Experience picture-worthy views from Cabot Tower.

See the whole of Bristol in one go from the top of one of the city’s most iconic monuments…

Sometimes, to truly see something, you need to take a step back and see it from afar. A different perspective can bring about a new appreciation, whether that’s of someone you’ve known and loved all your life, a painting that has hung on your wall for years or a city whose streets you’ve wandered endlessly. Up close, in the midst of all the detail, it can be difficult to truly absorb the beauty of the whole shebang. 

Bristol is a fantastic city, that much is clear. The pubs, food, shops, people, museums and art that make up this vibrant West Country hub are as great as anywhere else. But to see Bristol as a whole is a different experience and this can experience can only be had in its purest form from one superb spot: Cabot Tower.
Across the Atlantic
This majestic, 105-foot, red sandstone tower is the crown atop Brandon Hill, the hilly parklands in Bristol’s west end. The steeply sloped park is an attraction in itself. It’s the oldest municipal open space in the UK and is filled with beautiful gardens, a nature reserve and a wildflower meadow. It was from Brandon Hill that 30,000 people watched Prince Albert launch Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s vast ocean liner, the SS Great Britain, in 1843. 

Cabot Tower celebrates another, much older voyage across the seas to the same destination as the SS Great Britain. In 1497, Venetian explorer John Cabot was charged by Henry VII with leading the first European exploration across the Atlantic since the Viking voyages of the 11th century. Cabot had already led one trip in search of a new, quicker route to China that got as far as Iceland before ending in failure. This second expedition, on the Matthew – a replica of which can be seen outside the M Shed museum – left from Bristol and reached Newfoundland. On the 400th anniversary of the voyage, Cabot Tower was erected on Brandon Hill in his honour. Another tower was also built in Newfoundland around the same time.
On top of the world
Climbing the winding 108 steps to the top of the tower is no easy undertaking, especially following the steep ascent up Brandon Hill, but any thoughts of fatigue will be banished by the sight of Bristol stretching out beneath. Any breathlessness is more likely to be brought on by the view than the effort. It’s free to enter and climb the tower and there is no better place to get a view of the entire city, which places it firmly at the top of the list of free things to do in Bristol. Brass tags around the parapet of the tower identify the buildings and landmarks that you can see, also telling you how far away they are from your position. 

From the magnificent Bristol University buildings to the SS Great Britain in her dry dock in the harbour, it’s possible to take in so much of the city and its wonders from this brilliant vantage point. It can also be a great place to see Bristol’s wildlife from and the tower is popular with birdwatching groups due to the varied species that call the park home at various stages of the year. Keep an eye out from the tower in the early evening and you might be lucky enough to spot some of the park’s pipistrelle bats flying by. 

During the winter snows, Brandon Hill becomes a haven for intrepid tobogganers, hurling themselves down the steep, white slopes with abandon. The tower can be a great spot to watch all the fun, so long as you remember to wrap up warm. At night, you can look up from the city and see the beautifully lit tower looking down on Bristol, a constant reminder of one of the city’s best and most beloved sights.
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