Sitting right on top of what was once one of the busiest shipping channels in the UK, Bristol is no stranger to the life aquatic. The dockside, tall ships and bridges make up the bones of the city, and offer plenty for visitors to see. In particular, Bristol and the surrounding area are bisected by several different rivers, large and small. The city alone has 161km (100mi) worth of various waterways. All of them make for a great, picturesque destination for a day out, and here are six of the best options.
Running from South Gloucestershire to the city of Bristol itself, the River Frome follows a similar trajectory to its much larger cousin, the River Avon, and is nicknamed “the Danny” in certain areas. Tracing it will lead you to some lovely countryside spots, and even to St Augustine’s Abbey. The river runs all the way from Bristol to Chipping Sodbury.
Running from Fifton in South Gloucestershire through to join the River Avon at Sea Mills, just northwest of Bristol, the River Trym is a much shorter river, at only 7km (4.3mi), but has a lot of history. It was the site of a Roman port at one stage, and today, it feeds the famous Henleaze swimming lake. The best place to see the river is in Badock’s Wood nature reserve, about a 20-minute drive north of Bristol.
Bristol was effectively built on the River Avon, which stretches for 120km (75mi) through South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Bath and then finally the Severn Estuary. It features dozens of bridges, many of which are now famous in their own right, and has many weirs great for fishing and even wild swimming. You can visit the River Avon in Bristol, Bath or one of the many villages along its path, such as Stratford, the birthplace of Shakespeare.
A tributary of the River Avon, the River Malago runs for 8km (5mi) from Dundry Hill, between Somerset and Bristol, through to the city limits. The route has been changed by human intervention many times, but it still carries a lot of natural beauty and hosts a few popular birdwatching spots. The north end of the Malago can be found just south of Victoria Park, a 15-minute drive south of the city centre.
Another tributary of the Avon, Brislington Brook has some fascinating history behind it. Sitting on the edge of the river is St Anne’s Well, which in the Middle Ages was a pilgrimage destination for Christians. The route following the river through St Anne’s Wood makes for some great nature walks. Brislington Brook can be met on the south side of Bristol near Knowle Golf Club.
No list of rivers in and around Bristol would be complete without paying tribute to the mighty River Severn. At 354km (220mi), it’s the longest river in the UK, as well as the most voluminous flow of water. Rising in the Cambrian Mountains in North Wales, it meets Bristol at the gaping Severn Estuary. From Bristol, the best place to see the river is at the Severn Bridge on the way into Wales.