River Avon Trail - Why Go?
The spectacular Avon gorge, spanned by Isambard Kingdom Brunel's famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, is probably Bristol's most recognisable landmark. This River Avon Trail takes you from the historic harbour village of Pill, where the Avon joins the Bristol Channel, all the way upstream to the Pulteney Bridge in Bath. It's one of the best walks near Bristol, taking you right through the city centre and out the other side.
River Avon Trail - What to Expect
The full Avon River trail is 37km long, and will take reasonably fit walkers between 6 and 7 hours to complete, so it's a proper day out. You can, however, tackle it in sections. The first section, from Pill takes you from wetlands where birdlife abounds to the edge of the Avon River Gorge.
From here, it's through Bristol city itself, crossing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge and past another of Brunel's epic feats of engineering, the S.S. Great Britain, before leaving through the suburb of Hanham and skirting along the southern edge of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The final section takes you back into an urban landscape, as you finish in Bath.
The quality of the trail differs depending on which section you tackle, but it's all clearly signposted, making it hard to get lost. It's largely flat too, making it relatively easy hiking. Be warned, however - because of its proximity to the river, the Avon Trail is often muddy, especially during the famously wet West Country winter. A pair of solid waterproof walking boots is a must, a decent waterproof jacket is advisable and you may even want to wear weatherproof hiking trousers too. Aside from areas in the cities, this trail isn't suitable for pushchairs, or wheelchairs.
If you're looking for a place to eat lunch, or just break up the walk, it's worth remembering there are no facilities in the Avon gorge, but there are plenty cafés, pubs and restaurants close to the Trail in Pill, Bristol, Bath, as well as Hanham, Keynsham and Saltford.
River Avon Trail - The Route, Part 1
37km / 6 - 7 hours
The historic harbour village of Pill is the starting point for this epic walk. Catch a train from Bristol Temple Meads to Avonmouth station, (a ride which takes about half an hour) and make sure you snap a selfie with your back to the Bristol Channel before heading inland up the Avon Valley.
Signs for the River Avon Trail - a red barge on a blue background -are relatively easy to spot, and you should have no problem following the winding route up river. The gorge itself is one of the highlights, a unique geographical feature whose precipitous limestone cliffs provide habitat for Peregrine Falcons, among other creatures.
Crossing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, you'll find yourself in the heart of Bristol in no time. You can call it a day here, or just stop for a bite to eat somewhere around the regenerated docklands before heading on your way.
River Avon Trail - The Route, Part 2
From the centre of Bristol, the river Avon continues Eastwards, skirting around Conham River Park and out through the suburb of Hanham where the landscape starts to become increasingly rural. Before long, you'll find yourself in the Avon Valley Wetlands.
It's only a stone's throw in geographical terms from the bustling centre of Bristol, but the way trees and nature have reclaimed this early industrial superhighway makes it feel like a different world. Crossing over the multiple locks, the river Avon trail passes along the southern edge of the Cotswolds, with its northern bank rising steeply upwards to the Cotswold Edge.
From here, it's not far to the ancient city of Bath, once a Roman Spa town, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The famous Pulteney Bridge, an elegant triple arch construction lined with shops which dates from the 18th Century, marks the end of the trek. If you've walked the whole thing, you'll have earned yourself a pint in one of Bath's many excellent pubs.
For more walking ideas, check out our full rundown of the best walks near Bristol.