The Cabot Tower, Bristol

Bristol, which is our nearest really big city, is supposedly built on seven hills, like Rome and like Cambridge (yes, flat though it is, Cambridge is built on seven hills) and one of Bristol’s hills is Brandon Hill.

On top of Brandon Hill there is a magnificent tower, the Cabot Tower, built in 1897 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot sailing from Bristol to Newfoundland. The tower is 105 feet tall, and that’s a jolly lot of feet, I can tell you. It contains a spiral staircase up to a viewing platform, then a very tiny spiral staircase up to a second platform… it does feel an awfully long way up… I know this as I climbed it! The tower is made of red sandstone and is very attractive, set in the gardens of Brandon Hill.DSCF3973 The gardens look lovely at any time of the year, because the foliage plants supply colour even when blossoms or other flowers aren’t out. The trees and shrubs have leaves of every shade of green and yellow, and quite a few copper varieties too. The paths to the tower snake round the hill so the tower gradually emerges, peeping between the branches of the trees and shrubs.DSCF3974Looking down, the gardens are even more attractive from on high. There are water features, winding paths, paved areas…and plenty of seats to sit and admire the view.DSCF3978If you make it to the top you are rewarded by a fabulous view of the city, and you can see how many green spaces there are. DSCF3979

I’m not sure if you can make it out on this picture, but in the greenery on the left there are the towers of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, 700 feet wide and  200 feet  above the River Avon (it had the longest span of any bridge in the world when it was built) designed  by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the man who also designed the SS Great Britain, the first iron-clad, propeller-driven ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean which you can see in my feature picture.DSCF3981Along the top of the walls round the viewing platform are brass plaques showing how far away places are… so in between pointers to Royal York Crescent, the Suspension Bridge and Ilfracombe, is a pointer to Canada, about 2,400 miles and “first seen by John Cabot on the 24th day of June Anno Domini 1497”.



  1. Alastair Savage

    I haven’t been up the Cabot Tower in twenty years but when I was there, there was a huge rainstorm and we were trapped inside for a while. Back then it was musty and dry inside, and pigeons had started to roost in the stairwell. Maybe they’ve cleaned it up since.


    1. Lois

      How dramatic! That must go into a story – get writing!!! No, it was clean and dry and not musty, but it was still quite tricky and I wouldn’t advise anyone who is unsteady on their feet to go up, especially the top part where you have to have tiny feet!


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