Stoke Park Estate - Why Go?
The Stoke Park Estate will be familiar to anyone who's ever driven north out of Bristol - the bright yellow Dower House, the stately home that sits on a hill in the middle of it, is practically impossible to miss. But there's more to this sprawling area of parkland than just that canary-coloured castle. Its 270 acres of land offer plenty of opportunity to properly lose yourself in nature, and the Stoke Park Estate is home to some of the best walks near Bristol.
Stoke Park Estate - What to expect
Managed by Bristol City Council, the Stoke Park Estate is completely free to access, all year round. It consists of large areas of parkland, as well as some sizeable wooded areas. Despite its proximity to the M32, the main motorway going north from Bristol's city centre, Stoke Park can be surprisingly quiet, especially if you dive into the trees.
The distinctive Dower House, built as a stately home in 1953, was once part of a mental hospital, but has more recently been turned into private flats. As such, it's off-limits to visitors, but the views from the outside are still well worth photographing.
There's a whole network of walking routes in the Stoke Park Estate, and several other landmarks that are worth a visit - including the Duchess Pond fishing lake, the 1970s BT Tower, and the World War Two anti-aircraft battery known as Purdown Percy. It's a great place to walk the dog, or spend a day exploring with the family.
Be warned though, the trails here are often unsurfaced, so can get boggy, especially in winter. A good pair of waterproof walking boots is a good idea. The M1 and M3 Metrobusses will take you north out of Bristol to the Stoke Park Estate. There's no carpark, and while you may be able to find street parking along some of the side roads off Romney Avenue, public transport is recommended.
Stoke Park Estate Walk - The Route, Part 1
4.8km / 2 hours
The main Stoke Park walking route is the circular trail that circumnavigates the park. Start from the entrance opposite the Cameron Centre on the western side of the park, and walk north towards the top end of the estate. Bear right onto a medieval cart track, and enter Barn Wood next to the disused stile, which you'll see on your right. Follow the main path past the ruins of some cottages, and you should be able to catch a glimpse of Dower House through the trees to your right.
The path takes you past a memorial to the 4th Duke of Beaufort, a prominent 18th Century Tory politician, and round the northern point of the park. As you make your way back south, you'll be following (at a distance) the route of the M32 back towards town.
Stoke Park Estate Walk - The Route, Part 2
When you reach the Duchess Pond, the main fishing lake on the Stoke Park Estate, you should be able to see the BT Tower straight ahead of you, and a marker on your left, beside a gap between two logs. Go straight ahead up the steep hill, and take a moment to admire the view over the estate from the top.
Continue southwards towards the BT Tower, and you'll find yourself among the remains of Purdown Percy, installed to protect Bristol from the ravages of the Luftwaffe in World War Two. Despite its affectionate name, the battery was only intermittently effective, and Bristol suffered some of the worst bombing of any British town, with over 1,000 lives lost and nearly 90,000 buildings damaged.
Bear right after the battery, continue through a gap in the hedge, and then take another right turn to walk parallel with Romney Avenue, and back to your starting point.
Want more? Check out our full list of the best walks near Bristol for further advice on hiking in the environs of one of Britain's liveliest cities.