Bristol & The Open Sea with Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island'


"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest –
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest –
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"

The classic adventure tale. I can't believe I hadn't read it until recently, I'd palmed it off as a pirate story I probably knew, right? I didn't. When I was finally given a copy, I ended up reading it within 3 sittings. I was captivated. The tale is an amazing journey with twists and turns that kept me not only on the edge of my bar stool, but awake till the early hours, quietly turning pages.

Having lived for 4 years in Bristol, this place always has a piece of my heart. The history of the city is wound into every cobblestone, pub, and staircase which makes it one of my favourite places to explore. So when you find yourself en route to Bristol, be sure to have Treasure Island close by. With it's rich maritime history and harbour position on the Avon river right near the ocean, it's no wonder Bristol is the setting in which this adventure begins.

I firstly recommend that you walk along the harbour front, passed the 'SS Great Britain', an 1800s ship in beautiful condition, and 'The Matthew', a replica 1400's ship. While these aren't quite the right time for Treasure Island (circa 1700s), they take you back to your childhood excitement when you first heard about pirates. The life below decks, the canons, the tall masts and intricate figureheads. Now! Onto King Street and the Llandoger Trow Pub. This is where the story begins. This haunted 1600's pub is said to be the inspiration for the 'Admiral Bernbow' and you would half expect Captain Billy Bones to stumble in any minute with his cutlas by his side and telescope under arm.

This pub is also where the author met the Scottish privateer and Naval Officer Alexander Selkirk who was marooned by his captain on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific Ocean for 4 years and became inspiration for the character Ben Gunn who you will meet later in the book (and also an inspiration for Daniel Defoe's character Robinson Crusoe).

When you need a change of scene and enter the next chapter, move down the road to Queens Square and The 'Hole in the Wall' pub where I suggest you order a flaggon of ale and continue reading. This pub is the inspiration for the Spyglass Tavern where we meet Long John Silver. While this book will undoubtedly set you in search of a seaward adventure to the pacific islands, Bristol is by far the best land based location to be sat reading it.

Enjoy me hearties.

(Note: any book with a map at the beginning is sure to be a good one.)