Bristol's best pub gardens to soak up the sunshine

Bristol has no shortage of pubs with stunning outdoor spaces to soak up the sunshine
-Credit: (Image: Facebook/White Lion Bar)

The sun is shining and the Euros football tournament is well underway - so where better to make the most of the soaring temperatures than out in a pub garden with a pint in hand?

Thankfully, Bristolians are spoiled for choice when it comes to outdoor drinking spots - from bustling, city centre watering holes with a lively atmosphere, to more tranquil, riverside establishments, that make for a peaceful stop during a nice walk.

Whether you're looking for stunning views, or somewhere to kick-start a night out, Bristol has a beer garden for you - and here are some favourites.

The Hole In The Wall

Following an extensive renovation a few years ago, with the outdoor space transformed into a chic, al-fresco dining area, it is not hard to see why this up-market pub is a favourite Bristol spot to sit and enjoy a drink in the sunshine.

Situated just a short walk from Bristol Temple Meads station, The Hole In The Wall, nestled at the top corner of Queen's Square, is one of the first pubs you reach when walking into the city centre.

Indeed, located just on the outskirts of the harbourside area, it is central enough to then continue on to explore more of central Bristol, but with a pleasant view over the river that makes customers feel like they could be on a nice riverside walk in the country.

And dating back to circa 1746, the pub is also steeped in a fascinating history, as it is said to be the inspiration behind Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novel, Treasure Island.

Listed among Bristol's top 100 restaurants on Tripadvisor, with a four out of five star rating, reviews have raved about The Hole In The Wall's "lovely atmosphere, inside and out", and have recommended the pub for "a nice meal out on the river".

Whether you're after riverside pub gardens, or something a bit more hidden away, you can find the right spot for you
Whether you're after riverside pub gardens, or something a bit more hidden away, you can find the right spot for you -Credit:Instagram/The Hole In The Wall

The Ostrich

Just across the river from The Hole In The Wall is another waterside pub at which to pass the time away, watching kayakers and paddleboarders as you enjoy an outdoor pint - The Ostrich.

With 60 picnic bench-style tables lined up along the river, The Ostrich boasts one of the biggest beer gardens in the neighbourhood, which can be enjoyed year-round thanks to parasols to shelter visitors from the sun, as well as covered areas and outdoor heaters for when the temperature drops.

In the summer, The Ostrich serves up a portside BBQ consisting of a range of American-style street food, such as burgers, loaded fries, and mac'n'cheese - so you can line your stomachs while you line up the beers from the pub's outdoor Butcombe beer truck.

And just like The Hole In The Wall, The Ostrich also dates back to the mid-1700s, when it was a popular stop for sailors, shipyard workers, and merchants. Perhaps most notably, a slice of its past has been left exposed, as one wall at the back of the pub is partially demolished, revealing one of the many secret caves that lie beneath Redcliffe.

Highbury Vaults

For a more 'secret garden' vibe, Highbury Vaults on St Michael's Hill is not to be missed.

Don't be put off by the steep climb from the city centre to get there - as the grotto-like, walled garden out the back of the cosy pub, where colourful flowers bloom from hanging baskets during the summer months, is well worth the trip.

Indeed, food critic and the Queen's son, Tom Parker Bowles, has previously named Highbury Vaults as one of the UK's top 50 cosiest pubs, in a 2018 article for MailOnline.

And it seems that customers agree, as one five-star reviewer on Tripadvisor described Highbury Vaults as having "one of Bristol's greatest beer gardens".

So if you're keen to enjoy a pint in the sunshine at this particular establishment, make sure you're quick to grab a table - as they will fill up!

This 'secret' garden out the back of Highbury Vaults is grotto-like, decorated with colourful flowers during the summer months
This 'secret' garden out the back of Highbury Vaults is grotto-like, decorated with colourful flowers during the summer months -Credit:Instagram/Highbury Vaults

The Spotted Cow, Bedminster

Moving further to the south of the city, the award-winning beer garden at The Spotted Cow in Bedminster offers seating for more than 100 people, meaning you should always be able to find an outdoor spot to soak up the sunshine.

And there's a reason why this pub's beer garden is always so packed in the summer months, and is so highly-praised by visitors to The Spotted Cow - as the pub puts a great deal of care into keeping it well maintained.

Pub landlord Dave Smeaton, who has run The Spotted Cow for over 15 years, has previously said: "In the summer the garden is a real go-to spot for people in the community, because it's probably one of the biggest green spaces around. We have a gardener who puts a lot of effort into making it look as good as it does."

And the hard work clearly pays off, with a number of five-star reviews on Tripadvisor being sure to mention the "gorgeous" and "buzzing" beer garden at this Bedminster boozer.

The Hope & Anchor

Much like the garden at Highbury Vaults, the outdoor space at The Hope & Anchor is a hidden oasis nestled out the back of the pub - and is "the pub's best asset", according to manager James Carden.

In fact, while many may not at first realise the garden is even there, those who have had the joy of discovering it have described it as "beautiful" and "a delight".

With seating for up to 78 people, and flowers and plants blooming throughout the summer, providing a much-needed canopy of shade over some of the outdoor tables, it is easy to feel as though you are drinking in the middle of the countryside - rather than at the back of a pub whose facade sits on a main road.

And with a menu that includes chicken wings and loaded fries, as well as lighter bites such as a caprese salad, it's the perfect spot to sit and enjoy a summery meal while soaking up the sun.

And The Spotted Cow in Bedminster has won awards for its well-kept garden
And The Spotted Cow in Bedminster has won awards for its well-kept garden -Credit:Mark Simmons Photography

The Pump House

Heading back to the riverside, you can usually expect to find the outdoor terrace area at the front of this former Victorian hydraulic pumping station bustling with people as soon as the sun starts to shine.

And it's not hard to see why - looking down towards the SS Great Britain in one direction, and Clifton Suspension Bridge in the other, this gastropub is perfectly situated to enjoy some of the best views Bristol has to offer, while you enjoy a nice, refreshing pint.

The Pump House is a gin drinkers' paradise, boasting over 300 different types of gin - surely one of the largest collections in Bristol. And if you just can't make up your mind, the attentive bar staff are more than happy to steer you in the right direction, or even create your drink for you based on your preferences.

It is also a great place to grab a spot to eat - having been recognised in the Good Food Guide every year since 2011, while the pub's chef, Toby Gritten, won the best chef award at the Bristol Good Food Awards in 2013.

If a drink or a snack by the water is what you're after on a sunny day, this is the spot for you.

White Lion Terrace, Avon Gorge Hotel

When it comes to a beer garden with a view...this one really takes the cake.

The riverside is one thing, but on the terrace at the White Lion, inside Clifton's Avon Gorge Hotel, you get to drink or dine right beside Clifton Suspension Bridge, with breath-taking views of the Avon Gorge itself.

The stunning views make it a magical place to visit year-round - but especially in the summer, during the longer days, and with the golden hues as the sun sets behind the city's most famous bridge.

Of course, with its exclusive views, and being located in up-market Clifton, you can expect to pay perhaps slightly higher prices than at pubs in the city centre - with their beer offerings costing anything between £5.50 and £7.50, while their classic and signature cocktails are priced at £11.95.

But if you want to show off Bristol to visiting friends or family from outside the area, this is certainly the place to do it.

Meanwhile, The Old Lock and Weir down near Hanham has stunning riverside views whichever way you look, and is the perfect stop for walkers or cyclists
Meanwhile, The Old Lock and Weir down near Hanham has stunning riverside views whichever way you look, and is the perfect stop for walkers or cyclists -Credit:Facebook/The Old Lock & Weir

The Victoria Park

Named for the 51-acre Victoria Park on its doorstep, it is hard not to be impressed by the split-level beer garden out the back of The Victoria Park pub, offering expansive views down towards the rolling green Mendip Hills.

The pub has enough outdoor seating for 250 customers, spread through its sloping downhill garden area, with stairs taking you right down to the bottom of the garden. But it is also decorated with strings of fairy lights and bunting, making an otherwise sprawling space still feel cosy and welcoming.

And if you don't fancy sitting outdoors, bifold doors inside the pub open all the way up, bringing the outdoors in while you enjoy your meal or a pint at an indoor table - the best of both worlds.

The Star, Fishponds

Fancy escaping the hustle and bustle of Bristol city centre? Head just three miles to the north-east, and you'll find yourself at The Star in Fishponds - a cosy Irish pub which claims to serve 'the best pint of Guinness in Bristol'.

The neighbourhood pub, taken over by an Irish landlord 10 years ago, really leans into its connections with the Emerald Isle, as it is dotted with references to beloved 90s sitcom, Father Ted, as well as Guinness posters that wouldn't look out of place in Dublin's Guinness Storehouse itself.

But all are welcome at this proper community pub - which is not only deceptively large on the inside, but also extends out into a large garden area, that has undergone an extensive renovation since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

From long, picnic-style tables for larger groups, to cosier, quirky, beer barrel tables for two or three people, there's no shortage of space out here to soak up the summer sun - with a delicious pint of Guinness that will cost you just £4.20, one of the cheapest offerings of The Black Stuff you will find in Bristol.

The Star is also a music venue, running a busy programme of live music out in its garden area throughout the summer months, and indoors during the winter - from traditional Irish folk music, to sea shanties.

The Old Lock & Weir

Finally, heading out of Bristol to the south-east, towards Keynsham, we have one final riverside pub entry - The Old Lock & Weir Inn, on the banks of the River Avon.

Situated just a couple of miles down the river from the picturesque Conham River Park, and opposite Hanham Lock - the first lock on the River East of Bristol - this pub is the perfect stopping point for hikers, cyclists, or even kayakers to refuel with a refreshing pint or a delicious bite to eat.

And with its outdoor decking area situated right next to the banks of the river, with rows of canoes parked up alongside customers as they take a seat in the sunshine, The Old Lock & Weir is another spot where the views are second to none, whichever way you look - especially as the sunset glints off the water's surface.