In need of a change of scenery not too far from home? There’s something magical and calming about being by the water. From the iconic Cheddar Gorge and Mendip Hills, to man-made attractions just outside Bristol, we’ve rounded up the most photogenic lakes and reservoirs that are no more than an hour’s drive away from the city.
1. Blagdon Lake
Located at the foot of the Mendip Hills, Blagdon Lake is one of Bristol’s main reservoirs and lakes. Stunningly beautiful, the lake stretches 430 acres and is a relaxing spot for all. There is only one part of the lake that is open to the public for walking – a small woodland around some of the lake, with bridges across streams and fields which are perfect for picnics. From the car park in Blagdon, it is a 20 minute walk to the start of the woodland lake path. Following the path you will see stunning, panoramic views of the lake and surrounding countryside. There is also a visitor centre which houses two historical steam-driven pumps, one of which still works.
Drive time from central Bristol: 35 minutes
2. Cheddar Reservoir
Around 20 miles from Bristol, the Cheddar Reservoir is a lovely and accessible circular walk that begins right in central Cheddar. The reservoir is supplied with water taken from the Cheddar Yeo river in Cheddar Gorge. The three mile walk is along a tarmac surface, wide path that goes around the perimeter of manmade Cheddar Reservoir. It is appropriate for wheelchairs and prams, as well as all ability levels. Although the walk is quite easy, it still offers beautiful views of the Somerset Levels. It’s a great walk for birdwatching and you can also see windsurfing and other water sports being enjoyed as you go around.
Drive time from central Bristol: 45 minutes
3. Litton Reservoirs
The Litton Reservoirs are located south of Bristol and were built around 170 years ago to bring water from the Mendip Hills down into the Bristol area. These reservoirs are made up of two lakes, Lower Litton, a shallow, tree lined 8-acre lake, and Upper Litton, a much deeper lake spanning 11 acres. The site has a public footpath which is alive with wildflowers in the spring and summer months, while the lake itself is popular with birdwatchers and anglers. If you fancy a bit of a schlep, you can do a nice scenic walk around the Mendips, starting at Temple Cloud on the A37 passing through the village of Hinton Blewett to the beautiful Litton reservoirs at the halfway point, then returning via the village of Camley to Temple Cloud.
Drive time from central Bristol: 40 minutes
4. Chew Valley Lake
Not only is Chew Valley Lake a popular fishing destination, but it’s also the county’s largest body of inland water and the fifth largest artificial lake in the UK with an area of 1,200 acres. Chew Valley Lake is surrounded by woodland and originally opened by the Queen herself, a mere four years after her coronation. The perimeter of the lake features two nature trails, Grebe Trail and Bittern Trail, and several bird-watching hides – more than 200 different species can be seen there. The lake also offers picnic areas, toilets, tearoom and a fish café. You can also stop for fish and chips to takeaway from Salt & Malt, which has an amazing view of the Chew Valley Lake and is also has a unit at Bristol’s Wapping Wharf.
Drive time from central Bristol: 30 minutes
5. Barrow Gurney Reservoirs
Also known as ‘Barrow Tanks’, ‘the Barrows’ or just ‘the tanks’, Barrow Gurney Reservoirs are three reservoirs to the southwest of Bristol on the A38. If you fancy stretching your legs you can head up Dundry Hill for views of the reservoirs as well as the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Although these reservoirs are a lot smaller compared to Blagdon Lake and Chew Valley Lake, with the biggest of the three being around 60 acres and the smallest under 30 acres, you can still do a quaint walk passing all three of the tanks and extend your walk into Barrow Gurney village. Visiting these reservoirs is a quick escape out of the city and perfect if you want to go on a walk to clear your head.
Drive time from central Bristol: 20 minutes