Bristol: A driver’s nightmare!

On Friday and Saturday Sue and I made what seems to have become an annual visit to Bristol. I have a friend who is a fellow Freemason, and every year he has invited us down so that I can attend a meeting of his Lodge or Chapter, after which Sue and the other ladies join us for what we term a ‘white table’ or ‘after meeting’ meal.

Bristol is a lovely city … but it has what I consider to be amongst the worst one-way systems I have ever had to drive through. I have yet to pay Bristol a visit and not get lost at some point! Signs pointing you towards a destination seem to disappear without notice or are so badly placed that you end up in the wrong lane at the junction where you need to turn. Last year what should have been a ten minute-long drive took nearly an hour when I missed the turning we should have taken and ended up on the road going out of Bristol to the east when I should have been going north!

In an attempt to avoid getting lost during this visit we used the satnav to navigate us across the city to our hotel. Despite a minor hiccough due to a road that the satnav told us to use being closed, we actually managed to get to our hotel in Clifton without getting too badly lost! It is a hotel that we have stayed in before because it is within walking distance of the Masonic Centre in Bristol, and despite having changed hands since our last visit, it was a great place to stay overnight.

The Bristol Masonic Centre.

We arrived at our hotel just after 3.00pm On Friday, and after parking our car, unloading our luggage, booking in, and dropping off our luggage in our room, Sue and I went for a walk around Clifton Village. It is a rather up-market area, with lots of small restaurants, fashion boutiques, coffee houses, wine bars, and the inevitable estate agents! Our walk took us to the edge of the Avon Gorge, from where we had an excellent view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Overlooking the Clifton end of the bridge was a building that looked rather like a lighthouse or small fort. It is – in fact – a camera obscura and it was featured in an episode of the Canadian crime series, MURDOCH MYSTERIES, entitled THE MURDOCH IDENTITY.

The Camera Obscura.

On Saturday we were able to leave the car parked in the hotel’s car park, walk to the Centre – where the meeting was great, the meal afterwards very good indeed, and the company was exceptionally welcoming and friendly – and then take a taxi back again afterwards.

We almost got lost getting from the hotel to the M32 motorway, but by just after 5.00pm we were on our way home. Despite appalling weather for the last half of the journey, we arrived home a little after 8.00pm tired but already looking forward to going back to Bristol at some point in the future.


12 Comments on “Bristol: A driver’s nightmare!”

  1. My sister went to University in Bristol and lived in Clifton and my mother hated driving there. She wouldn't do it alone unless I was with her holding a large scale map of the city!

  2. That's funny…I find Bristol okay, but then I live here. For me it's Cardiff…it seems as if every road wants to turn you away!

  3. Legatus Hedlius,

    Clifton seems like a nice area, but I could certainly do without having to drive through Bristol to get there.

    All the best,


  4. Gordon Richards,

    I suppose it is all to do with what you are used to. I know people who flatly refuse to drive anywhere in central London, yet I don't have any problems doing so.

    I once went to Milton Keynes, and at one roundabout each of the roads going off it was signposted 'City Centre'!

    All the best,


  5. Nigel Drury says:

    We had a long weekend there a few weeks ago. Even more glad now that we went by train. 3½ hours from Chatham to Bristol Temple Meads and then 12 minutes walk to a hotel near the centre of the old town. Good local buses too, we used one after eating in Clifton one evening to get back to the centre but mostly we walked. Great views from the Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill. Coincidentally there was a piece on visiting Bristol in today's Telegraph.

  6. Nigel Drury,

    It took you only a little longer to get from Chatham to Temple Meads than it took us to drive from Woolwich to Clifton!

    Sue and I hope to spend a few days in Bristol later this year, especially as I want to visit SS Great Britain. We will probably stay in the hotel we used this time as we like the Clifton area.

    All the best,


  7. Pete. says:

    Only ever been to Bristol once for a swimming gala some 20 years… wasn't impressed as the swimming pool was unintentionally open air after the roof had failed. The gala went on regardless with the rubble cordononed off.

    Glad you had a better time than I.



  8. Pete.,

    I worked in a school whose assembly hall roof collapsed without warning one morning. Luckily the hall was empty at the time, but it would have been a disaster had it occurred less than an hour earlier. The cause? Faulty use of fast-drying concrete! It sounds to me as if the swimming pool in Bristol may have been suffering from a similar 'mistake'.

    All the best,


  9. guy says:

    I once many years ago before satnav got lost in Leeds. Every road I took seemed to come back to a large roundabout next to the Tetley brewery. I thought I would never escape – eventually I saw a sign to Hull, followed that until I came to a motorway and made my way back west. Nightmare.

    I went to a third in Bristol once – most interesting.


  10. Guy,

    It is a horrible when you get lost in the one-way system of a place you haven't visited before. It is very easy to begin to think that you will never get out of it.

    Bristol Workings are very different, and when I saw them do a Third it gave me the willies! Very scary!

    All the best,


  11. Bristol is a bit of a mess at the moment while put in the new Metrobus network – a bit like a tram system only cheaper. Bristol is OK to drive around but then I live here. You should came back in November to visit the Reveille show, although keep the satnav handy as it can tricky to find for the uninitiated.

  12. Martin Sheppard,

    There have been several attempts to introduce something similar in our part of London. It was originally planned to be in place for the millennium … and then the Olympics … but they are still discussing it!

    We may be back some time later in the year, and if so, we may try to come when eveille is on.

    All the best,


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