With our Three Peaks Challenge on the horizon and Sarah’s birthday at the end of August I planned us a surprise trip to Bristol and Somerset. This meant either Sarah would be seriously impressed I’d planned everything on my own OR everything would be my fault if it went tits up. Fortunately, besides one devastating moment the whole trip was a triumph. It was 5 days of vegan adventures, outdoor action and excessive birthday antics on Sarah’s surprise birthday trip to Bristol and Somerset. Keep reading to find out exactly what we got up to!
“The best way to get through time spent in a place you don’t want to be is by planning trips to places you do want to be”
I love travel planning but for this trip things were slightly different. Sarah knew we were going somewhere as I’d given her the dates to book off work but she didn’t know what we were doing or the destination. I told her what to pack and assured her that I would take care of the rest (famous last words).
Sarah loves; outdoor adventures, vegan food, music and cider so this all pointed me towards an activity filled trip to Bristol and Somerset with our bikes.
Taking our bikes was a great decision but taking them on busy trains, through central London, was a fucking nightmare. It turns out that travelling with two large, pannier clad touring bikes on public transport is an incredibly quick way to make a lot of enemies. After 2 trains and a cycle across London during rush hour we got from Cambridge to Bristol tired and floppy. We packed a train picnic which included a bottle of wine, so this might account for some of the floppiness.
Happy to be back on two wheels after our train experience we cycled through a maze of graffiti covered streets all the way to our destination – the Ennywevers Campsite. By the time we arrived it was dark but we were greeted by a massively warm welcome from Will – the eccentric manager of the site.
We truly fell in love with the place and whilst it’s probably not for everyone it would be a dream for the right people. In summary it was a crazy combination of a campsite, a scrapyard, a festival, an overgrown garden and a brick-a-brac shop all chaotically thrown together. We stayed in ‘the pink cabin’ which was lit by fairy lights, had a wood burner inside and a pizza oven outside – it was perfect.
Day 1 – Sarah’s Bloody Birthday!
(this day was all still a surprise!)
It’s not your birthday unless you get breakfast in bed (well, on the patio in this case). On the menu was garlic roast mushrooms on a bed of wilted kale, creamy hummus and toasted sourdough bread followed by a tiny vegan cake (I didn’t fancy bringing a cake 170 miles in my rucksack).
With our bellies filled we set off for our first bit of Bristol action – climbing! Bristol has a lot of climbing options but The Climbing Academy was only a few miles from our cabin and I’d read good reviews online. The routes were awesome, the staff were friendly and it did a cracking job of shredding our hands and working up our appetite for lunch.
On the other side of town was Koocha, a completely plant based Persian mezze bar and exactly the kind of food Sarah loves. By the time we arrived it was 2.30 and we were officially ravenous. It had the kind of menu that makes your mouth salivate, your stomach grumble and was filled to the brim with Bristolian vegans. Plus, as my family are Persian I was super excited to see my favourite dishes; ash e reshte and gormeh sabzi!
We both felt like kids waiting to open presents at Christmas and then disaster struck. They weren’t sitting anymore tables for lunch. Our hearts broke as the waiter told us the last time for lunch orders was 2.00 and they would be sitting for dinner at 5. There was no way we could hold out for 2.5 hours. Panic.
We ran down the road like two heart broken crack fiends in search of some vegan fare to calm our screaming stomachs. Although we were sad not to be eating Persian mezze this problem was soothed in the best possible way. Cafe Kino was just down the road and turned out to be a super cool, community focused co-operative which sold delicious vegan and vegetarian food.
All of their food is locally grown and organic so we decided to treat ourselves. We went for the ‘Kino experience’ a satay burger, topped with cheese and bacon served with curly or sweet potato fries and coleslaw. Mouth drooling? It was fucking great, oozing with satay sauce and generous amounts of toppings. It was so tasty Sarah literally ended up with food up to her eyebrows!
Appetites satisfied we moved on to some urban exploration and in search of something to wet our whistle. Close to Cafe Kino was The Pipe and Slippers and although we were disappointed the name wasn’t referring to a dress code, they did pour a great pint of Guinness. We explored the Stokes Croft and Montpelier areas which were filled with independent shops, quirky cafes, street art and multiculturalism.
St. Nicholas market was a 10 minute walk away and had a diverse selection of traders selling everything from Nepalese style clothes and jewellery to bike parts and spares. Personally the market was impressive but a little overpriced and as we had come late in the day we didn’t spend too much time there. On other days they have a street food and vegan market so we’ll have to come back for them.
Pretending to be classy travellers our next spot was The Milk Thistle – the internet’s recommendation for the best cocktail bar in the city. You could tell it was classy because they didn’t have a door, they had a buzzer. We gave it a push and were greeted by a Peaky Blinders lookalike who welcomed us in. I was half expecting there to be a magic word.
Fancy cocktail bars are normally not our cup of tea but this place was pretty cool. It was dark and mysterious, with a prohibition style interior and lots of alcohols we had never heard of before. The classiness was confirmed as we watched one of the bar tenders sawing a huge block of ice, with a saw, an actual saw. We asked why and it was something about the density and not melting as quickly. Whether this is true or not I don’t know but it definitely kept our drinks cold.
I went for a long coconut and tequila based drink with a glass dusted with coconut and chilli and Sarah had a sharp grapefruit and gin cocktail. At £9.50 each they were very tasty but more than a little expensive for us. We licked the sugar and chilli clean from the glass and felt like it was our cue to leave.
From there our drinking cheapened and definitely intensified. We found an Irish bar; Seamus O’Donnells, an awesome cider bar on a boat (The Apple) with a beautiful selection of Somerset ciders and also a bizarre magic bar where a magician told Sarah how old she was.
Now well and truly pissed our belly started to chime again. We stumbled across Pepenero, a pizza place with an impressive vegan menu. Overly excited we (Sarah) ordered too much with a large pizza each, and an antipasti board which came with garlic bread the size of a pizza. It was pretty damn good and the vegan cheese actually melted nicely unlike a lot of other vegan cheeses. To be honest, I’m not sure how valid our experience was as we were drunk but it seemed pretty delicious at the time.
The rest of the evening was a muddle of bar hoping to some very cool venues along Stokes Croft with music ranging from acid techno to experimental power jazz. Somehow we found our way back to our cabin and both agreed that making a fire in the log burner was not a great idea in our drunken states.
Day 2 – The Bristol and Bath Railway Path
Waking up nice and early, despite our previous nights antics, we got our bikes ready for the Bristol and Bath Railway Path. This scenic off-road track has connected the two cities along a disused railway since the 1960’s. The 13 mile journey takes you from the centre of Bristol right to the heart of Bath through thick woodlands, old railway tracks and along beautiful rivers – we highly recommend it cos it was great!
The route is well signposted (it’s pretty much straight for 13 miles so you can’t get lost) and although it’s off-road the path is flat and well maintained so could be done on any type of bike. If you want to cycle at a really comfortable pace then set aside 2 hours but it will probably take your average adults 1.5 hours. On this path speed is not the aim of the game so take your time and enjoy your surroundings.
As we arrived to Bath we realised our bike lock was tucked up safely in Bristol so our first destination was Halfords. Once out of the bike shop and with our vehicles locked-up we could start to take in the city. Bath really is unbelievably quaint, with such a classic English feel and a comfortable pace to the city even though it’s a major tourist destination. The whole city centre has exquisite Roman and Georgian architecture and a fascinating history so it was easy just to wander for hours.
Our first port of call was The Royal Crescent which, as the name suggests, is an extremely royal looking crescent of houses. The Crescent is actually one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the UK and it was a marvel to look at and explore. Although the buildings were built in 1767 it was hard to tell as they were so immaculately kept and the gardens out front were a quintessential scene of local families and visitors having picnics in the green space. The Royal Crescent is a relaxing 5 minute walk from town which takes you through Georgian gardens, The Royal Victoria Park and the picturesque Queens’s Square – definitely worth the wander.
Heading back towards town we visited the towering Bath Abbey which again was so beautifully maintained it was hard to tell it dates back to the 17th century. Outside there was a really impressive opera singer which really added to the atmosphere. From there it was a short walk to one of the most impressive views in the city overlooking the Pulteney Bridge. It’s one of the few bridges in the world to have shops line all of both sides of the bridge and it was nice to see that most of these shops were independent craft and coffee shops. It was one of those places where you forget about all the other tourists and just take in your surroundings.
Having spent the morning cycling and nursing a slight hangover it was now time for lunch. For a small place like Bath to have 7 vegan and vegetarian restaurants we thought was wicked. We went with Green Rocket Cafe because it was the closest to us, had won vegan awards and was within our budget. Sarah had what she claimed was ‘the best oat milk flat white ever’ and the whole menu sounded delicious.
Everything was vegetarian and at least 80% was vegan with a variety of English classics and international options. Sarah went for a Caesar salad with an impressive vegan dressing, croutons, tempeh chunks and tofu strips topped with vegan parmasan. I went for a tempeh sandwich, with tomato, avocado and caper mayonnaise which came with a beautiful beetroot slaw. It was the perfect vegan lunch, nicely filling but a needed change from the heavier food we’d had the day before.
One of the main draws of Bath is to visit the famous Roman Baths or the Thermae Baths. The Roman Baths cost nearly £20 per person so we thought we would go for the more relaxing option and soak in the thermal waters instead. It turns out we had misread the prices of Thermae and what we thought was within our budget was most definitely not. We actually realised this after having stood in the queue for 15 minutes.
Despite not getting to prance around in white robes and mingle with the sweaty wealthy people the rest of the day was awesome. We literally wandered without a direction across the whole of the city. Finding some really unique and characterful pubs, cafes, markets and gardens. Bath really has a relaxed pace to the city and with such incredible surroundings it was nice just to follow our feet and take pictures. We also noticed that despite the obvious wealth of the area and the huge amounts of tourists the city still had a independent feel to it. Unlike other cities that have majorly sold out to high street brands and chain coffee shops Bath had a unique feel and that’s definitely something that would bring us back again.
Vegan Adventures, Outdoor Action and Excessive Birthday Antics – A Trip to Bristol and Somerset
There was no way we could fit everything from our trip to Bristol and Somerset in one post! Click here for part 2 and find out about some of the best vegan junk food we’ve ever tried, our underground exploration, more climbing shenanigans and the finest street art in the UK!