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Cabot Tower re-opens at last

August 16, 2011

I’ve just got home from the ceremony for the re-opening of the Cabot Tower, one of Bristol’s most famous landmarks.  Even in the warm August drizzle, the view from the top was spectacular.  I’m often asked what is the best thing about Bristol?  I always mention the views, an advantage of our hilly city.  And there’s no better view than from the top of the Cabot Tower.

Closed almost four years ago due to cracked masonry at the top of the tower, the structure has now been thoroughly restored by English Heritage and Bristol City Council.  Bristolians and visitors to the city will now be able to see a 360 degree panorama of Bristol from over a hundred feet above the natural vantage point of Brandon Hill.

Since I last went up the tower in 2007 quite a lot has changed.  The glass domes of Cabot Circus and a new tower over Quakers’ Friars appeared in 2008.  While Cabot Circus was being built, Cabot House, a hideous office building behind the Council House, was being demolished.  The HQ of the Environment Agency and Triodos Bank are now more pleasing examples to be viewed from the top of the tower.  There have been big changes down on Harbourside too, where many of the new flats and offices have been completed over the last four years.

Other sights will be more familiar.  I’ve been clambering up the Cabot Tower for over 25 years, since I was a student at Bristol University.  When family and friends come to stay I always take them to see the views.  The University itself has changed a lot in the last quarter century but the Wills Tower still faces its near neighbour the other side of Park Street.   The Wills Tower wins easily on architectural merit but Cabot Tower is ahead on where to get the best views.  But having been up both of them I recommend a visit to the top of the Wills Tower on Doors Open Day next month so you can see the optical illusion of Park Street appearing to be flat!

What a great summer this has been so far for Bristol.   The opening of M Shed, great exhibitions at both the City Museum and Art Gallery and the Royal West of England Academy and of course the invasion of gorillas to mark the 175th birthday of Bristol Zoo offer something for everyone.  Now you can look down on all these attractions and many more from the top of the Cabot Tower.


[Note – the Cabot Tower is normally open during daylight hours.  It is free.]

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2011 3:57 pm

    How fab. I used to climb it all the time as a child (30 years ago now!). Great to hear its open again

  2. rosemary permalink
    August 16, 2011 5:03 pm

    Thank you, Stephen, for your enthusiasm. For us Bristolians, there can be nothing more precious than Brandon Hill and its famous landmark, the Cabot Tower. How many children must have played there happily in the past, and grown up with fond memories of that unique place, for ever in their minds?

    Not so sure about the Environment Agency’s latest new building being an improvement, though. Seems typical of the Crest Nicholson genre to me – much too big, and out of sympathy with its historic neighbours and topography. Did we really need another huge new office block, with so many empty premises waiting to be imaginatively recycled? Shouldn’t the whole site have been turned over to grass and trees? Recent events have shown young people really do need to have their energies channelled more naturally, and what could be more natural and healthy than playing outside on grass? The Downs are a long walk away, and there just isn’t enough grass now in the city centre for all the new residents, students, and daily incomers to enjoy.

    Bristolians who missed it may also like to see this:

    And what a brilliant headline: Tower to the People!

  3. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    August 17, 2011 5:43 pm

    Hi Stephen
    I’m surprised you didn’t notice the wonderfull views of Dundry, the open fields and countryside stetching from Ashton Vale to the horizon, and of course to the west, the Ashton Court Estate. Just as important as any new buildings, and given by many visitors as the reason why Bristol stands out from other cities. Much of this countyside is only there because of the great efforts of many campaigners, and the timely demise of the last Government. Long may it remain so.

    • August 17, 2011 8:10 pm

      Paul – yes I could have written so much more about what you can see from the top of the Cabot Tower, man made and natural! I agree with you that one of the joys of Bristol is being able to see the countryside while still in the city. We have most of what a great city needs and are just half an hour away from the Mendips, Cotswolds or South Wales.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 17, 2011 8:44 pm

        And when you are in the wildflower meadow on Brandon Hill the only building you can see apart from the Cabot Tower is St Mary Redcliffe. Long may that remain the case.

  4. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    August 22, 2011 7:47 pm

    Hi Stephen
    “put to use rather than just looking pretty.” Well I don’t know all the Greenbelt that surrounds our City, but here to the south I don’t think any subscibes to your desciption and is certainly put to good use. Still mainly farmed, parts have been taken for recreational use as a result of schools selling off playing fields for development and relocating, and when a golf course was worth more than farmland, some was given over to that. Then there is landfill, which was much more profitable than farming, but can still claim to be making good use of the land. If you think that people who campaign to protect our Greenbelt want it to just ” look pretty” you are very mistaken. It was always about it being used to good effect, preferably food production, but recreation is an important part of life, and that could be as simple as a walk in the country. So although I agree wholeheartedly with your aims, they are already happening.

    • August 23, 2011 8:07 am

      Paul – have a look at the Who Feeds Bristol blog I wrote yesterday to see where I was coming from…

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