Sunday, 26 May 2013

Bristol Scenic Hills Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.6 km (2.9 miles), terrain has 2 hills, total gain of 80 meters

For more running routes, see Route List.

I always like getting back to Bristol. It has that historical charm of regional English towns, combined with a lot of dynamic energy. It has an old seafaring tradition and lots of historic sights, plus a big student community and claims the title of lively home-base for the world's street artists.

This route loops through much of the scenic attractions of this southwest English city, and taking in two hefty hills in the process. Bristol is, without a doubt, a very hilly place. So a hill run is just doing it right, running in Bristol fashion.

We will run along the harbor on the River Avon, with its redeveloped waterfront, then head up to the highest hill, with Brandon Hill Park at its peak, then head down to run up the next hill in the university neighborhood. Then we'll run back through the old town to the start.
Queen Square. Start running in the direction the camera is pointing!
This route starts deep in the center of town, near the river in Queen Square. This quiet, green spot is lined with Georgian-era homes, with a statue of King William III posing majestically on his horse in the center of everything.

Turn to face the southwest corner of the square and run off into Farr's Lane. In just a block you'll cross a modern pedestrian bridge over the old harbor. On the other side, you'll see the redeveloped riverfront area spread out before you.
Harbor footbridge
Run straight through the next square, with the giant reflective sphere, and keep running southwards. You will go past the aquarium, office buildings, restaurants and apartments.
The redeveloped harbor area
The way will go a bit downhill to the riverside, where you go up onto the stone walkway, and turn right to follow the harborside walkway. You'll pass a small marina and an abandoned stone harbor building, and you will see a ship across the river with six white masts. This is the Great Britain, the world's first modern-designed ship, with a metal hull, a steam engine and a propeller. It was built and sailed from Bristol.
The Great Britain
When you reach the last new waterfront building, across from the ship, turn right to cross Hotwell Road and then turn right again to head back northeast to the next corner, with its roundabout.

Turn left at the roundabout and head uphill, but cross the street and go up the stone stairs after you pass the first house.

The stairs lead up into Brandon Hill Park. This is the steepest part of the run.
Steps up to the park
At the top of the stairs, turn left to continue steeply uphill 100 meters through the woods. This half of the park has been re-natured, the north half is more like a typical, manicured city park.
Heading up Brandon Hill Park
When you hit the next paved path and come out of the woods, turn right, then left to continue on the first paved path going up the hill, through the lawns. You will see a brick tower at the peak: Cabot Tower, named after the great English discoverer, John Cabot, a son of Bristol, who explored North America 500 years ago.
Cabot Tower
Run all the way up to the tower, taking any of the little paths at the top. Just below the tower, there are great spots to enjoy the view out over the surrounding country.

Now turn to the north and run out the exit just 100 meters north of the tower, coming out into Berkeley Square. When you hit the square, keep to the left side of the square itself, along the stone Georgian houses.
Along Berkeley Square
You will run downhill past the Berkeley Square Hotel to busy Queens Road, at Brown's, one of the most impressive bars you'll ever see. Brown's looks more like a bank building than a bar. To its right are the Bristol Museum and a gothic university tower.

Just cross Queens Road and now continue uphill into the university quarter along University Road, with its neo-gothic buildings to each side. When you get to the top of the hill, at Tyndall Avenue, turn right into the entrance to the Royal Fort university building.
University Street: turn into Royal Fort just past the big chestnut tree in center of picture
You will come to a plaza between two impressive stone buildings on the hilltop. This is the highest point of the run!

Now, run towards the left, following the signs for the mathematics building, and going down the path through Prince Rupert's Gate, a brick gate for the fort that once stood here.

It's now all downhill from here, for the rest of the run! Follow the street as it curves to the left and ends at St. Michael's Hill street, where you turn right and head downhill.

You will pass an interesting alms house on the left, and some ancient houses and the abandoned St. Michael's church on the right.
Running down St. Michael's Hill
At the bottom of the street, cross busy Perry Road and continue downhill on Colston Street, curving off on the right side.

In just 100 meters, you'll see steps going down on the left, the Christmas Steps, lined with old houses and shops. Go down this lane.  
Christmas Steps
NOTE: If you want to see street-artist Banksy's famous and funny painting of a jealous husband looking for his wife's lover hanging out the window, make an extra detour by turning right on Trenchard Street, just past the top of the Christmas Steps on the right, and run until you come to the overpass at Park Street. Turn around and look up, and you'll see it.

At the bottom of the Christmas Steps, at Lewins Mead, turn left and run the 20 meters to the next pedestrian crossing, where you cross the street and continue southeast on Christmas Street.

This street ends after one block, at Nelson Street, a street decorated by a big street-art project. You should run down it sometime, but you'll already see a bit of it right here.

Nelson Street and its street art. Run through that old arch
Continue straight under the arches below the St. John Baptist church, running a bit uphill on Broad Street, with its elegant sandstone buildings.

At the next crossing, at Corn Street, turn right and run down through this old financial quarter. Both sides of the street are lined with old bank- and exchange buildings. Most of them are now used as pubs and bars. If you come through here on a weekend evening, the streets are full of drunken revelers, as in many English party towns. In every temperature, girls in short skirts and high-heels teeter inelegantly over the cobblestones, loud hen-parties mill around, yelling out front of the pubs, and doormen look nervously around themselves at the highly-energized crowds.
Corn street, with Saturday market stands
At the southwest end of Corn Street, you will come to the former tip of the old harbor. It is now filled in, and only a series of modern fountains hint at the water which once occupied this long square.

Run southwards past the fountains, and you will soon come to where the harbor still exists.

Run down along the left (north) side until you come to the pedestrian bridge which you ran across at the beginning of the run.

Turn left here and run the one block along Farr's Lane, back to Queen Square.

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