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March 18th, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has led to the closure of many theatres, cafes and tourist attractions all over the world. Many of us are now confined to our own houses or restricted in terms of places we can visit and there is a very real prospect that people who look after young children will soon be attempting to homeschool. This of course has had a huge impact on tourism, and while we don’t want to encourage you to visit the South West at the moment, we do want to dangle a taster of what’s on offer in the region for when this virus is old news and it’s safe to travel again.
As it happens, many of Bristol and Bath’s attractions offer a virtual online tour which allows cyber visitors to check out the building, view collections online and examine various fields of view within so you can get a sense of the place. We’ve put together a list of the best virtual tours of cultural venues you can access in Bristol, Bath and beyond without leaving the sofa.
Virtual tours in Bristol
Brunel’s SS Great Britain
Explore the Ticket Office for a quick gift shop browse before virtually exploring the iconic ship. The maps have blue tags with additional sensory information about the site, including sound clips and 360° views of the Dockyard Museum and surroundings. The only thing you may or may not miss are the odours that waft around the ship (purposefully-placed to enhance the visitor experience) - think fish in the kitchen, horse droppings in the livestock cargo area and a sniff of vomit.
We The Curious
We The Curious science centre is renowned for its interactive exhibits, but if you can’t get fully hands-on, the next best thing is to check out this brilliant virtual tour of the ground floor. Listen to the general ambience on different floors, find out about current and upcoming exhibits - including entering a womb (with sound clip!) and visiting a collection of edible plants - to get you excited about a future visit.
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Venture inside Bristol Museum and Art Gallery’s event spaces in this 3D virtual tour. A couple of key exhibits are marked, like Banksy’s ‘Angel with a paint pot’ and the Egypt and Assyria Galleries. While it’s mainly aimed at people wanting to hold an event there, you can still get a sense of the building’s beautiful interior.
Blaise Castle Museum
This short film by Bristol Museums takes a look at the history of Blaise Castle House Museum from the 1700s to the present day. Learn about the man who built Blaise Castle House, the design of the park by famous landscape architect Humphry Repton, and the changes that have taken place since Blaise was a family home.
Take a 360 degree virtual tour of Bristol Cathedral and marvel at the towering stained glass windows, the stunning architecture of the ceiling and see if you can work out which parts were used in the filming of Wolf Hall.
The New Room, Bristol
Enter the world’s oldest Methodist building - from afar! This virtual tour of The New Room gives online tourists a glimpse of the impressive Horsefair entrance, inside the chapel (used as a filming location in BBC’s Poldark!) and a peek at the light, bright cafe, where you can imagine yourself tucking into a tasty homemade cake.
Virtual Banksy walking tour - Banksy
Seeking out the vibrant murals in Europe's street art capital is one of the city’s must-do activities, but if you can’t get here physically, the next best thing is taking a virtual walking tour around the city of famous Bristol graffiti artist Banksy’s artwork.
Download the app (click here for iPhone version or click here for Android version) which details the true early history of Banksy researched and written by those in the know. It also includes his 2020 Valentine piece, articles with photos about Banksy's June 2016 gift to a Bristol primary school, the Banksy vs Bristol Museum show and Dismaland.
St George’s Bristol
The stunning Georgian building is one of the country’s finest music halls, offering a programme of all kinds of music, including the best in classical, chamber, world, folk, blues and jazz, and spoken word. Why not recreate a concert at home by finding out what upcoming events they had planned, check out the Google Streetview to look inside the main hall at St George’s Bristol and download the artists on iTunes or Spotify?!
If you are able to make a donation of any amount, this will enable the venue to plan ahead, give a great boost to future activities, and help to support some of the artists whose events have been cancelled.
Visit Bristol video
Daydream about a future visit to Bristol by watching Visit Bristol's video, featuring snapshots of all the city's best bits.
Virtual tours in Bath
The Roman Baths
One of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world, the Roman Baths are a popular tourist spot. With their extensive range of virtual tours, you can experience this fascinating historical site with nobody else around!
Venture inside the Roman Baths and Pump Room in 3D, click on the circle tags to find out more information and watch videos about the baths. You can also explore the Roman Baths on Google Street View - you’ll find a floorplan here which you can use as a map.
The Roman Baths collection contains thousands of archaeological finds from pre-Roman and Roman Britain. Discover the Roman site of Aquae Sulis, explore the Beau Street Hoard and view key objects from the collection here.
And if that hasn't got you wanting to don a toga immediately yourself, learn more about the site of the Roman Baths and how it has changed over the last 2000 years with computer animations of the Roman temple and bathing complex, meet costumed characters, virtually walk in the footsteps of the Romans and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the Roman bath house by watching these videos.
Fashion Museum Bath
Swap your online shopping apps for a (cheaper!) bit of trend-browsing by exploring Bath’s Fashion Museum museum. Home to a collection of almost 100,000 items of clothing spanning the past 400 years, visitors can gain an insight into the history of fashion over the centuries. From embellished gloves dating back to Shakespearian times, to pieces from today’s leading designers, don’t miss the Dress of the Year collection from 1963 to the present day and pprevious exhibitions pages.
Victoria Art Gallery
This opulent gallery houses some of Bath’s finest paintings, sculpture and decorative arts and luckily in times of social distancing, can be viewed virtually! Explore the space in 3D, clicking on the circle tags to find out more information,
Explore the gallery on Google Street View and view their current displays and watch behind-the-scenes videos, like this one on their latest Toulouse Lautrec exhibition.
Bath Record Office online exhibition
Interested folk can view some of the fascinating documents in the care of Bath Record Office in their online exhibition. Here you can discover full-size images of documents, as well as transcripts. This includes letters of advice about visiting Bath dating from the time of Jane Austen to a series of letters between Bath and war-torn Spain, 1809-1817.
Get a glimpse of Bath Abbey’s spellbinding architecture on this virtual tour. Each step shows a different part of the abbey and explains a bit about the history of this well-known landmark.
Thermae Bath Spa
The only day spa in the UK which has access to Bath's natural, mineral-rich thermal waters, we’d give anything to be steaming our worries away at Thermae Bath Spa right now!
You might not be able to get there in person, but it’s possible that by gazing at steaming pools and blue skies over Bath on this virtual tour, or watching videos on the Thermae Bath Spa some of those relaxation vibes will filter through the computer screen!
Visit Bath video
Consume a bitesize portion of Bath in this make-you-wanna-go-there video from Visit Bath, a city of luxurious spas, scrumptious food, fabulous shopping and centuries of history and heritage.
Discover the splendour of the Bath Assembly Rooms on an interactive tour and imagine yourself at the heart of fashionable Georgian society, when the Ball Room, Octagon, Tea Room and Card Room would have been used for dancing, card playing, tea drinking and conversation.
The Edge & Andrew Brownsword Gallery
Peek in to The Edge and explore the Visions of Science exhibition or read more about it here. Their first open art prize asked artists from across the country to show work responding to scientific phenomena researched at University of Bath. Amongst the exhibiting artists there were eight who were selected as part of the Visions of Science Bursary, working directly with Bath researchers to create fascinating works.
Iford Manor: The Peto Garden
If you can't get out and about to enjoy the spring flowers, try the next best thing - a virtual meandering around Iford Manor's gorgeous Peto Garden. Today Gardens Illustrated have featured the Italianate garden as their first virtual tour.
Wannabe visitors can also see ‘through the gates’ while they are closed in their newly-launched YouTube channel.
Virtual tours in Clevedon
Located in the Victorian seaside town of Clevedon, this Grade 1* listed pier offers spectacular views across the Severn Estuary to Wales. Visit in mind rather than body by watching this virtual video tour of the pier. For breathtaking aerial shots over Clevedon, check out @heli_kam's drone shots of the town.
This imposing medieval manor house has remained largely unchanged for centuries and counts Tennyson, Coleridge and Thackeray among its former guests. Used mainly for weddings these days, that doesn't need to stop you from having a snoop around on this eye-opening virtual tour.