Bristol dry dockWho would have thought that this normal little town was once a thriving port city that ranked among the most important in England, only after London? Built around the river of Lower Avon, the city made most of its wealth from its role as a port back in the day. Not only was Bristol known for trade, but also for their shipmaking skills. Their reputation for sturdy, well-crafted ships came about from an unfortunate source – the tidal pressures of the Avon. The strength of these tidal pressures would damage boats resting at the harbour, and so it was necessary that the Bristol ships be built to be more durable and lasting. Bristol's association with the sea doesn't stop there. It's also the home to one of the most feared and famous pirates to ever set sail – the dreaded Blackbeard!


Bristol has the largest population in South West England, close to half a million. No sleepy little village this one, but a place of modern convenience separated from the humdrum by a patina of rich history. So well known was its role as a port, 34 other places on earth bear its name, from locations in Costa Rica, Jamaica and Peru, to some in Canada and the United States.


In the Roman era, Bristol served as an area close to the city of Bath. Although not as heavily Romanised as Bath, there were several forts and villas built throughout the countryside. Bristol's biggest asset was only capitalised in the time of the Saxons. Under them, Bristol's port developed rapidly. In the 11th Century, it became a centre of trade, doing major business with Ireland, and later on, it was hailed for the skills of its shipbulders.


Until the advent of the Black Death in 1348, Bristol was one of the most highly populated towns in England. There was a lull in its productivity as it struggled with a drastically lowered population, until England began colonising the rest of the world aggressively. In the 17th century, trade with the American colonies became a major part of the port – unfortunately, the goods traded were African slaves. Much of Bristol's central area was irreparably damaged in World War II, after which it was rebuilt and expanded.


Aside from his pioneering acts in railway engineering and a hard-to-forget name, Isambard Kingdom Brunel is also known for building the first iron steamship that was propeller- instead of paddle wheel-driven. The name of this ship? The SS Great Britain. Arguably the most famous ship in Britain, the ship crossed the Atlantic and had many adventures before being brought back to Britain for retirement and is now a fully accessible museum at the Bristol docks.


Cheddar GorgeFor those wanting to bask in the glow of a natural wonder, the place to head is the Cheddar Caves and Gorge. Taking its name from this place, the Cheddar Man – one of the oldest human skeletons on earth - was found in Gough's Cave at Cheddar Gorge, and the Cheddar Man Museum of Prehistory is situated here as well. Aside from that historical occasion, the area is a huge tourist attraction with its winding underground tunnels, rows of stalagmite and stalactite teeth and opportunities for cave climbing to those who are interested.