Clifton is a lovely area of Bristol that offers everything from hustle and bustle of trendy eateries and bars through to tranquil parks.
So, what are our recommended free things to do in Clifton when you have a baby on board?
Here are our top ideas to add to your itinerary, and tips to help you get around with a baby.
Our first tip is to try and avoid needing to park – either stay locally and walk or hop on a bus). We stayed in Clifton at this AirBnB on two occasions on our trip. This worked out well for us as, although it’s a studio apartment, the hallway is pretty roomy so on the evenings we were home, we popped Gemma’s travel bassinet in the hallway when she first went to bed and then carefully slide it into the main room once we were ready to head to bed. The was no bath so if your baby is too big for the kitchen sink or doesn’t like having a shower with you, it might be trickier.
Clifton Suspension Bridge, Leigh Woods and Ashton Court
A trip to Clifton wouldn’t be complete without taking a walk to check out Brunel’s Suspension Bridge. We viewed it from the Downs at a lookout just near the Clifton Observatory – you can spend £4/adult to enter the Observatory but we passed on that (we had the stroller that day and it felt too hard and not worth the investment).
If you decide to cross the bridge, it’s free for pedestrians or a £1 toll each way for cars. Once over the bridge, you might like to check out Leigh Woods (a National Trust property) with plenty of trails and woodlands to explore or Ashton Court (owned by the City of Bristol) where you can explore the parkland, play pitch and putt or grab a cuppa at the cafe. We think these spots would be more fun if you used a baby carrier, rather than a pram or stroller.
Exploring Clifton Village
Looking for quirky gifts, great casual and formal dining along with top quality fresh produce? Clifton Village delivers that in style with the beautiful Georgian townhouses and parks.
We loved The Mall Deli (located on The Mall) and went back three times during our stay in Clifton – great coffee, delicious cakes and scrumptious array of pies and other goodies. Next door to The Mall Deli is a quality butcher – we bought dinner for a few nights and were very happy with our purchases. You’ll also find Reg the Veg if you want fresh produce not bundled in the usual supermarket plastic packaging.
Museums and Galleries
We made it through four and a half weeks with hardly a spot of rain, and then we got a drizzly day. We decided to take advantage of the City of Bristol’s two excellent museums near Clifton. These both technically tick the box of being free things to do in Clifton (or near enough) but we’d suggest making a donation as they are really are good (and it still makes for a cheap outing).
First up we explored The Red Lodge Museum – a quirky step back in time. It’s not huge but we definitely think it’s worth checking out (including the lovely knot garden). Entry is free but a donation is suggested.
If you come to The Red Lodge with a stroller, be aware that the entrance door opens on to a short flight of stairs – we lifted the stroller down and then left it at the welcome desk and carried Gemma around (the museum is small so it wasn’t a problem for us and there were too many stairs for a stroller to be practical – a baby carrier would have been handy but wasn’t essential).
We then ventured to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and, like The Red Lodge, a donation is requested. Before you consider the exhibits, the building itself is worth appreciating – even the ladies’ toilets were notable with beautiful wooden cubicles (the bloke’s loos might be similar, but hubby didn’t venture to find out for me).
We thought we might be there for a quick whip through of some stuffy old finds, instead an hour and a half later, we headed out because we really needed lunch but we could certainly have stayed longer. It would best be described as ‘eclectic’ and, whatever your interests, you’ll find something to pique your curiosity.
The Museum also offered plenty of interactive options for children. The museum was very accessible with lifts to all levels so getting around with a stroller was a breeze. There was a baby change room along with a separate baby feeding room for mums wanting some privacy.
Towers, Hills, Steps and Strolls
If you’re like us, holidays mean you end up eating a few more cakes and sausage rolls that you might do in real life. But don’t worry, there are options to burn off those extra calories. And they are all free things to do in Clifton.
At the top of Brandon Hill, you’ll find Cabot Tower. Brandon Hill is definitely steep – there are paths suitable for a stroller that wind up to the tower, however, if you want to enjoy the views from the top of Cabot Tower, you’ll need to bring a baby carrier instead.
Be prepared for a lot of steep, narrow steps on the winding staircase – I made it up and down with no issues but I am fit. If you are not quite so active, you’ll need to take it steady, especially with a baby altering your centre of gravity. I would not recommend just carrying your baby in arms as the steps are narrow and steep, and slipping would be very bad.
Depending on how you approach the park, or where you head to next, you might need to tackle Constitution Hill. It is a definite test of your constitution with a 1:6 slope. Our first run at it we had the stroller and shared the pushing (but Mr Dixon did do the steepest bit) and the second time I had Gemma in the baby carrier (having just climbed Brandon Hill and Cabot Tower). I earned the banana and chocolate cake I ate shortly afterwards at The Mall Deli.
When we went into Clifton another day and were near Constitution Hill, Mr Dixon did clearly express his desire NOT to climb it again. If you’re feeling like a glutton for punishment, you might like to tackle Vale Street – Bristol’s steepest with an average gradient of 25% with stretches testing heart rates at 33%.
If you’re pooped out from too many of those hill climbs, you might prefer a stroll on the Clifton Downs. With paths crisscrossing the expanses of grass and little wilderness areas, it makes a pleasant place to stroll. We had a few afternoon wanders up there this trip and, in a previous wintertime trip, we found it was a great place to visit to fling some snowballs and check out snowman creations.