The Downs and Bristol side of the Avon Gorge
Clifton and Durdham Downs (known collectively as ‘the Downs’) lie on the eastern side of the Gorge. They are easily accessible by bus, train, bike, on foot or by car. From Observatory Hill and Seawalls there are spectacular views over the Gorge and from the Peregrine Watch point you might catch sight of our resident peregrines falcons. Look out for our goats in the Gully or in summer, enjoy a picnic in our stunning wildflower meadows.
How to get here
There are various cycle routes that lead from Bristol city centre to the Downs, via Clifton. There is also a cycle route that runs through the Gorge with a shared access path passing under Clifton Suspension Bridge and along the Portway. The Downs can be accessed from the bottom of the Gorge via a shared access path up Bridge Valley Road. There are bike racks in the Great Quarry, at Seawalls and at Café Retreat. For more info see: betterbybike.info/.
Please use the map below.
About our sites
The Avon Gorge
The Avon Gorge is just two miles from Bristol City Centre and yet it’s home to a wealth of wildlife. With nesting peregrine falcons, rare plants, awe-inspiring geology and stunning views this is one of the most exciting places to see wildlife in Bristol.
Over 30 different kinds of nationally rare plant grow in the Avon Gorge, making it one of the top botanical sites in the UK. It is particularly well known for its whitebeam trees, some of which grow naturally here and nowhere else in the world. Amongst these are the Bristol, Wilmott’s, Avon, Observatory, Leigh Woods, Houston’s and Robertson’s whitebeams. Bristol rock-cress and Bristol onion also live here – this is the only place that they grow wild in the UK.
The Gorge is home to a large number of nationally rare invertebrates including the nationally scarce silky wave moth.
In fact the Gorge is such an important place for wildlife that it has been internationally recognised as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and nationally designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The Downs, which are a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI), support large areas of limestone grassland meadows, brimming with grasses and wildflowers.
Covering 442 acres, they consist of Durdham Down (owned by Bristol City Council) and Clifton Down (owned by the Society of Merchant Venturers). They are protected from development, for the people of Bristol, by an Act of Parliament which was passed in 1861. The Downs are one of Bristol’s most historic and popular open spaces, so whether you fancy doing a spot of wildlife watching, going for a stroll, playing football, flying a kite or having a picnic, there’s something here for everyone.
Leaflets and trails
To help you enjoy the wildlife of the Bristol side of the Avon Gorge and the Downs we’ve produced a range of leaflets which you can download below. Alternatively these can be picked up from Café Retreat on Stoke Road on the Downs, or call us on 0117 9030609 or email email@example.com and we’ll send you a copy.
You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open the leaflets.
The Downs bird trail
This short trail offers an introduction to some of the common birds you are likely to see on the Downs with top tips on where and how to spot them.
The Downs lichen trail
A short trail introducing some of the incredible lichen to be found on the oak, ash, hawthorn and blackthorn trees of the Downs.
The Downs meadow trail
A summer trail offering an introduction to some of the wildlife to be found in our wildflower meadows.
The Downs tree trail
Starting at Christ Church Green on the outskirts of Clifton Village, this trail explores 18 trees on Clifton Down and the Promenade.
The Granny Downs tree trail
An introduction to the trees of the Granny Downs, near White Tree Roundabout.
Peregrines in the Avon Gorge
Everything you need to know about these super speedy hunters.
Durdham Down history trail (Trail No.1)
Explore the fascinating history of Durdham Down on this 3.6km trail.
Clifton Down history trail (Trail No.2)
Explore the fascinating history of Clifton Down on this 2.5 km trail.
The Downs spring family trail
A guide to exploring the Downs in spring with your family through fun and interactive games and activities.
The Downs summer family trail
A guide to exploring the Downs in summer with your family through fun and interactive games and activities.
The Downs autumn family trail
A guide to exploring the Downs in autumn with your family through fun and interactive games and activities.
The Downs winter family trail
A guide to exploring the Downs in winter with your family through fun and interactive games and activities.
The Downs app
Whether you’re a regular visitor wishing to dig a little deeper into the history of the Downs, or new to the area, the app is bursting with interesting information. It’s brought to you thanks to the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge (FOD+AG) in collaboration with University of the West of England, Bristol Parkhive and The Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project. The app is available to download for free from Apple AppStore.
Photographs: Buttercups on the Downs (© Simon Muir), Spiked speedwell and Avon whitebeam (© Libby Houston), Peregrine falcon and goats (© Denice Stout), Silky wave moth (© Mark Parsons – Butterfly Conservation), Walk in the meadow (© Jim Gilligan). All other photos © Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project.