Tag Archives: Cabot Tower

Bristol bucket list: the two towers, part 2

To many, the Wills Memorial Building IS Bristol University. Sitting at the top of Park Street, its tower dominates the area, and locals are always tripping over tourists desperately trying to snap the great building. In reality, unless you study Law or Earth Sciences, most students only visit this building a handful of times -for exams, careers/open unit fairs, and *gulp* graduation.

Lottie wasn’t pleased to find that a lamp post was taller than the Wills Building

A team from the university’s Estates Services has been running tours of the building for some time, and though it was high on my Bristol bucket list to join one of the tours, it took a long time to get round to it. Tours run on the first Saturday and Wednesday of each month, so when the first week of June came and went, I thought I’d missed my chance to visit before graduation. Thankfully, I spotted a tweet offering the chance to join a private tour, so on Saturday, Beth and I got up bright and early to go and visit the building we’ve walked past almost every day.

Our tour was conducted by Dave Skelhorne, who has worked at the university for years and knows the building and its history inside out. Dave ran us through a brief -but fascinating- history of the building and the university, before marching us off to various areas to spot grotesques, point out secret doors and head to the top.

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Odd to think that the next time we're in this hall will be for graduation

Odd to think that the next time we’re in this hall will be for graduation

Despite our fears that the poor June drizzle would ensure that the tower would be covered in fog, the views from the top were outstanding. At 215 ft (68 metres), Wills is the taller of the two towers, and the views reflect this. It really is amazing what you can see from here -we managed to spot Park St (which looks flat from above), the Clifton Suspension Bridge hiding behind other buildings, and we could even see as far as Dower House (aka the big yellow house on the hill by the M32 leaving Bristol).

Park Street from Wills

Park Street from Wills

Cabot Tower from Wills Tower

People on Cabot Tower. We tried waving but they didn't see

People on Cabot Tower. We tried waving but they didn’t see

Clifton Suspension Bridge hidden in Clifton

Clifton Suspension Bridge hidden in Clifton

That tiny yellow dot in the centre of the horizon?...

That tiny yellow dot in the centre of the horizon?…

...It's Dower House on the M32

…It’s Dower House on the M32

Once we’d made sure that we’d got at least one photo from every viewing point on the top of the tower (as well as some of us posing), we descended the winding staircase and headed for the belfry to meet Great George. For those of you not familiar with George, he is the 9.5 tonne bell, who runs the funniest Twitter account in Bristol.

We were lucky enough to hear the great bell chime in 11 o’clock.

 

Great George in the houseThis tour was probably the best £3 I’ve spent while at Bristol. Not only are the guides nice, the views brilliant and the access unparalleled, but half the profits from the tours go towards Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal for Bristol’s Children’s Hospital -so far the tours have raised over £11,000 for the charity!

Although tours are only organised for the beginning of each month, it’s possible to arrange for group tours (like the one we crashed) so it’d be great for family reunions/society trips etc. Dave also mentioned that they are keen to take on another guide (preferably female) so if you live in Bristol, get in touch via the link below.

Tickets cost £4, or £3 for students over the age of 11, senior citizens and members of the university. Our tour lasted about an hour and a half. There’s quite a lot of stairs to climb on the tour, so this probably isn’t the best thing to do with grandparents or small children. If you really struggle with small spaces (like lifts or spiral staircases) and/or heights, you should also give the trip up to the top a miss (although I managed fine -I didn’t even get jelly legs at the top!).

For more info, head to the website here. You can also follow them on Twitter here (handy for finding out about last minute tours) and on Facebook here.

We noticed that quite a few naughty visitors to the tower had left their mark, including Mavis in 1948!

Tut tut Mavis

Tut tut, Mavis

Check out part 1 of the two towers trip here.

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Bristol bucket list: the two towers, part 1

The skyline of Bristol is dominated by a real mishmash of architectural styles. From the historic masts of the SS Great Britain, to the chimney-like spires of Clifton Cathedral, there’s really no such thing as a ‘typical’ Bristol building.

Having spent four years studying at Bristol University, my Bristol skyline has always been dominated by two impressive towers: Cabot Tower and the Wills Memorial Building. I put aside my general hatred of heights and headed up both towers to look down on the city.

Cabot Tower

Cabot Tower sits at the top of Brandon Hill Park, a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of Park St which is just a couple of minutes away. For many years, the tower was shut to the public due to the tower’s increasing state of disrepair. When I arrived in Bristol in 2009, it wasn’t even mentioned among students. A couple of years later, following a campaign by the Bristol Evening Post to ‘Save Our Tower’ and £420,000 refurbishment project, the tower reopened and now offers incredible views across the city for free!

Built between 1896 and 1898, the tower is a monument to the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s voyage from Bristol to Newfoundland in Canada. While the inside of the tower is little more than a simple winding staircase, the exterior has been well restored and is now as stunning as the views from the tower’s viewing balconies.

There are two viewing stages. The idea of getting up to the first one alone made my tummy do little flips, but it was absolutely fine. Instead of focusing on the fact that you are over 100ft above the ground, you become absorbed in trying to spot other Bristol landmarks. The balconies are also well enclosed so the likelihood of you falling off in some Saruman-style death scene is quite unlikely.

And then there are the views…

Cabot tower

View from Cabot Tower

You can just make out the masts of the SS Great Britain

Little ant people on the Triangle

Little ant people on the Triangle

The park below

The park below

If you’ve got half an hour to spare in Bristol, head up to Brandon Hill Park for a really special view of the city. The tower is open every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day (and who wants to be climbing a tower then anyway?!), and is open from 8.30 til dusk. You can find more info here.

Check back for part two and the views from the Wills Memorial Building.

View of Wills Mem from Cabot Tower

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