When autumn starts to creep into the city, transforming the trees, carpeting the ground with leaves and scenting the air with an earthy odour, we love heading outdoors to ruffle leaves, snaffle conkers and snap pictures of this eye-catching season. Here are our favourite family-friendly autumn walks in Bristol for horse-chestnuts, brightly-coloured foliage and tree-dominated views.
Autumn walks in Bristol
West Lodge, Bath Road, Bristol, BS4 3EW
It might seem like a strange recommendation to go for an autumn walk in a cemetery, but this Victorian heritage site, set among 45 acres of atmospheric woodland, is a peaceful and scenic place to goggle the season’s shades. Scuff up a leaf-scattered floor under a colourful canopy as you seek out fairy doors or stroll all the way to Arnos park and its kids’ playground.
Bramble Lane, Bristol, BS9 1RD
A large area of ancient woodland, a forgotten arboretum and ruins of a 19th century hidden ornamental walled garden located right next to the Portway, looking across the gorge to Leigh Woods.
Unbelievably this patch of land was once a medieval deer park gifted by Henry VIII to Sir Ralph Sadler after the dissolution of the monasteries. Later on, it became the grounds of a large, late-nineteenth century manor house called The Knoll (demolished in the 1970s) with terraced gardens, paddocks, an arboretum, orchards and lawns, before being used as a First World War hospital for Australian soldiers.
To get there you drive through some magnificent Sneed Park houses if you’re a fan of gazing at million-pound des res. A mix of veteran exotic and ancient trees have been labelled so you can spot all kinds as you wander through the woods and the area seems largely unknown even to locals, so we were practically the only ones there when we visited.
If you make you way downhill, towards a large open green space, you’ll discover the current resting place of the whales that once resided in Millennium Square.
Blaise Castle Estate
Blaise Castle Estate, Kings Weston Road, Lawrence Weston, Bristol, BS10 7QS
Set in 650 acres of parkland, with a huge children’s playground, folly castle, landscaped wooded gorge, caves, traces of ‘giants’ and a babbling stream, Blaise Castle Estate is a great place for a seasonal family stroll. Shuffle and kick up leaves, delve into the undergrowth, gaze over tree-abundant views of Bristol and be bedazzled by the array of colour on show. Click here for walking route suggestions.
Bristol Harbourside – 4km, 1 hour
A riot of multi-coloured houses, vibrant dinghy sails and buzzing boats all year-round, come autumn, Bristol Harbourside adds extra colour to its palette with gleaming autumnal trees. The most vivid leafy scenes can be found on the tree-lined Baltic Wharf, alongside Arnolfini on Narrow Quay, on Hannover Quay and Welsh Back.
Bear in mind Bristol Ferries aren’t running until 2021 due to Covid-19.
Parking: Find car parks at Brunel’s SS Great Britain (BS1 6JR), Millennium Square (BS1 5LL), The Grove (BS1 4RB) and M Shed (BS1 4RN).
Kings Weston Estate
Kings Weston Estate, Kings Weston Lane, Bristol BS11 0UR
Back in the day, princes and aristocrats from all over the world were drawn to the once-illustrious gardens of Kings Weston Estate. Whenever we walk here I love imagining what the place was like in its heyday, when carriages trundled around the grounds and the stone features that are sprinkled around the grounds were maintained to spandangly standards.
Sprawling over 300 acres with views across to the Severn Bridge and Bristol Channel, there are lawns, fields and plenty of colour-changing woodlands to explore here. Hunt for conkers amongst the foliage or marvel at the brilliant autumn-yellow hues of the oldest avenue of lime trees in Bristol.
Parking: There is parking at Shirehampton Car Park off Shirehampton Road and behind the house itself off Kings Weston Lane.
The Downs, Bristol
The Downs is a 400-acre area of green in an upmarket area of the city between Clifton and Henleaze. The sprawling open space becomes a mishmash of scarlets, golds and russet as leaves turn in autumn. For intrepid conker-hunters, head to Saville Road (BS9) for tons of horse chestnut trees bearing the goods! Be sure to include Clifton Down’s golden beech tree-lined avenue in your seasonal saunter – arguably one of the most picture-perfect paths in the city in autumn – as well as a fly-by Sea Walls, where you’ll find tree-populated gorge views as far as the eye can see.
Just across Clifton Suspension Bridge is Leigh Woods, a National Trust protected area of woodland that it is free to enter. There’s a network of colour-coded woodland paths to choose from depending on how far you want to walk – purple is 2.5km, takes about 45 minutes and is good for families with buggies, red is 1.2km, takes about 30 minutes and blue is cycle route Sustrans 41, 2.25km, takes about 40 minutes and has some steep slopes.
I’d recommend incorporating the natural play areas (there’s a basket swing, balance logs, hollow log tunnel and little roundhouse) into your leaf-stomping walk and heading towards Nightingale Valley for breathtaking autumnal views over Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Avon Gorge (see map here).
Ashton Court Estate
Ashton Court Estate, Long Ashton, Bristol, BS41 9JN
Ashton Court Estate is a humongous 800 acres of countryside, just a hop across Clifton Suspension Bridge. As well as a large number of unusual tree species on the estate, including giant redwoods, a 700-year-old Domesday Oak and a Ginkgo – which changes to a dazzling yellow in autumn – there are stupendous views across the city from here, so you can gaze at Bristol in all its autumnal glory.
Snuff Mills, River View, Stapleton, Bristol, BS16 1DL
Wrap up warm and combine a playground trip with a walk through colourful foliage. If you start at Snuff Mills historic mill, follow the river Frome in the sheltered woodland before heading up towards Oldbury Court and its brilliant children’s play area and cafe kiosk. Wildlife enthusiasts should keep an eye out for glimpses of otters, kingfishers, herons, foxes, owls, bats and deer. Of course, you can also start at Oldbury Court (where there’s a free car park) and do the opposite, although I find saving the playground (and possibly an ice cream from the kiosk) until the end helps motivate little ones to walk!
As Snuff Mills and Oldbury Court Estate are part of the Frome Valley Walkway you can walk as far as you choose along the river – see the map below.
Trooper’s Hill, St George, BS5 8BS
Autumn at Troopers Hill normally sees organised Fungi Forays and Owl Prowls, although things are a little different this year (there is talk of a virtual one though!) The hillside nature reserve, known for its iconic Grade 2* listed chimney and burrow-like pathways, has far-reaching views over a tree-laden Bristol and a woodland trail (Crews Hole), which leads down to the River Avon.
As a result of the hill’s industrial past, the heathland and acid grassland (created from historic chemicals) form a special habitat for wild plants that is unique in Bristol and conjure swathes of colour in autumn.
Car park: There is no car park at Troopers Hill, limited car parking is available on the adjacent residential roads. Nearest postcode for Troopers Hill Rd entrances is BS5 8BL or The Malvern Road entrance to the Field is at BS5 8JA (this leads into a field with a childrens’ playground and then along a path behind the back of the chimney at the top of the hill).
Conham River Park
Conham River Car Park, Bristol, BS15 3NY
A lovely riverside walk that makes up part of the River Avon Trail (which goes all the way from Pill to Bath) and takes about 45 minutes. The woodland next to the river is home to owls, foxes, deer and a natural bat cave (Halloweeny!) which is signposted near the ferry crossing point to Beese’s Riverside Bar (currently closed).
Conham River Park is part of the River Avon Trail (which begins in Pill and goes all the Pulteney Bridge in Bath), so if little leggies are up for it, you could lengthen your walk and head on to one of the next places on the map.
Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve
Eastwood Farm, Wyndham Crescent, Bristol BS4 4SP
On the other side of the river from Conham River Park is another lovely autumnal riverside walk, Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve (during non-Covid times, a little ferry traverses the river near Beese’s so you can switch between the two). A 45-acre wildlife haven bordering the River Avon, the walk passes through open fields, trees and alongside small ponds where you can spot all kinds of wildlife. Stroll down the track from the car park, through colour-changing woodland until you reach an open green meadow and the riverside path.
By car – car parking is available on local roads or in the car park down at the bottom of the track to Beese’s off Wyndham Crescent. Unfortunately due to changes in the way Bristol City Council manage the site it is no longer possible to access the site by car via the track from Whitmore Avenue.
Badock’s Wood, Bristol
Badock’s Wood, Lakewood Road, Southmead, BS10 5HW
A beautiful patch of woodland that covers around 10 hectares near Henleaze in North Bristol. The River Trym runs through the valley floor here, alongside trees that are up to 400 years old. There’s lots to keep kids interested on a walk here – amble along a carpet of fallen leaves, splash in the shallow stream, find as many tree carvings as you can and look out for the Bronze Age burial mound. Past archaeological excavations here have revealed flint tools, ancient animal bones, fragments of a human skull and other bones!
Park on Lakewood Road, although if you have a double buggy, the Doncaster Road entrance is the recommended option as the gate can be a bit of a squeeze.
The name alone gives these magical woods a certain mystique, and indeed there is a folktale about the place involving primroses and fairies coming out of rocks! Goblin Combe is a valley in North Somerset which stretches from Redhill to Cleeve.
Goblin Combe is a dramatic limestone gorge surrounded by woodland, with grassland and heath above and a Site of Specific Scientific Interest, designated by Natural England.
There are several different trails to explore (all marked on a sign at the beginning of the walk), so you can choose whether you want a relaxing saunter or steeper climb. If you do go for the uphill route, head for the vantage point of Cleeve Toot for sensational views of the Mendip Hills and all the way out to sea. Otherwise, enjoy the endlessly falling leaves and leaf-strewn, ancient woodland floor.
A small car park is located on Cleeve Hill Road BS9 7PH, near the Goblin Combe Environment Centre.
Stoke Park Estate
Stoke Park Estate, Duchess Gate, Park Road, Stapleton, Bristol BS16 1AU
Stoke Park Estate is the big patch of green with the big yellow Dower House that can be seen from the M32 on the way into Bristol. Despite being so close to the busy road, the estate feels like
Having spent most of lockdown at Stoke Park, never have we watched the seasons change so carefully from the beginnings of spring to summer as we did this year. Autumn will be just as awe-inspiring with the park’s woodland and far-reaching views across Bristol. There are various trails you can follow – Hermitage Wood, The Barn Wood Walk, The Stoke Park walk, plus a sculpture trail which is great fun for little ones. Or just make it up – we’ve visited many times and often find something new each time we go.
Parking: There is no dedicated car park for Stoke Park Estate, but there are lots of different places you can park depending on which entrance you want to use. We tend to park on residential roads Romney Avenue near Gainsborough Square to enter the park near the Sculpture Trail. You can also access it via Parnell Road or Long Down Avenue in Cheswick Village.
For more information and a map, click here.
Nightingale Valley, Brislington
Nightingale Valley, Hill Lawn, Bristol, BS4 4HZ
Brislington Brook runs through this pretty wooded valley in South East Bristol. Accessed via an entrance on Hill Lawn, follow the stream over bridges, past a curious tree with a brick wall inside (!), through enchanting trees. There are different routes to follow and if you fancy it, nine brass rubbings to find – see the trail map here (take paper and a crayon with you) – which tell the history of the valley.
Nightingale Valley is quite close to St Anne’s Wood, so you can extend your walk if you’re feeling like you want to do more strolling.
Park at Hill Lawn.
Brandon Hill Park, Park St, Bristol, BS1 5RR
Did you know Brandon Hill was opened by Sir David Attenborough back in 1980? It was a pioneering example of urban conservation back then and remains a haven for wildlife – particularly squirrels, which are very tame here!
It’s not a long walk by any stretch of the imagination (unless you combine it with a nearby stroll along Park Street too, say), but the autumnal views from Brandon Hill are pretty epic. From here, you can see how the season is splattering itself across the city all the way out to the Mendip hills. There is also a childrens’ playground at the bottom of the hill for an extra blast of kiddo fun.
I’m not sure we walked any kind of suggested route when we visited here, it was more a stroll-and-make-it-up-as-you go-along kind of a venture! Starting on Backwell Hill, we skirted the open meadow to the right of Jubilee Wood, which I highly recommend as this is where the mega views are. From here, you can see all the way out over Backwell to rolling green hills, Brean Down, Sand Point and the Bristol Channel, with barely another soul in sight. After that we scrabbled around the woodland for a bit and discovered the area was brimming with blackberries and sloes, so if you’re after a bit of a forage I highly recommend!.
Parking – we found a layby just off Backwell Hill (around about BS48 3EJ), near the entrance to Jubilee Wood. I’m including a link to Walks in North Somerset with Kids’ Backwell Hill itinerary as she put together the walk we were trying to follow. See if you can make sense of it!
Autumn walks in Bristol parks and gardens
Come autumn, Queen Square’s mature plane trees transform this London-esque patch of Bristol into a blaze of amber and russet against a backdrop of Georgian townhouses. Leaves spatter the ground and the olde world lamp posts imbue the park with a Dickensian air. Combine with your Harbourside walk for ultimate autumn vibes.
St Andrews Park
A classic Victorian neighbourhood park that’s popular with local dog walkers and has a great playground. I’ll let conker hunters in on a little secret…you’ll find a huge Horse Chestnut tree at the Sommerville Road entrance.
There aren’t many times of year when the architecturally-pretty, towering Georgian-housed Clifton Village doesn’t look extremely handsome, and autumn is no exception. Victoria Square, Clifton Down and the parkland around Observatory Road and Clifton Observatory in particular are where you’ll want to head for tree-tastic vistas and top leaf-crunching potential. Not forgetting the Clifton Suspension Bridge autumn money shot.
Found on the eastern edge of the city, this park has a duck pond in the centre and is particularly lovely when autumn starts to creep into the city. Wade through a carpet of leaves as the park’s trees come ablaze in gleaming orange, yellow and brown overhead. Keep your peepers peeled for conkers too!
Greyfield Wood and Stephen’s Vale waterfall
Greyfield Wood, High Littleton, BS39 6YE
These 90 acres of woodland were once part of the Earl of Warwick’s hunting estate before it became part of local coal mining activity. These days the area is great for walkers who want a picturesque patch of countryside to soak up some autumnal ambience. From the car park, it’s a short walk along wide paths (once working routes and tramways), through ancient trees and across a field to the highlight of the walk, Stephen’s Vale waterfall.
There is a small car park on the northern side of the vale (Greyfields Wood) leading off from Greyfield Road. Driving from the city centre takes about 45 minutes.
For the ultimate leaf-peeping treat, Westonbirt Arboretum is a true spectacle in autumn and well-worth the 30-minute drive from Bristol. The best time to go is normally between the third week in October and the first week in November. The stars of the show are always the fiery Japanese Maples and blazing yellow Black Walnuts, but the whole place, with its hundreds of tree species, is a joyous riot of autumnal hues from start to finish. Don’t miss the treetop walkway for a delicious birds-eye view of the colourful canopy or the Gruffalo sculptures hidden deep in the woods.
The National Trust’s Tyntesfield
Wraxall, Bristol BS48 1NX
Autumn is my favourite time to visit Tyntesfield, a Victorian Gothic mansion surrounded by 540 acres of woodland, gardens and rolling parkland. As well as being a beautiful place to discover a firework-coloured landscape of copper, magenta and golden trees, their seasonal squash display (24 October-15 November) and pumpkin patch is quite something to behold.
Dyrham, Chippenham SN14 8HY
Dyrham has a long history of making pears into perry and 2020 has seen a bumper crop – make sure you check out the fruit growing in the garden and orchard before it’s picked and collected for pressing. Or even better, why not sample some – available from the shop – as a tasty souvenir from your outing.
Dewstow Gardens & Grottoes, Caerwent, Caldicot NP26 5AH
I heard about this weird and wonderful place in a Facebook group and can’t believe it wasn’t on my radar before! If your kids are fans of caves, stepping stones and being let loose in open green space (yes, yes and yes), then this place makes a brilliant day out.
The pretty landscaped gardens are full of ponds and rills which are fun to cross thanks to little stone bridges and an underground labyrinth of grottoes, tunnels and sunken ferneries is thrilling to explore (masks must be worn in the caves and there is currently a one-way system in place). Keep a look out for gnomes and spooky spider webs as you wander round the grounds! The lawns and various picnic benches make great lunch spots, so feel free to take your own food, there is also a cafe onsite selling drinks and cakes.
Located over in South Wales, so only a 30-40 minute drive from Bristol and is guaranteed to reach even greater levels of loveliness when autumn splashes itself all over the place. Caldicot Castle is only a couple of miles away, so you could try and combine the two for a smashing day out.
Adults: £7.50, Children 11-18yrs: £4.50, Concessions: £6.50, Children 6-10yrs £2.50, Kids aged 5 and under: FREE