Spring is upon us and whilst we are slowly being allowed to travel further afield to enjoy the rest of the UK, there is still plenty of opportunity to get your hiking boots on and explore the local trails. If you are new to hiking or are looking for inspiration, here are 3 great walks near Bristol.
1. Cheddar Gorge Clifftop Walk
For a short circular walk, the Cheddar Gorge Clifftop walk packs a punch. The 5-km/3.2-mile loop starts at the base of the Gorge and begins by climbing up Jacob’s Ladder. Jacob’s Ladder is a lung busting 274 steps to the top, so not for the feint hearted. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, if you can manage a few more, you can take the path to the top of the Lookout Tower which will give a gorgeous view across the Mendips and the Somerset Levels.
After enjoying the views, the walk continues up to the clifftop. The path is well worn and obvious, but it is undulating and rocky, so care is needed. The path is set well back from the cliff edge, but it is worth a detour to the vertigo inducing cliff edge and looking down into the base of the Gorge some 120 metres/400 feet below.
The walk takes you to the top of the Gorge where it drops down to the road via a steep, rocky path. After crossing the road, the walk heads back up to the clifftop on the other side of the Gorge. From here walk, back down towards the village along the clifftop until you descend to the beginning of the walk.
The Cheddar Gorge Clifftop Walk is in the Cheddar Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the area is rich with flora and fauna as it passes through beautiful British woodlands. Keep an eye out for a local mountain goat along the way.
There is plenty of parking in Cheddar Gorge, a car park near the bottom of the Gorge can be found at the following post code BS27 3QW. If this is full there are more options further up into the Gorge. It costs £5 to park for the whole day in Cheddar which means after a walk you can visit the local amenities.
2. Bath Skyline Walk
The Bath Skyline Walk is a lovely circular 10-km/6.4-mile loop on well maintained and signed paths overlooking the city that follows trails through woodlands, across open grassland and commons.
Starting in Bathwick, the path heads south towards Widcombe. This early section contains the steepest ascent but be sure to stop and look behind you to enjoy the spectacular view of Bath from up high. As you leave Widcombe, and head towards Prior Park keep you eyes open for the wildlife flying overhead. The woodlands are bursting with wildlife including Wrens, Nuthatches and more.
The walk slowly meanders its way around Claverton Down and then North towards Bathampton Woods. Through Bathampton Woods, the feeling of the walk changes dramatically and the long views are replaced with a thick tree cover and interest rock formations and caves. In the wetter periods of the year, the path will muddy and slippery underfoot and can stay this way for some time, so appropriate footwear is advisable. The woodlands have a magical vibrant feel with caves and cliffs to explore.
Upon leaving the woods the walk circles around Bath Golf Club before approaching Sham Castle. Sham Castle is a folly situated on the edge of Bath Golf Course and was built in 1762 for Ralph Allen to improve the view from his home. From Sham Castle, the walk heads down the hill opposite the castle before retuning back to the beginning start.
The walk can be enjoyed as described in an anti-clockwise direction or in clockwise direction. Enjoy this wonderful walk in which ever way suits you best but bring a sandwich and take in the views and the countryside. For further information, route maps and recommendations, the National Trust has more information on the walk which can be seen here – Bath Skyline
The very start of the walk is found at Bathwick Hill at Cleveland Walk, ST76046 64704. The main road has parking for permit holders only, but free parking can be found down some of the side streets. On a sunny day, these roads will be busy and probably to the frustration of the locals so it is best to drive to Bath University Campus, BA2 7AY, where you can pay to park during the weekends for £2 a whole day. From the campus it is a 10 – 15 minute walk to the start of the Bath Skyline.
3. Burrington Combe
Burrington Combe, like Cheddar Gorge, was formed by meltwaters during the periglacial periods. It is a Gorge through the limestone hills but unlike its bigger busier sibling in Cheddar, Burrington is often quieter and more peaceful.
From the bottom of the Combe, near the Rock Café, follow the road down past the café. Continuing along the road on the right will lead you towards Burrington Farm whereby you can access the footpaths heading up the hill on the right to Burrington Ham. A Steep but short walk will take you up to the top where you can follow a variety of footpaths and visit the remnants of the Iron Age Forts or go towards the high edges of the Combe.
As you cross Burringon Ham, the path will begin to descend. Head through the gate to another possible parking area, and often an ice cream van. Crossing the road and heading up a stoney track on the right will take you towards Black Down, the tallest hill on the Mendips.
Heading directly up the slope will take you to the scenic Beacon Batch Trig Point, the highest point. From here you will be able to enjoy the wonderful views of the Mendips, seeing out to Cheddar Reservoir and Chew Valley Lake.
Once you have taken in the spectacular view, the well-worn track can be followed until you need to decide whether to continue or head back. Heading into the woods can take you towards other interesting places like Dolebury Warren the Iron Age Hillfort, or before reaching the woods, turn right down the hill and follow the path all the way back to the Rock Café where you can stop for refreshments.
While in Burrington Combe, do not forget to check the Rock of Ages, where there is a legend that Augustus Montague Toplady sheltered under during a storm which inspired him to write the hymn Rock of Ages.
The best way to find Burrington Combe is to head towards the Rock Café, BS40 7AT. Do not park in the customer car park unless of course, you are customer. Instead, there is free parking just after the café on the left or alternatively, drive to the top of the Combe to more free parking. The walk described can be started at either point as there are plenty of footpaths which can be followed as around Burrington Combe and Beacon Batch. It is worth noting, that after a lot of rain, the moorland around Black Down can become seriously muddy so waterproof boots are advisable.
I hope this post gives you some inspiration to get out and explore some local trails. There are plenty of wonderful places to explore locally!