Cabot Tower

Bristol, England

Take a visit to Bristol’s oldest park, where Cabot Tower awaits.

Cabot Tower 9
- Philip Bragg

Discover Cabot Tower

Stretching upwards from within the green canvas of Brandon Hill Park in Bristol, England, Cabot Tower is a 105-foot red-brick tower offering panoramic views of the South-West’s largest city. The tower was built in the late 19th century to honour the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's historic voyage to North America. Today, climbing its 109 (steep) steps, and relaxing afterwards on Brandon Hill, Bristol’s oldest park, is a wonderful day out for the whole family.

Cabot Tower 6
- x70tjw

Cabot Tower: A Dedication to Exploration

Built from 1897-1898, Cabot Tower is a symbol of Bristol's connection to one of history's most famous explorers – John Cabot. Setting sail from Bristol aboard the ship 'Matthew' in May 1497, Cabot embarked on a journey westward in search of a route to Asia. On June 24th he sighted land, which he named New-found-land (Newfoundland), firmly believing it to be Asia and claiming it for England. The tower's construction was intended to commemorate Cabot's remarkable achievements, cementing his legacy as an Italian explorer under the English flag.

However, Cabot Tower holds more than just historical significance. It also represents the spirit of peace and friendship between nations. The commemorative plaque installed by the Peace Society conveys a heartfelt message of goodwill, expressing the earnest hope for continued harmony between the United Kingdom and America.

Cabot Tower 5
- Sam Saunders

Designing Cabot Tower

Designed by architect William Venn Gough and constructed with red sandstone and cream Bath stone accents, Cabot Tower rises majestically above the heart of Bristol. Standing at 105 feet (32 metres) tall, the strikingly designed, Grade II-listed building, is complete with a spiral staircase leading to two panoramic viewing platforms. From these elevated vantage points, visitors can see landmarks such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the SS Great Britain, Wapping Wharf, and M Shed.

Cabot Tower 3
- Andrew Whitman

The overall appearance of Cabot Tower is a complimentary marriage of Gothic and Renaissance Revival, evident by the intricate detailing, pointed arches, and decorative motifs. Atop the tower, a copper dome crowns the octagonal structure, while stone carvings depict scenes from John Cabot's journey and other maritime themes. The tower's pinnacle is adorned with a ball finial and a carved winged figure symbolising commerce.

Cabot Tower 4
- Kurt Thomas Hunt

At the base of Cabot Tower are commemorative plaques, each bearing testament to the tower's history. These plaques honour the laying of the foundation stone by the Marquess of Dufferin & Ava in 1897 and the tower's completion in 1898. Additionally, they pay tribute to the friendship between nations and the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's voyage that we have previously addressed.

Cabot Tower 1
- Heather Cowper

Brandon Hill: The Home of Cabot Tower

Serving as the foundation upon which Cabot Tower proudly stands, Brandon Hill is Bristol's oldest park, spanning approximately 10 acres. Initially dubbed "Brandan's Hill" in mediaeval times, the park's origins are shrouded in myth and legend, with tales of a hermit named Brandan and the ghost of a woman that roams the grounds.

Over the centuries, Brandon Hill has undergone various transformations, from its days of quarrying and grazing to its present-day existence as a beautiful parkland. It has also witnessed a lot of social and political upheaval throughout Bristol’s history. From the Civil War clashes between Parliamentarians and Royalists to the impassioned protests of the Chartists.

Cabot Tower 8
- Heather Cowper

Visiting Brandon Hill

Today, the park is filled with nature and wildlife as it has its own designated Nature Reserve. There are mature trees like oak, ash, and beech, which paint the park a palette of colours that alter with each passing season and provide sanctuary for local birdlife, such as blackbirds and robins. Families can use the children's play park located atop the hill and there are bridges and pathways, which lead visitors deeper into the parkland.

Throughout the year the park hosts a lot of events and encourages community engagement beyond picnicking and strolling. For instance, there are outdoor concerts, art exhibitions and yoga classes held at Brandon Hill among other activities.

For history lovers, Brandon Hill is a treasure trove of discoveries, from the remnants of the Water Fort used during the Civil War to the ancient Roman settlement buried beneath its soil. A small pond with cascading waterfalls is a popular waterpark for splashing ducks and the planted gardens are also not to be missed!

Cabot Tower 7
- Helen

The Closure of Cabot Tower

In 2006 Cabot Tower was closed to the public for safety reasons, after crackers were discovered in the structure. Extensive repair works were then carried out on the tower, which cost around £420,000. The restoration addressed issues such as cracked stonework caused by corroded reinforcing steel. Finally, in 2011, Cabot Tower reopened its doors to the public, marking the completion of the repairs. An additional touch was added in 2014, with the reinstatement of a flashing light in Morse code, a feature that had been turned off in 2001 due to technical issues.

Cabot Tower
- Francesca Bersellini

Protecting Cabot Tower

Preserving Cabot Tower and Brandon Hill is a collaborative effort involving local government, preservation societies, and community groups. The Friends of Brandon Hill, a volunteer organisation, plays a significant role in maintaining and improving the park. Their efforts include conservation work, organising events, and advocating for the park's continued protection and accessibility to the public.

Future plans include improving visitor facilities, enhancing accessibility for people with disabilities, and ensuring the continued preservation of the tower. These initiatives aim to ensure that future generations can enjoy Bristol’s historical landmarks.

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- larkery

Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Bristol Treasure Hunts - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of England.

Cabot Tower Questions


What you need to know

Cabot Tower
Brandon Hill Park, Park Street, Bristol BS1 5RR
51.454227, -2.606802
Tips before you visit

We recommend checking the weather before your trip to visit Brandon Hill as the tower may be closed in inclement weather. The best times to visit are between March and August.