Shops or history? You decide in Bristol

The SS Great Britain in Bristol
The SS Great Britain in Bristol
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I can vaguely remember a time in my life when I used to be able to do what I wanted, when I wanted, with no consideration for anyone else’s thoughts or feelings.

But these days that sort of thing is just a fond and distant memory, like jam sandwiches and Knight Rider.

Now my life is increasingly all about the C word – compromise.

So when me and the girlfriend headed to Bristol for the weekend I had some bargaining to do.

In a deal that would’ve had Lord Sugar showing me the door, we agreed to split our time 50-50.

That basically meant half of it shopping and the rest investigating what else the city had to offer, including its links to one of Portsmouth’s most famous sons, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

The location of our hotel meant avoiding the shops wasn’t really an option.

The Future Inn, Bristol, is right next to Cabot Circus, Bristol’s £500m shopping centre that has just about any shop you could mention.

Just a couple of hours drive from Portsmouth and set around an historic harbour, Bristol is a bustling city, which in recent years has enjoyed something of a renaissance.

If you can escape the hordes of shoppers then there’s plenty to explore. A short walk away from Cabot Circus is the Harbourside, which going back to the 13th century was the original port of Bristol.

Today it’s a major tourist attraction, home to museums, galleries, restaurants, bars and the Bristol Aquarium.

We popped into the aquarium and it’s well worth a visit.

From there you can jump on a boat, courtesy of the Bristol Ferry Boat Company, and head to Brunel’s SS Great Britain.

As you arrive by boat you can see the top of the iconic steam ship, designed by Portsmouth-born Brunel, and whether you’re a child or just a big kid it’s pretty exciting.

It’s easy to see why this attraction has won bag-loads of awards – recognising its contribution to heritage, conservation, education, access and tourism – since its re-launch in 2005.

Launched in 1843 by Prince Albert the SS Great Britain has an important place in history, and set records from the moment Brunel started work.

She was the world’s biggest ship at 322 feet and combined the cutting-edge technologies and materials of her time – steam power, the propeller, and iron.

It even counts the first ‘All England’ cricket to team to tour Australia amongst her passengers.

On our last day we managed to agree on where to go and headed for Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Set within 12 acres of grounds and award-winning gardens there are more than 400 species of exotic, endangered and adorable animals from the four corners of the globe.

Highlights for me included the penguins, the family of gorillas and of course, the lions.

If you can’t find a restaurant you like in Bristol then there’s probably something wrong with you.

But a great place for a relaxed Sunday lunch is Pieminister in the city’s Glass Arcade at St Nicholas Market, not far from where we were staying.

They serve up award winning pies such as chicken, vermouth, tarragon and smoky bacon or my favourite, the Moo & Blue pie, with beef steak, red wine gravy and Stilton.

A great way to end a weekend in this bustling city.


· Rooms at the Future Inn, Bristol start from £59 a night. Call 0845 094 5588 or visit

· Admission to Bristol Zoo Gardens is £14 for adults and £8.50 for children (free for under-threes).

Visit or call 0117 974 7300.

· Tickets for Brunel’s SS Great Britain cost £12.50 for adults and £6.25 for children (under-fives go free).

Call 0117 926 0680 or visit

· Tickets for Bristol Aquarium cost £12.50 for adults and £8.75 for children (under-threes free).

Go to or call 0117 9298929.

· For more ideas on what to do in Bristol, go to