Ashton Court Estate is a large park with 344 ha (850 acres) of woodland and a large mansion house.
The estate started out as a deer park and there has been a manor house here since the 11th century. The current manor house is from the 16th-century and most of what today’s visitor can see can be attributed to the Smyth Family who lived in the house from the 16th to the 20th century.
The house has undergone several major renovations during this period and it is now a mish-mash of different architectural styles that include Tudor, Strawberry Hill Gothic, English Renaissance, Italian Renaissance and Gothic. During the early 19th century, the surrounding parkland was landscaped to a Humphry Repton design.The house became derelict after Dame Esme Smyth died in 1946 and the estate was purchased by the City of Bristol at the end of the 1950s. For the last 60 years, the city has worked on restoring the Grade I-listed building yet much of the building is still unoccupied. The areas of the building that have been restored are used mostly for events such as conferences and weddings.
The estate has been the site of several major events including the, now defunct, Ashton Court Festival, the Bristol International Kite Festival and the annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.
What to see at Ashton Court Estate
Ashton Court is a large country park within easy reach of Bristol. Visitors to the park can see the mansion house and also have the opportunity to spot wildlife, which includes foxes and badgers, however, it is noted mostly for the 200 deer that live on the estate.
Because the manor house is used mostly as a venue for private events, there are limitations on what parts of the building that you can see. However, parts of the house are run as an arts venue and the building’s exterior looks impressive.
There is also a miniature railway that is popular with children.
While it’s not exactly the top attraction in Bristol, it is a lovely spot to visit that represents excellent value for money.
Visiting Ashton Court Estate
Despite being mostly located in North Somerset, Ashton Court Estate is owned by the City of Bristol and it is operated much like any other park in the city.
One of the more rewarding ways to visit is to walk over the Clifton Suspension Bridge towards Leigh Woods and then enter the park through the ornate Clifton Lodge gate. The big house is around a half-hour walk from the Clifton Suspension Bridge if you follow this route.Like many places on the outskirts of Bristol, it is easiest to visit by car. All-day parking is available for £1.20 and the parking charge allows you to leave and return during the same day without paying again.
Admission to the park is free of charge and it is open from 8am daily with the closing time depending on the time of year.
There are a couple of cafes on the grounds of the estate including the Courtyard Cafe and the Golf Cafe.
The estate is home to many major events and the biggest of these is the annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. This year’s balloon festival will be held 6–9 August 2020.