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Exploring Bristol harbour from above and below

20/04/2021 philip Features

Although it really took shape in the 1800s, Bristol Harbour was operating as far back as the 13th century. Often referred to as the “Floating Harbour” due to its constant water level, today it is a bustling hub covering 70 acres, with numerous sights to see.

While boat trips can be taken out on the water and moored ships can be visited by foot, hot air balloons over Bristol allow those with an adventurous spirit to take to the skies and see the harbour from all new heights. Join us as we take a look at three must-see features you can enjoy on your next expedition.

Millennium Square

Constructed to mark the year 2000, Millennium Square is easily identifiable on land or from the birds-eye view of a balloon’s passenger basket. Visitors will find a multitude of activities to take part in, from splashing in the public fountains to watching sports matches on the big screen. Those seeking a photo opportunity can even pose next to Bristol-born legends immortalised as statues around the square, like classic Hollywood actor Carey Grant and precocious poet Thomas Chatterton.

Nominated one of Europe’s green capitals, the square also has many eco-friendly features. These involve dedicated places for water bottles to be refilled and an energy tree equipped with USB ports and solar panels that offers a free charging station for those whose mobile devices need a top-up.

The SS Great Britain

First launched in 1843, Victorian genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel – an engineer also credited with Bristol landmarks Temple Meads and Clifton Suspension Bridge – designed this iron steam ship. Just when it seemed the ship would end its days as a rusted hulk in the Falklands, it was repatriated back to Bristol for restoration in 1970.

Today, it’s an astonishing sight in the harbour, flying the colours and attracting visitors from far and wide. You can tour this venerable vessel from below water level and inspect its hull, and up on deck you can understand what life at sea was like for crew and passengers. For the brave, there’s even the chance to climb to the crow’s nest and make your way along the length of the yard arm.

The Matthew

Finally, John Cabot’s little ship that made a mighty journey across the Atlantic may not have stood the test of time, but in 1997, a replica was constructed to mark the journey’s 500th anniversary. Visitors can take to the water in her on one-hour trips or explore her decks for free and enjoy a plate of fish and chips on board.

Whether you investigate its attractions from the air, on foot or by boat, you’ll find Bristol Harbour full of exciting new experiences. Why not take an early morning hot air balloon flight over the city and see this amazing port from above before an in-depth expedition at ground level? Up in the air, you’ll gain a fresh perspective of this historic site, with many wonders to behold.

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