Memories of a Tour Guide in Bristol, Bath & South Wales – Fasten your seatbelt and enjoy this journey with me & Brilliant Tours Ltd.
Enjoy my story and see if you can guess which painting the Banksy street art is? If you can’t guess read on and I’ll tell you later in the story.
Lots of love Crista your Brilliant Tours Portuguese & English Tour Guide x
One of my favourite UK tours was a road trip to visit the south of England and Wales.
The plan was to drive in a beautiful V-class Mercedes first to explore Bristol, continue to Bath, then travel across the River Severn Bridge and along the south coast of Wales to St. David’s in Pembrokeshire.
During this journey, we decided to have some breaks and we discovered so many hidden gems it was incredible. I hope you enjoy this virtual trip with me and that you like my photos. Don’t forget to fasten your seat belt!
We set off from Liverpool early and took the motorway towards Bristol. It was a grey and rainy day! After 3 hours on the road, we decided to stop to have a break in Bourton-on-the-water in the Cotswolds named from “Cot & wold” meaning a “sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides’
To get ourselves in the mood, we wanted to start in a traditional British style, so we had a cream tea at a lovely tea house. Can you imagine homemade, hot scones with clotted cream? The first surprise was one of the best scones I’ve ever had! with a great view from our window table inviting us further into the village to find out more.
Having a guided walk around the village was the best idea. It has an outstanding natural view. Its nickname is "Venice of the Cotswold", where the river Windrush flows through the village with quaint stone bridges, beautiful golden coloured houses (made of yellow oolitic Jurassic limestone) and loads of leafy green trees and blossom around. It is small and picturesque so we were able to explore it all and it was the perfect stop for us at the start of our adventure.
After around one hour and a half’s journey, we arrived in Bristol. There we felt amazing energy and vibrancy. Being a port city it seemed familiar and it has a similar maritime history & has developed in a similar way to Liverpool. We chose to take the ferry to see the eclectic architectural style around the River Avon. From traditional to industrial and more modern styles. We admired the attention-grabbing brightly coloured buildings reflecting its diversity and its vibrance.
Along the river bank, we spotted old and new wooden hulls and barges converted in restaurants, bars, and house boats.
Whilst In the city centre we met up with a friend who lives in Bristol it is so much better to tour with a local and he showed us his favourite buildings. Later we had a little explore to find some of the famous street art crafted in secret by Banksy.
Can you tell what this graffiti represents? Look carefully at the location of the burglar alarm box. If you don’t know then read on and ill tell you later in the story.
You cannot visit Bristol without exploring the famous steamship the SS Great Britain launched in 1843, the museum is excellent and you can explore underneath the water line in a very clever way and explore inside the ship it’s amazing and you can get off the River Ferry to visit as it has its very own stop.
Our second surprise was dinner and we were absolutely amazed at how many gastronomic options we had to choose from all for about £15 which was an absolute bargain. Can you imagine going to a restaurant where you could lots of tiny kitchens with chefs cooking dishes from different countries in a unique place for a fixed price!! We wished we could have more time to eat there and of course, the old saying eyes bigger than your stomach prevailed and all too soon it was time to say goodbye to our friend under a wonderfully lit M-Shed Museum as we were actually staying in Bath overnight for an early start the following morning.
If you visit Bristol, it’s definitely worth combining it with a trip to Bath which is around half an hour away.
Waking up in Bath is magical as this place transports you back to the Roman period One of its treasures is the Roman baths, where with the help of an audio guide and headphones you can appreciate the Roman classic architectural style and realise how important that precious natural hot water spring was to society, almost as important as a temple or shrine!
Nowadays it is no longer permitted to bathe or take the waters, instead, it’s been preserved as a tourist attraction to visit and learn more about the legacies left by the Romans. There is an exhibition displaying artefact’s found during some excavations.
The highlight is the thermal spring itself and a fountain where you can throw a coin and make a wish. If you can throw inside the specific area the lights will turn on. You can have lots of fun, or in my case spending lots of money trying!
If you have time, you should book a walking tour with a qualified tour guide. The hue of the Bath stone is reflected by magnificent buildings that breath art and beauty throughout the city.
This was the end of the journey in England, to start a new adventure in South Wales.
Croeso i Gymru (Welcome to Wales)
We left Bath towards St. David’s with an overnight stop at a fabulous waterfront hotel in a strange-sounding place called “The Mumbles” in the Gower Peninsula.
Nature-lovers arriving in Wales will be overwhelmed by the landscape. Miles of fields with brilliant white sheep, yellow daffodils embellishing the green pasture, many magnificent castles, natural parks, mountains, sandy beaches and a breath-taking horizon and views to the Irish Sea.
It is truly a place where Dragons breath fire bringing Celtic culture, myths and traditions alive.
After a brief tour of a very small part of the Gower Peninsula, we set off for St David’s.
St. David’s is the birthplace of Saint David, The patron Saint of Wales. St David chose this beautiful site to build his monastery in the 6th century, where nowadays we can find a huge and gorgeous Cathedral. Moreover, it hosts a festival, during Spring break, that has been providing world-class music to Wales for over 40 years. This tiny town has the UK's smallest population, around 2,000, and attracts visitors and pilgrims to learn about St. David’s life and this grandiose cathedral.
On the way to Tenby, we decided to have a quick stop in Pembroke Castle an imposing rocky structure surrounded by water. This Norman castle was built between two sides of the mountain range where two streams of seawater flow in a really beautiful setting.
Soon we arrived at Tenby a medieval walled town with not one but three beaches! stretching for two and a half miles. With light blue coloured sea, the harbour beach was named the best in Europe in 2014. Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to spend there. but it is one of the places I've visited and I definitely will return to for my holidays.
On the way to Cardiff, we took a dramatic route with even more dramatic weather “snow!” Brecon Beacon National Park. There we could admire the endless horizon of green mountains and fields and appreciate the landscape. It is an impressive natural attraction!
It is a great site for relaxing, getting close to nature, and taking photos. There is a visitor centre with a restaurant and there are also lots of sheep and wild welsh ponies, its brilliant!
Caerphilly Castle was another opportunity that we couldn`t skip. It is another Norman legacy and it is considered one of the biggest castles in Europe. It is surrounded by water to protect from invaders and the castle tower has a steeper angle of inclination. We were so lucky to arrive as the wonderful daffodils were in full flower and the Daffodil is the national flower of Wales so that was extremely poignant.
It was affected during the English Civil War and nowadays it has been restored and it’s a truly magnificent half-day often brought to life by re-enactment societies and special open days.
Finally, we arrived in Cardiff, the capital of Wales. Another surprise as the very word capital evokes the sense that it would be a huge city when it actually felt cosy and homely and it was possible to get around by foot.
The unmissable attraction is Cardiff Castle. They offer a visit and a wonderful medieval banquet. We were lucky to enjoy an entertaining guided tour and to see one of the most beautiful castles that is so rich in detail artistically and symbolically.
The choral banquet took us back in time with a welsh male singer, who was equally talented as a compere and comedian played the piano and sang with a female choir in welsh costume between courses. Their ability to so eloquently revive a traditional Welsh show was truly unique experience.
For those who like a sensory experience, the Llancaich Fawr Manor is another suggestion. Superbly curated and delivered by room guides in servants costume dating back to 1645 bring the house to life and tell their everyday life, stories, and the habits of the time in a very interesting and entertaining way. Really can this road trip get any better?
Another amazing experience is the Hensol Gin Distillery, where you can have the experience of making your own gin. It is possible to taste different flavours and learn the whole process. it is absolutely fascinating!
How many loose coins have you got in your pocket?
Do you know where they were made? We took the amazing tour of the Royal Mint – which is actually not an after dinner chocolate! But it’s a huge facility pressing out circles of metal and then impressing the head of Queen Elizabeth 11 on one side and the value of the coin on the other. The speed at which the coins whizzed around was incredible.
Since visiting the Royal Mint we had that terrible pandemic the Covid19 Coronavirus and instead of making coins, production was changed to manufacture thousands of plastic masks to help the National Health Service the NHS for which everyone in the UK is extremely grateful.
We were searched of course going in and sadly there were no free souvenirs to make up for my misadventures throwing coins in the fountain at Bath! However, the tour did include the chance to make my very own 50p piece (which then cost £2.00!) and we did have a fabulous photo taken in a Beatles themed “Penny Lane” Mini car covered in bronze/copper coloured coins – quite ironic really as our tour had also started in Liverpool in the very same place that the Beatles were born and the story of perhaps the most famous pop band in the world all began.
Thanks for enjoying this trip with us!. We had an amazing experience during this discovery journey and it was a pleasure to share just a snippet of it with you. We are looking forward to showing you our favourite places & turning all these words into reality
Oh, by the way, the Banksy that was of course “The Girl with the Pearl Ear-ring painted by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer in 1665. I absolutely loved the clever way the burglar alarm box was used as the ear-ring!.
Lots of love Crista x
For further information or to book a tailor-made private guided tour of the UK please speak to Neil or Claire at https://www.brillianttours.com/tour-services/luxury-tours