Gromit Unleashed 2 trail, Bristol – a grand day out with kids
One city. Just over 48 hours. 40 Gromits (and Wallaces, and Feathers McGraw). Around 45,000 steps walked (approximately). One suspension bridge crossed. Two mummified cats, a Banksy artwork and a yellow foam pineapple sculpture spotted along the way.
Heading back to Bristol for our second visit this year, to follow the Gromit Unleashed 2 trail around the city, meant a guaranteed grand day out with kids. Or big kids, for that matter.
Because even if you know the city well, following the trail – or trails – takes you down streets you might not otherwise wander and reminds you of some of the highlights you otherwise forget. As a visitor, even one who once lived in Bristol, it’s a fantastic way to encourage a six-year-old to walk for hours.
The trail has also inspired a series of other activities – Visit Bristol has more tips, including Aerospace Bristol’s ‘Gromjet Trail’ as well as extra Wallace & Gromit displays at We The Curious where we also joined one of the limited number of workshops to make a model of Gromit, overseen by an expert model maker from Aardman Animations.
A grand day out (or two)
Careful not to pull on the wrong trousers (though technotrousers might come in handy on some of Bristol’s hills), we had our eyes peeled for penguins/villainous chickens, map in hand and an ambitious plan to spot as many statues as we could.
With many along the routes which take you around the Harbourside and over to Wapping Wharf, home to a string of places to eat and attractions including M Shed and the SS Great Britain, it would have been easy to retrace many of our steps from our March visit and stop there.
But the best thing about the walk is that you’re tempted to discover other parts of the city along the way. No visit to the city is complete without seeing We The Curious, my daughter’s favourite by such a long way that she didn’t want to stop for lunch in order to get inside faster. But playing with the interactive exhibits (and our own model-making) was just the start.
Heading up to Clifton, we managed to spot amazing views of the Clifton Suspension bridge, before walking over to the other side and heading up to the observatory – home to one of my favourites, The Wensleydale Kid.
Not far away, around the West End and the University, we took a stroll in the Royal Fort Garden, finding a Gromit with thermoreactive paint – push your own paws on, and the heat should leave a shape afterwards. Darting through the mirror maze, I doubted we’d have made a detour here without our challenge.
And that was one of my favourite parts of the trail: looking for A Grand Gromplication at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, we spotted the Ancient Egyptian section just off the entrance hall. I never need any more tempting than that, so we briefly abandoned looking for dogs and took at look at the mummified cats, as well as learning more about belief and their gods, life in Ancient Egypt and the rituals of death.
With some fabulous artefacts to spot, it made me wish we could spend longer exploring the other galleries. But having marvelled at the sarcophagus, it was time to hit the streets again.
It’s not the only spot where you’ll be tempted inside either. Having run out of time to visit MShed last time, we turned our paws towards the water to spot two separate statues – and take a look at the galleries on Bristol life inside.
Peek inside the Oceans 2: Yellow Sub and you can get a glimpse of Oceans 1: Deep Blue in We The Curious – although the big queue for this popular spot meant we didn’t spy anyone before our turn was up. Downstairs, parts of Gromitronic were 3D printed with a video revealing some of the complicated working parts involved, including his mesmerising moving tail and swivelling eyes.
Venturing further along through Wapping Wharf, we counted off Space Oddi-tea – Wallace with a David Bowie makeover – and Wallambard, with Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s famous stovepipe hat on the figure sitting near the engineer’s own creation, SS Great Britain. What I hadn’t realised was that the offices of Aardman Animations are around the corner, with Feathers McGraw cunningly disguised in ‘Oh Bollards’.
The offices are closed to the public, but we could spot a bonus Gromit through the window.
Our route took us through the shopping quarter and Cabot Circus for a Lego version – ‘Cracking Build, Gromit’ – and cheese-themed ‘Fromage McGraw’, as well as a tropical Gromit, a floral Gromit by a church and Game of Cones out by the station.
Not forgetting some of the other city centre creations – Prima Featherina which twirls villainously, art-inspired The Wallace Collection and the wonderful A Grand Tribute, designed by Aardman’s Nick Park, with some wonderful memories of Peter Sallis who voiced Wallace.
And Minnie’s favourite? Inside Stanford’s bookshop, where I could lose hours browsing the shelves, we found Fangs McGraw. Having posed in the style of The Scream (alongside The Howl), alongside a red-bearded Viking Gromit by the name of Honeydew and peering into the teacup of Mad Hatter-esque Wallace in Wonderland, my six-year-old didn’t skip a beat.
Stretched out in dramatic fashion at his flippers, arm flung wide against the vampire penguin, a grin half-hidden, this had been a grand day out indeed.
Well, why not – perhaps with a couple of crackers? In the end, the only cheese of my visit came on top of the fabulous thin crust pizza at The Stable – there’s a kids’ menu as well, and the Clifton Suspender pizza refuelled me nicely after our long walks.
Or you could go for battered halloumi at Salt & Malt on Wapping Wharf (or haddock and scampi, as we did) – save some room for the bottomless chips as well, which come with the gluten-free fish.
Then there’s the Heidi pie, with Goat’s cheese, sweet potato and spinach at Pieminster – one of a couple of cheesy pies on the menu, although Chicken of Aragon got my rather hungry vote. With one restaurant on Broad Quay, it’s a mere mini Babybel’s throw from some of the Harbourside statues as well.
A close shave
If you’re following the Gromit Unleashed 2 trail, you can hardly do better than to stay in a hotel with one of the statues inside – ours was One in a Minion… the statue, at least, the first Feathers McGraw to tick off.
The hotel itself was the Marriott City Centre, an easy stroll from quite a few of the trail statues and not far from the Harbourside restaurants. A big comfy bed to sink into after pounding the pavement, big breakfast buffet to fuel the hunt and some lovely staff who went out of their way to make our stay more memorable.
WiFi costs extra if you’re planning to update your trail app or share the photos on social media (free in public areas though) but there are other facilities including an indoor pool – although we never quite had the time to hunt it down – and first-floor roof garden, as well as a Nespresso machine in our room.
Gromit Unleashed 2 trail: need to know
You can pick up a Gromit Unleashed 2 trail map at various locations around Bristol as well as downloading the app for iPhone and Android – or download the PDF before you visit, if you want to plan ahead. There are also trail passports to pick up.
As well as the Harbourside and Bristol trails in the centre, there’s a West, North, East and South trail, the Grand Day Out trail, and the Family Day Out trail, with a grand total of 67 statues to spot. We completed the West, Harbourside and Bristol trails in our two-day visit – better planning, visiting with older kids and less rain might mean you could spot more if you’re on foot… but probably not that many!
The trail raises funds for the city’s Children’s Hospital and there are also places where you can donate using contactless along the way. The trail runs until September 2.
PIN FOR LATER: GROMIT UNLEASHED 2 TRAIL
Disclosure: Our stay and meals were courtesy of Visit Bristol, Marriott Bristol City Centre, We The Curious, The Stable, Salt & Malt and Pieminster. All opinions, choice of route, wonky Gromits and sore feet are my own.
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