When autumn starts to creep into the city, transforming the trees, carpeting the ground with leaves and scenting the air with an earthy odour, the kiddies and I love heading outdoors to ruffle leaves, snaffle conkers and snap pictures of the gorgeous multi-coloured leaves. Here are some of the best walks in Bristol for finding horse-chestnuts, brightly-coloured foliage and tree-dominated views.
Good walks in Bristol for autumn leaves
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
This large area of ancient woodland, forgotten arboretum and ruins of a 19th century hidden ornamental walled garden is located right next to the Portway, looking across the gorge to Leigh Woods. It’s a wonderful leafy place to marvel at Bristol in autumn.
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 to Bishops Knoll you drive through some magnificent Sneed Park houses (if you’re a fan of gazing at million-pound des res keep your eyes peeled!) 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 walks with kids. 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 at Blaise.
Walking around Bristol Harbourside will treat you to a riot of multi-coloured houses, vibrant dinghy sails and buzzing boats all year-round. Come autumn, the waterfront 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. The Bristol Harbour circuit is about 4km and takes about 1 hour, so it’s a relatively easy family walk and buggy-friendly too, but to motivate little legs, you can promise them railway sleeps to leap over and boats to spot. Or you could try follow clues and solve puzzles playing this waterfront exploration game.
Parking: Find car parks at Brunel’s SS Great Britain (BS1 6JR), Millennium Square (BS1 5LL), The Grove (BS1 4RB) and M Shed (BS1 RN).
Bristol Harbourside Walk Map:
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.
Family walks Bristol: Leigh Woods
Abbots Leigh, Bristol, BS8 3QB
Just across Clifton Suspension Bridge is Leigh Woods, a National Trust protected area of woodland that it is free to enter and one of the loveliest places to walk with kids. There’s a network of colour-coded woodland paths to choose from depending on how far you want to wander – 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 (click here to download a Leigh Woods map).
Ashton Court Estate
Ashton Court Estate, Long Ashton, Bristol, BS41 9JN
You’ll find lots of child-friendly walks in Bristol’s Ashton Court Estate – 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
When it turns to autumn in Bristol, wrap up warm and combine a playground trip with walking in the trees, through colourful foliage at Snuff Mills and Oldbury Court Estate. 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 which is signposted near the ferry crossing point to Beese’s Riverside Bar.
If you’re looking for long walks near Bristol, Conham River Trail is part of the River Avon Trail (*Avon Valley Woodlands on the below map* 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 Site of Specific Scientific Interest and valley in North Somerset which stretches from Redhill to Cleeve, and home to some of the best walks near Bristol.
Goblin Combe walks wind and wend their way around a dramatic limestone gorge surrounded by woodland, with grassland and heath above.
There are several different family walking 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 underneath 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 walking in rural countryside.
Having spent most of lockdown taking family walks at Stoke Park, never have we observed the seasons change so carefully from the beginnings of spring to summer as we did during 2020. Autumn will be just as awe-inspiring with the park’s woodland and far-reaching views across Bristol. There are various trails and easy forest walks you can follow – Hermitage Wood, The Barn Wood Walk, The Stoke Park walk, plus Stoke Park Sculpture Trail – great fun on walks with kids. 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
For forest walks in Bristol, head south to pretty wooded Nightingale Valley. Accessed via an entrance on Hill Lawn, follow the river (Brislington Brook), and cross over the bridge, past a curious tree with a brick wall inside (!) From here, there are different kid-friendly 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 stroll if you’re feeling like you want to do more walking in the trees.
Car parking at Hill Lawn.
Brandon Hill Park and Cabot Tower
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!
If you’re on the hunt for autumn walks for kids in Bristol, this is a great option as it’s not a long or difficult by any stretch of the imagination, and the 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 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 autumn walks near Bristol we were trying to follow. See if you can make sense of it!
Best walks around 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 conker 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.
St George Park
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!
Best hikes near Bristol
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 child friendly waterfalls and a picturesque patch of countryside to soak up some autumnal ambience. From the car park, it’s a short trek along wide paths (once working routes and tramways), through ancient trees and across a field to the highlight of the hike, Greyfield Woods waterfall.
Greyfield Woods parking: 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.
Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Tetbury, GL8 8QS
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 trails, 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 Tyntesfield
Wraxall, Bristol BS48 1NX
Autumn is my favourite time to visit Tyntesfield, a Victorian Gothic mansion surrounded by 540 acres of woodland walks, gardens and rolling parkland. As well as being a beautiful place to discover a firework-coloured landscape of copper, magenta and golden trees, seeing their seasonal squash display (mid-October-mid-November) and pumpkin patch is one of my favourite autumn things to do in Bristol.
Dyrham, Chippenham SN14 8HY
Explore the innards of trees, hunt for carved wooden sculptures, seek out a conker bounty, spot deer and visit the Old Lodge play area before descending into the valley towards the 17th Century mansion house and elegant ponds. These 270-acres of open parkland are home to hundreds of trees, whose leaves change the landscape into a vision of red, orange and yellow in autumn. It’s a steep walk back up the hill, unless you take the free shuttle bus which ferries people back and forth from the car park to the mansion house.
Dyrham has a long history of making pears into perry – 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