Rivers in and Around Bristol, UK

The incredible Clifton Suspension Bridge is well worth including on your Bristol itinerary
The incredible Clifton Suspension Bridge is well worth including on your Bristol itinerary | © CW Images / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

River Frome

Natural Feature
Old bridge at Iford Manor, by the River Frome, in Wiltshire, near Bath.
© Bob Gibbons / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

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River Trym

Natural Feature

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.

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River Avon

Natural Feature
UK Bristol River Avon Clifton Suspension Bridge Spanning Avon Gorge
© Peter Sumner / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

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River Malago

Natural Feature

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.

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Brislington Brook

Natural Feature

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.

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River Severn

Bridge
The first Severn bridge carries the M48 across the Bristol Channel to Wales.
© Bill Allsopp / Alamy Stock Photo
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.
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These recommendations were updated on July 6, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.