You won’t believe what I found in Clifton, Bristol

Bristol’s a city that keeps on surprising. While I lived here for six years, including three years in Clifton itself, I, like many locals and tourists, presumed the Clifton Observatory was just that – an observatory. 

In fact, when I was a student and young professional in the city, I never even ventured into the observatory, which means that I never discovered what was lying underneath it. 

What’s underneath Clifton Observatory?

Sitting majestically above the Avon Gorge, Clifton Observatory is a popular spot for its panoramic views and historical significance. 

With its camera obscura and sweeping vistas, it’s no wonder visitors flock here!

However, what many don’t realize is that beneath this famous landmark lies a hidden gem that even some seasoned Bristolians like myself were unaware of – Giant’s Cave.

The Hidden Entrance

Giant’s Cave is accessed through a steep, narrow tunnel that winds its way down from the Observatory. 

As you descend, the temperature drops slightly, and the sounds of the outside world fade away. You’ll go down 130 steep steps as you journey 61 metres toward the end of the tunnel.

This tunnel is carved out of the rock and leads you to a natural cavern that opens up to the face of the cliff, where a balcony leads over gorge 76 metres in the air (don’t step on it if you’re scared of heights or have vertigo!).

Why is it called Giant’s Cave?

The cave is associated with the legend of Goram and Ghyston, two giant brothers who, according to local folklore, were connected to the cave. 

They competed for the love of a woman named Avona; she set them a task of draining a lake between Bristol and Bradford-upon-Avon to win her love!

It’s unclear who actually won, but the fact that Giant’s Cave is often called Ghyston’s Cave suggests that it was he who resided here – and maybe Goram won the heart of Avona? 

An Underpublicised Treasure

You can easily visit Clifton Observatory and not go to – or even know about – Giant’s Cave, so make sure that you buy a combined ticket when you go into the observatory (you can just purchase a ticket for Giant’s Cave too – if I’m honest, I wasn’t blown away by the observatory itself). 

The cave’s entrance is tucked away within the Observatory, and unless you know to look for it, you might just walk past – but the staff will direct you!

Practical Tips for Your Visit

  1. Footwear: Wear sturdy shoes as the tunnel can be damp and slippery.
  2. Photography: Bring a camera—the view from the cave is unparalleled.
  3. Admission: There is an additional fee to access the cave from the Observatory – ask staff upon arrival. 
  4. Accessibility: Giant’s Cave is only accessed by steep steps, which means that it’s unfortunately not accessible for anyone with mobility issues. 
  5. You’ll find the Google Maps location here
  6. Check out my list of the other best things to do in Bristol!

So, next time you’re in Clifton, there’s much more than meets the eye! Don’t miss heading into the cliffs of the Avon Gorge and learning more about this enchanting cave.

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