What the Brizzle?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bristol is known for lots of things. We're colorful, a bit crowded, street art enthusiasts thanks to hometown hero Banksy (you may have heard of him), and drinking cider on boats accompanied by live music is the norm.

So would you believe me if I told you that this wasn't lining the idillic streets of Stratford-upon-Avon nor torn out of a Hansel and Gretel storybook page?

Nope - it's in Bristol, folks.

20 mins from the city center by car, 40 by bus, lies the suburb of Henbury, which feels like a world all on it's own.

Blaise Hamlet is a tiny plot of land with 9 fairytale-worthy cottages plopped right in between typical suburban streets. Designed by John Nash, the mastermind behind multiple UK icons including the Brighton Pavilion and Buckingham Palace, this hamlet is over 200 years old and one of the earliest examples of a planned community. It was created for retired workers of Blaise Castle (more on that below) to live in, and still functions as real homes today. We did giggle at the fact that none of the residents we saw were younger than 70 years old, but it made it all the more adorable.

Small enough to do several laps around, you are able to quietly roam between cottage to cottage, taking in the towering chimneys and gape at the picturesque thatched roofs. I'm sure it's even more beautiful in the spring and summertime, as each cottage is accompanied by a generously sized garden, awaiting their time to bloom.

Up the road lies acres and acres of greenery, with two very prominent historical structures.

A playground!

I kid, I kid.

Next to the playground, is this.

Sitting on 650 acres (!!!) is Blaise Castle and Estate. Scattered around the forest and greenery are caves, hiking trails, ponds, footprints from the Bristol giants, and a cafe of course! It wasn't too crowded when we went, although there were plenty of pups running around and loving life in the open fields, so I can only imagine how packed this place gets on a sunny summer weekend.

It was still pretty great on a sunny winter day though.

Peeking out behind the trees, you can see the grey towers of a castle in the distance from the house.

After a bit of a hike through mud, rock, and woods, we arrived at the top. Overlooking the gorge as well as bits of South Wales on a good day, Blaise Castle is small enough to walk around as many times as you please. I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out the difference between a castle and a tower (shhh....I still think this looks like a tower).

Both the house and the castle have very specific opening times and dates, so if you are wanting a peek inside either, I would plan according to the websites: House/museum here, castle here.

As much as I love hopping on a train to somewhere new, it was just as fun exploring a hidden gem on the outskirts of home - I had to keep reminding myself that this was actually in Bristol..."But where's the graffiti?"

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