane Austen Centre, Marlborough Buildings, Bath Abbey, Parade Gardens where there is a beautifully crafted book in memory of Jane Austen created with flowers. You can chose to walk cycle or horse ride the River Avon Trail or spend time soaking in the Roman Baths.
Stonehenge – from Bristol it was a surprisingly short 1.5-hour drive to visit this intriguing ceremonial monument. A prehistoric temple of great stones raised about 4500 years ago, built in about 2300 BC. The massive stones have been formed strategically, in stages, over time, into a unique shape that has mystified researchers for thousands of years. It pays to pre-book any of the historical sites online. Wonderful visitors centre with a shuttle bus to take you to the prehistoric burial site and surrounding areas.
Wales – I stayed at my friend’s seaside home in Newport, Parrog. It is a hidden Welsh treasure worthy of the three-hour drive from Bristol. I don’t think the locals would approve of me letting out their secret. A tranquil village, enjoyed by young and old for its bird life, sea crabs, scenic walks and mysterious surroundings. I could imagine weary pirates gracing the rocky shores to find their land legs and hide in the nooks and crannies of the caved shoreline. The tidal sea formed creeks were perfect for children’s play and paddle boards. For adults, nothing like the local cider at Newport Boat Club (CLWB CYCHOD TREEDRAETH for the Welsh) or the fabulous welsh beef at the local pubs to warm the soul.