WHEN I suggested to my sons that I might take them away as a joint birthday present, one said Spain would be nice, the other said a cruise would be great, and both wanted to fly to our destination.
So you can only imagine their surprise when I announced that we would be going to Bristol and Bath for the weekend, and promised that all their expectations would still be met.
Given their close proximity, Bristol and Bath are a great choice for a few days’ break.
Bristol has a proud industrial and nautical history as well as a vibrant arts scene.
Bath, meanwhile, is a world heritage spa city with strong literary ties, and it’s here we start our trip.
A bird’s-eye view of the city is a good way to get your bearings and the tower at Bath Abbey provides an enviable vantage point.
A place of worship for more than 1200 years, the ornate structure is testament to the workmanship of its builders.
The tour involves climbing more than 200 spiral stairs, with useful rest points at the bell-ringers’ chamber, the famous bells themselves, behind the clock face and the top of the tower. It is a dusty but worthwhile climb.
The Roman Baths are next door and, following major excavation work, visitors can see parts of the stunning temple and bathing complex.
The hot spring still flows to this day and, while you can’t bathe in it, you can taste the water and perhaps gain from its healing properties.
With our trip taking us high, above and way below the town’s streets, we’ve built up quite a hunger and here’s where my cunning plan comes into play.
We dine at Tapas Revolution, soundtracked by flamenco music, and I am able to tick the “Spanish” request off my sons’ list.
Now, we jump ahead a little, to Bristol’s harbour.
The sun has just risen and the only noise you can hear is being created by passing swans and rowing teams as they energetically power up the river.
Staying on the Kyle Blue, the city’s only floating hostel, ticks another item off the wish list.
It’s a converted Dutch barge and offers simple but comfortable accommodation.
It is ideally located for easy access to all the major attractions the city has to offer.
As it is a hostel, there is a self-catering kitchen and really good lounge.
Breakfast can be enjoyed at Brunel’s Buttery, an iconic eatery which sits literally at the end of the gangplank.
From my vantage point, Bristol’s rich maritime history is clear.
Most of the original dockside buildings have been imaginatively repurposed, becoming museums, restaurants and independent shops.
Close by is Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the ship that revolutionised maritime engineering and world travel.
A visit is highly recommended and the attention to detail is astonishing.
Exploring the waterfront could keep you occupied for a couple of days, with an aquarium, a science centre and Museum of Bristol Life among the attractions.
However, I am quite taken by the businesses at Cargo 1 & 2. Small restaurants and shops have opened in former shipping containers and have created a great community of independent traders.
The city’s water taxi service is a great way to get around and see more.
While it is possible to hop on hop and off, the 90-minute round trip will take you on a tour around the main city centre sights, as well as towards the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the zoo.
The Clifton area is elegant, leafy and filled with chic boutiques.
The Victorian Arcade is home to some superb shops.
Over our long weekend, we only really dip our toes into the vast number of attractions the area offers, but I still manage to meet my sons’ Spain, boat and plane requirements. Result!
David stayed at The Kyle Blue in Bristol – kylebluebristol.co.uk. Prices start from £29 per bed per night.
Flights to Bristol depart daily from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen.