'Bristol', contends Tim Mowl, 'can outpoint Edinburgh, Glasgow or York and leave Liverpool, its whingeing rival, standing'. And as for Bath....Bristol is a port that set out, a long while ago, to forget the sea. It has a harbour with miles of picturesque quaysides, cranes, bollards, steam engines and floating restaurants. Half the city's streets are flattered by glimpses of water. Several hundred boats bob at their moorings - but no salt winds ever blow through these tightly furled sails. For Bristol lies comfortably inland, protected by a long line of wooded hills, sprawling in linear charm along five miles of dramatic valley topography.
While neighbouring Bath sets its classical terraces primly on a slope, Bristol's Clifton throws far more adventurously styled terraces around the neck of precipices and wild woodlands to achieve that ultimate paradox of classicism fusing into Romanticism, with surprises down every stepped alleyway. Add to that two catherdal-sized churches, one with perhaps the most beautifully carved porch in Christendom, the other with vaults so ingeniously elegant it is a labour to concentrate on the sermons. And while the vile profits of Bristol's infamous eighteenth-century slave trade resulted in enchantingly figurative Rococo interiors, a surge of nineteenth-century wealth endowed the city with a financial quarter of an eclectic brilliance, littered with sculpture and Art Nouveau flourishes.
Bristol has (almost) everything.
Published by Frances Lincoln, 2006, £14.99