Visiting the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol

Clifton Suspension Bridge
Clifton Suspension Bridge

What is it?

“The Clifton Suspension Bridge, spanning the picturesque Avon Gorge, is the symbol of the city of Bristol. For almost 150 years this Grade I listed structure has attracted visitors from all over the world.

The bridge joins Bristol and North Somerset and is owned and operated by Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust. It is entirely funded by tolls – which have paid for its upkeep since it first opened to the public on 8th December 1864.” [Official Web]

Who designed it?

It was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who was an English mechanical and civil engineer who is considered “one of the most ingenious and prolific figures in engineering history”, “one of the 19th-century engineering giants”, and “one of the greatest figures of the Industrial Revolution. [Wikipedia]

How to get to the bridge?

By bus

The best way to get to the bridge is by bus. Its height is 331 ft (101 m) above high water level, so it is not that easy to get there by foot. A smart alternative is to go by bus and return by foot, visiting Clifton Village and its shops, restaurants and bars.

The bridge total length is 1,352 ft (412 m). On one side you can find Clifton Village, which is closer to the city centre. You can take a No 8 circular bus from Bristol Temple Meads (BTM) railway station or at the Centre Promenade. And then get off at Clifton Village or at Christ Church, as shown on the map below. This bus runs roughly every 10 minutes and will take approximately 24 minutes.

On the other side of the bridge, you can find Leigh Woods National Nature Reserve, Clifton Lodge and the visitor centre. To get to this side you can take X2 and X3 buses to Portishead, and stop along the A369 at the Clifton Lodge entrance of the Ashton Court Estate. From there it is a short walk (7 minutes) along Bridge Road to reach the Visitor Centre.

These two services provide a journey between Bristol and Portishead every 30 minutes during the daytime Monday – Friday. Where the routes combine the buses will run every 15 minutes in both directions Monday – Saturday. The map below shows the X3 route.

By foot

If you prefer to walk, you can follow the Avon Trail from Bristol City Centre, or follow the A4/Hotwell Road until you are right below the bridge. From there you can take “The Zig Zag” path, which is quiet and green, but quite steep as well. The map below shows the path, which should take between 15 and 25 minutes.

By car

Parking on-street is extremely limited but free on the Leigh Woods. There are only a few spaces and the demand for these spaces is extremely high, particularly during rush hour periods. The Visitor Centre does not have a dedicated car park.

Parking in Clifton Village is pay and display. This option is recommended as it is much easier to find a space and park safely.  Up to 30 minutes is free of charge (obtain a ticket from the machine), and then the cost is £1 for any period up to 1 hour, £2 for any period up to 2 hours and £3 for any period up to 3 hours (maximum stay).

Things to do

  • The Visitor Centre (in Leigh Woods) is open from 10 am to 5 pm every day (excluding Christmas and New Year). The entrance is free.
  • Free tours of the bridge take place at 3 pm every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday between Easter and October. It is done by volunteers free of charge, and there is no need to book.
  • The Leigh Woods Vaults are part of the structure which supports the tower and holds up the bridge, and you book a tour to explore them.
  • From The Observatory Hill (on Clifton Village side) there is a spectacular view of the bridge. You can also visit the Rock Slide, the Camera Obscura and Giant’s Cave at Clifton Observatory (for a small fee).
Leigh Woods Vaults
Leigh Woods Vaults (source: https://www.cliftonbridge.org.uk/visit)
Clifton Suspension Bridge's Visitor Centre
Clifton Suspension Bridge’s Visitor Centre (source: https://www.cliftonbridge.org.uk/visit)
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Clifton Suspension Bridge

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