Bristol’s iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, spans the breathtaking Avon Gorge. The bridge offers views of the gorge and there is a visitor centre adjacent to the bridge.
The bridge spans the River Avon linking Clifton in Bristol with Leigh Woods in Somerset. The Grade I-listed structure was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1864 as a toll bridge. It is 101m (31 ft) above the River Avon, as the Admiralty required that the bridge be high enough for ships to pass underneath.
In 1979 the bridge was the site of the world’s first modern bungee jump and the Olympic Torch relay crossed the bridge in 2012.
What to see at the Clifton Suspension Bridge
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of Bristol’s most iconic sights. Most people either drive or walk across the bridge or view it from one of the scenic points at either end of the bridge. However, there is a visitor centre with an exhibition about the bridge as well as tours, including occasional tours that take you inside one of the bridge’s supporting towers.
The visitor centre at the Leigh Woods end of the bridge has an interesting exhibition about the history of the bridge.
There are several spots alongside the river that offer lovely views of the bridge. These include the walking trail that runs alongside the Leigh Woods side of the river, the Lookout Lectern in the park just off Sion Hill in Clifton as well as from the Clifton Observatory, particularly from the observatory’s rooftop cafe. There is also a great view from the terrace and from some of the guest rooms at the Hotel du Vin Avon Gorge.
Visiting the Clifton Suspension Bridge
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is 3.5km (2¼ miles) west of Bristol’s city centre. It is possible to walk here from the centre in around 45 minutes, an hour if you take the scenic walk that follows the River Avon.
You can also get here by bus. Many people take bus route 8, which runs regularly and has several convenient departure points in the city centre. If you take this bus you should get off at Clifton Village and walk the remaining 10 minutes to the bridge. An alternative is to take bus X3a and get off at Ashton Lodge in Leigh Woods and walk around seven minutes down the hill to the bridge.
There are several ways to visit the bridge. You can either visit the Visitors Centre where there is an exhibition about the bridge or you can walk, cycle or drive over the bridge and it is also possible to take a tour of the bridge.
It is free to walk or cycle over the bridge, although there is a £1 toll for cars and motorcycles crossing the bridge.
The visitor centre is located on the Leigh Woods end of the bridge. Admission to the visitor centre is free and it is open 10am–5pm daily. There is a small gift shop in the visitor centre.
Free tours of the bridge depart from the Clifton toll booth at 3pm on weekends between Easter and October.
There are also occasional two-hour tours that take you inside one of the bridge’s supporting towers. These tours cost £15 and usually run on Thursdays. They run infrequently, usually just one tour every five or six weeks, so it is best to plan this well in advance by checking dates and pre-booking on the bridge’s website.
Other nearby attractions include Clifton Observatory and the Bristol Zoo.