Fiona Sherlock writing at Jane Austen's writing desk

A Weekenders Guide to Bristol and Bath

Do you realise Skins aired on Channel 4 in 2007? That’s eight years ago, and was my first introduction to the city of Bristol, which I visited for a quickie weekend away before Christmas.

Less than a twenty minute train journey from the upmarket and historical Roman spa town of Bath, there is something for everyone’s budget and makes for a great cultural and ‘zeitgeisty’ weekend away, without Hackney prices, mustaches or cereal-only cafés.

Literary Bath

Fiona Sherlock in Regency Dress

Dressing up time at the Jane Austen Museum!

‘Pride and Prejudice’ was the main text I studied for Leaving Certificate, and it was the subject of my first ever lecture during my English Studies days at Trinity College. In the interim years, I have somewhat avoided the babblings of Mrs Bennet. However I do still like the book and visiting the Jane Austen Museum was high on my agenda.

The museum is set in a Georgian house off an idyllic square, a few doors down from where Austen lived. The door is flanked by a plaster of Paris statue of Ms Austen, and there are a number of the Bennets in historical costume milling around ripe for selfie-taking.

Admission was £9, and as museums go it wasn’t the most impressive, however the detail in the exhibitions was fascinating and offered a real insight into the Austen’s life in Bath. Towards the end of the tour, there’s also an opportunity to dress up.

Address: 40 Gay Street, Queen Square, Bath, BA1 2NT

Afternoon Tea in Bath

The Regency Tea Rooms upstairs were fully booked, so we sated our desire for cakes at Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms.

The ladies bathrooms are in the style of an air raid shelter, and the waitresses are kitted out in victory rolls, red lippy, headscarves and eyeliner flicks. It was an interesting alternative to the usual afternoon tea in a grand old hotel! At £14.99 each for Afternoon Tea for two, it was a reasonable price for the sheer quantity of sugar in the cake portion of our tea.

Traditional Afternoon Tea served on a tiered cake stand with a selection of finger sandwiches, a buttermilk scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream, homemade cake and loose leaf English Breakfast or Earl Grey tea for one person £14.95 (without tea £12.45)for two persons £29.95 (without tea £24.95)

Address: 6-8 Saville Row, Bath, BA1 2QP

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Pub Lunch in Bristol

Here in Ireland we haven’t quite nailed a pub lunch as the English have, so my pre-airport outing to the Kensington Arms was a great way to say farewell to Blightly. On a busy Sunday afternoon before Christmas, the service was a tad slow but the waiting staff did their best. We started our lunch with a chilly fresh plate of rock oysters (£12.95 for six), which was served with bread and homemade tabasco sauce.

It was worth the wait for the perfectly roast beef, with fluffy Yorkshire pudding, bright purple cabbage and fabulously cheesy cauliflower that hadn’t lost their crunch. The portions are generous and well worth the £14 menu tag.

The wine list is more than reputable, and I ordered a Fiona-sized Argentian Malbec (£7.90 for 250ml)

Address: 35-36 Stanley Road, Redland, Bristol BS6 6NW

Vintage Shopping Fail

Sunday morning may not be the best time to hit the Gloucester Road, renowned for its huge range of vintage shops. Blinking through wine-tired eyes, many of the shops weren’t open, so make sure to do your research! I did manage to pick up a fridge magnet and lavender massage bag!

Flights and accommodation

Fiona Sherlock writing at Jane Austen's writing desk

At Jane Austen’s writing desk

Return flights from Dublin to Bristol in December were €60 and I stayed with a friend but there’s a broad range of accommodation options from hostels and Airbnb to The Bristol Hotel (rooms starting at £89 per night).

If you are looking for a more relaxed weekend and have a bigger budget, Bath has a higher number of luxury hotels, many offering weekend spa breaks such as Champney’s two night spa break for £519 per person.

Bristol facts!

  • Frederick Hervey, the fourth Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry (1730–1803) coined the phrase ‘Ship shape and Bristol fashion’ According to his biographer, “So widely famed was the Bishop as a traveller, and so great his reputation as a connoisseur of all good things, that Lord Bristol’s hotel…came to be the best known and regarded in every city or town where he sojourned and was thus the precursor of the Hotels Bristol to be found all over Europe.”
  • A person from Bristol is known as a Bristolian.
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