Bristol has not escaped their grasp and the mythical story of the Bristol Giants, Goram and Ghyston describes the creation of some of the city's most iconic landmarks thanks to these legendary beings. During a recent stay in Bristol, I delved into ancient legend, and traveled back in time to unearth the tale of these old Giants and visit the legendary caves associated with them.
Getting there requires a hike to the very top of old Bristol where the famous Clifton susprension bridge is. The area provides stunning views of the Avon Gorge and the bridge. After you're done staring in awe at the amazing views turn around and head to the Clifton Observatory and Camera Obscura shop. It's a $5 pound admission fee to explore the narrow steep steps that wind down through the cliff into Ghyston’s Cave. This was the supposed cave of the giant, which is snuggled in the rock in the middle of a cliff. Walk out onto the balcony, perched halfway down the cliffside for breath-taking views across the gorge. The cave was rather small and it's hard to see how not one but two supposed giants lived there. Maybe they have the wrong cave?
For further inspiration on tracing the Bristol Giants trail around the city, you'll find further, more up-to-date stories of the Bristol Giants in a set of wonderful books. In the tales you'll learn how they use Brunel's ss Great Britain (a fantastic family attraction which sits on Bristol's Harbourside) as a sleigh and Luke Jerram's art installation featuring a flotilla of abandoned boats in Leigh Woods (National Trust protected woodland just down the road from Ashton Court Estate). The legend of Goram and Vincent of Bristol belongs to the genus of myths which explain the origin of local geographical features by supernatural activity, and trade on existing place-names to do so.
The most widespread version of the legend relates that two local giants, Goram and Vincent – who, according to one version, were brothers – fancied the same woman, the beautiful Avona (whose name is that of the major local river, the River Avon, in Latin dress). She was open-minded about her suitors, and offered herself to whichever of them could drain the lake which supposedly once occupied the space between Bradford-on-Avon (Wiltshire) and Bristol. They chose different routes through the limestone hills for their drainage channels. Goram opted for a route through Henbury, and Vincent chose one on the south side of Clifton. Unfortunately for Goram, he overheated while hard at work, drank a giant quantity of ale, and fell asleep in his favourite (stone) chair, whilst Vincent paced himself better and completed his channel. The legend also provides a basis for explaining the existence of other geographical features. When Goram woke up, he was distraught at losing Avona’s affections. He first stamped his foot in a pet, creating The Giant's Footprint in the Henbury gorge, and then drowned himself in the Severn. The two islands in the Severn estuary, Steep Holm and Flat Holm, are his head and shoulder.