Travel feature by SaraColohan. Bath and Bristol. 2024 (Published The Mail )


"A Tale of Two Cities: Bristol and Bath Unveiled"

Discover the vibrant tapestry of Bristol and the timeless elegance of Bath. Sara Colohan visits these two South West England gems, each offering its own unique charm and allure.

What do actor Cary Grant, artist Banksy, and author JK Rowling all have in common? They all came from Bristol. Located just 120 miles west of London, it’s the largest city in the south-west of England. Aerlingus offers cheap and quick regular flights between Dublin and Bristol, and the airport is just a swift fifteen minutes from the city centre. Take a ferry, and you can drive to Bristol from Hollyhead in about four hours.

You can keep it Irish by staying at the Bristol Hotel (part of the Doyle Hotel Group). For under £100 a night (extra £15 for parking), I wasn’t expecting The Ritz, but I was constantly surprised by nice little touches on my two-night stay. The bed was one of the most comfortable I’ve slept in, and although some sounds from Bristol’s lively clubs seeped into my room, the view of the river with all the twinkling fairy lights from the lit-up trees and ferris wheel somehow made up for the distant sound of a bass bin. It was the weekend after all. I'm a coffee snob, so normally I brace myself for the hotel breakfast coffee, but here I had the very best hotel coffee of the trip, served in the equally lovely, naturally lit double-height restaurant facing the river. In spring and summer, the terraces open up, and you can dine on the waterfront. As far as standard hotel breakfasts go, this was truly great. The location is faultless, too. Full disclosure I visited this hotel with my two little rescue dogs, and the staff couldn’t have been kinder. Whether you like the idea of dogs in your hotel or not, the ‘Hound Pound’ is a hugely growing industry. Most establishments are realising they are missing out if they don’t accommodate our pooches, and the Bristol Hotel did a great job with my two. With or without your dog, there is a small park on one side of the hotel and lovely riverside walks on the other. Walk to Cabot Tower in about 15 minutes and get a bird's-eye view of the city. Bristol Castle is good for a stroll and a bit of local history, as is the gorgeous stroll around the university and cathedral. If you do have a dog with you, lots of lovely people will stop to pet them and possibly tell you stories about their dogs. Bristol is almost as dog-crazy as London.

Because I was travelling with my dogs, I researched the nicest of the dog-friendly spots for dinner and chose The Harbour House. I was delighted with myself because it turned out to be an excellent choice. They sat us in a quiet corner with lovely soft armchairs, and we people watched for the evening as the place filled up. The restaurant area has sofas, soft lighting, great music, helpful staff, and great food, and their menus are very focused on sustainability. All the food is locally sourced and seasonal. They also have a bar area with a big selection of sustainable, local beers and ales. It really is the kind of place you would come for lunch and want to stay at for dinner. It opens onto the waterfront too in the summer. (

Set in a grade-two-listed, designated English Heritage building dating back to 1869, The Granary’s food and atmosphere lived up to its impressive surroundings. Book in advance because this place is popular with locals and tourists. A great balance of small plates, mains, and lots of interesting fired sourdough flat breads to choose from—the focus is on smoked, open-grill style. Breakfast, all-day, and evening menus are available. I was thrilled with our little dog-friendly area, which was extremely comfortable. (

If you are lucky with the weather, aimlessly rambling through Bristol sunshine is hard to beat. Everywhere feels very pedestrian-friendly. Visit the Bric-a-brac or farmers markets by large indoor St. Nicholas market, sprawled out on a couple of streets. 

If you have some extra time, in particular if you are travelling with kids, dogs, or both, you could look at a quick drive outside of Bristol to the four-star Aztec Hotel and Spa. It is not the prettiest building from the outside, but it reveals its beauty when you enter through the main doors and on into the bar area. Exposed wooden beams with double-height ceilings, open fires, comfy sofas, and two AA Rosette award-winning restaurants, Curious Kitchen. The food was excellent, and if you stay in the cosy bar area, well-behaved dogs will be allowed to join you for dinner. Further in, there's a buzzy main bar area where young couples come from surrounding areas for the great food and spa facilities. There’s also a large main restaurant with a huge veranda that opens out in the summer to a large decked area. The spa boasts a full-size pool, sauna, steam rooms, and plenty of fun for kids. The weekends are very family-friendly, so if you aren’t bringing kids, pick a quieter time. The rooms were a bit dated, but the great price, friendly staff, excellent food, and generous breakfast easily made up for the slightly dated bathroom. (

Bath is about 12 miles to the east of Bristol, and 45 miles away across the Bristol Channel is Cardiff in Wales. The picturesque city is situated on the River Frome and the River Avon.

We stayed at the luxury boutique hotel, Roseate Villa. It’s a Victorian villa built in 1868 with 30 stylish rooms, less than 10 minutes' walk to the famous Roman Baths. Be prepared for stairs, as this is a period villa, so there’s no elevator. There’s carpet everywhere too, so it's not ideal for dogs with muddy paws, but luckily we kept an eye on things and didn’t cause any fuss. There is a lovely little park across the road, which is ideal for a morning stroll, and again, the location is perfect if you want to walk everywhere. The very cute Henriette Bar on site is a great choice if you fancy a quiet nightcap. Seek out the talented Chris, who is the bar manager there, and he will whip you up a cocktail worthy of the Savoy or the Connaught. If you get used to the comforts of Roseate Villa, with nice touches like UK-brand Penhaligans products in the bathroom, they also have other locations in Reading, Edinburgh, and London. (Rooms from €140

There are lots of good food and coffee choices just a few minutes away. The weather was so mild that I took the dogs to the French bistro, Chez Dominique and sat at a table outside. Dogs are not welcome inside, but we were lucky with the mild weather, and I was glad to have the chance to dine here. Good service and great food, with a lovely mix of seasonal plates on offer. The impromptu alfresco dining worked well because the dogs love saying hello to everyone passing by, and we discovered Bath is as dog-friendly as Bristol, with lots of people stopping to give them a pet. Town + House by Always Sunday is another option, just a few minutes from Roseate Villa. Seasonal food, well-crafted cocktails, and an award-winning Sunday roast on Sundays. It was actually voted into the top 10 national roasts in the UK.  ( 

Three hot springs can be found beneath Bath city: the King's Spring, supplying the Roman Baths, and the Hetling and Cross Springs, which can be bathed in at Thermae Bath Spa. The famous Royal Crescent is also a main attraction. Don't overlook the Jane Austen Museum, even if it's just to grab a selfie with the lady on the steps. The shop is full of very cute cards and souvenirs, and the museum is fun, informative, and full of props from famous film adaptations of her books. There is even a dress-up box where you can have fun photos taken in period dress.

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