There is something special about Bristol. It is more than a scenic trip that ends in a classic New England town. If you drive south from Burlington, it is only a 30-mile drive along Route 116 and takes approximately 45 minutes. The meandering two-lane highway brings you serenely through the mountains and past picturesque barns, working farms and pastoral settings. It is peaceful and tranquil driving – until you maneuver a curve to avoid hitting The Lord’s Prayer Rock. You have arrived in Bristol.
The Lord’s Prayer Rock is not an outcropping or a place where lords had once prayed; it is a large boulder that sits very close to the road. The Lord’s Prayer was what Joseph C. Greene would recite every time he passed Bristol Rock. At that point, he knew he had safely negotiated the delivery of heavy, ungainly logs to the lumber mill in Bristol. Later, Greene became a physician who travelled around the world. He was so impressed with the hieroglyphics in Egypt, he determined to have the Lord’s Prayer chiseled on the rock that had meant peace of mind during his mountain-driving, bridge-crossing, log-transporting, delivery days.
Bristol is a small town that fits snugly in the foothills of the Green Mountains. The town was chartered in 1762 and was named “Pocock.” Admiral George Pocock had commanded the English fleet that defeated the Spanish and reclaimed Havana. In 1789, the town was re-named “Bristol,” presumably after Bristol, R.I.
The entire downtown is a National Historic District. There are charming restaurants with tin ceilings and friendly shopkeepers that make any visitor feel welcome and comfortable. You can explore village shops with Vermont products, home goods, antiques and unique gifts and accessories. There is a love of the arts in this town, all surrounded and housed by buildings that are a study in architecture and embellishment.
Bristol’s town green has a cannon, a fountain and a gazebo. The Bristol Band presents outdoor summer band concerts in the gazebo, as they have since shortly after the Civil War. Chicken barbecues, outdoor movies, a farmers’ market, the Cool Yule and the Bristol Harvest Festival are all centered at the town green.
If you stand anywhere in downtown Bristol, you understand why people like to say that Bristol is “nestled” in Vermont. The town is surrounded by the high, majestic Green Mountains. There are woodlands, streams and a natural scenic magnificence that can leave you breathless. The grandeur of Bristol in autumn is a valued phenomenon.