Plymouth, in the beautiful county of Devon in Southern England is a place of history, style and fun! Plymouth is synonymous with the Royal Navy, the Pilgrims and gin. That’s quite a combination and one that’s just waiting to be explored.
Plymouth is strategically located at the mouth of two rivers, the Plym and the Tamar, and its position gives its name “Plym-mouth”. The protected natural harbour has made the settlement a major port for England since 1211 AD when the port of Plympton further upstream became silted and would not allow shipments to pass. Plymouth was the first city in England to be incorporated by an act of parliament on 12 November 1439. Sir Francis Drake, the famous mariner, buccaneer and commander of Queen Elizabeth I’s forces at the naval battle against the Spanish Armada was the mayor in 1581-82.
Plymouth was built to last
The nearest airport to Plymouth is Bristol Airport which is over two hours away. There are excellent train connections from all over England, however, and the train trip from London is only four hours through some of the most beautiful lands on the earth! Once in Plymouth, you can use taxis, buses or rideshares but the sites are generally within a small area through which you can walk.
Here’s a Pro-tip: You might wish to rent a car to see the surrounding areas. Plymouth is at the border of Devon and Cornwall. One of my favourite sights, Tintagel Castle, in Cornwall is only 50 miles (80 kms) from Plymouth and is a really cool drive!
Here are some of the best places to see when you’re in Plymouth:
- Your first stop should be Plymouth Hoe to take in the views! Standing from this limestone cliff, you can see the entirety of the Plymouth Sound, as well as Mount Edgcumbe in Cornwall and Drake’s Island.
- The centre piece of Plymouth Hoe is Smeetons Tower, an iconic red and white lighthouse. If you can manage the exertion and the height, then I recommend that you climb the ladder up to the top!. Walk along the Plymouth Sound to view the coastal forts such as the artillery fort on top of Mount Batten; it dates back to 1652.
- The Barbican is a brilliant cosmopolitan area of the city to explore and was once the site of Plymouth’s castle. Centred around Sutton Harbour, this historic quarter begs to be explored. There are more than 100 listed buildings in the winding cobblestone lanes. Enjoy art galleries, trendy cafes, restaurants and their famous gin distillery.
- The Black Friars Distillery is actually the oldest operating gin distillery in England. It has been the home of Plymouth Gin since 1793 and this product was originally exported around the world by the Royal Navy. Take a guided tour of the distillery and learn all about the process, history and taste of their spirits. I always take home “souvenirs”.
I wonder if she is named ‘Ginny’?!
- The National Marine Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the UK. This cool facility opened in 1998 and houses over 4000 examples of sealife. Their aquarium exhibits all different types of marine life from around the world; even sharks!
Here’s a pro-tip: There are all sorts of special events at the aquarium. Take a yoga class in front of the giant tank, book an intimate dining experience surrounded by the denizens of the deep or have a shark sleepover.
- You’ll enjoy searching for starfish, crabs and limpets at Wembury Beach. The beach is renowned for rock-pooling. Just 15 minutes from Plymouth is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where you can enjoy some beautiful coastal walks. This is also a great area for surfing if you don’t mind the freezing water.
See life in the many rock-pools around Plymouth!
- Plymbridge Woods is the perfect place for a long walk or an afternoon of cycling. Spot deer, follow the river and enjoy the beautiful birds that frequent this verdant woodland.
- Take a boat trip from Plymouth harbour to enjoy the harbour and the nearby coast. There is spectacular sailing and the fishing is great fun.
All of the outdoor activities in Plymouth will work up an appetite for you. That’s great because Plymouth offers world-class dining. Here are my favourite restaurants in the area:
- If you’re looking for a sea to plate experience, then The Boathouse Café should be your first stop. All the fish they serve are caught on the restaurant’s boat, the Fiona Mary, or are purchased from local fishermen Eat freshly caught crab or enjoy their hot or cold seafood platters and enjoy the views from their harbourside terrace.
- Take the opportunity to eat a special meal in a fifteenth-century tower with amazing views over the Plymouth Sound. The Artillery Tower is a unique experience in a wonderful venue. I highly recommend the roast Devon duck breast!
- Try Harbourside Fish and Chips for a healthier take on a British classic. Their secret is in the batter; the owners use the healthier groundnut oil and they’ve won awards. Their fresh caught and battered haddock is absolutely delicious.
- The Honky Tonky Wine Library is the best place for some high-end deli food, tapas and excellent wine. Delicious cheese and vegan boards are the perfect pairing to their selection of excellent wines.
Don’t be crabby or shellfish at dinner time!
Being a navy city, you can bet that Plymouth knows how to party like a sailor on shore leave! Here are my top picks on where to have fun:
- The Refectory is Plymouth’s most exclusive cocktail lounge, situated in the Plymouth Gin Distillery. If you couldn’t guess, they specialise in classic Plymouth Gin-based cocktails with excellent service. Their martini is one of my favourites ever!
- Bar Rakuda is fun for a cocktail (or two), live music and some light bites. This cool bar has a great laid-back atmosphere and an alfresco outside area which is busy during the summer.
- If you feeling like dancing, visit The Loft. There is a different style of music during different nights of the week and the place really hops on the weekends.
Plymouth is quintessentially English and offers some wonderful and unique hotels and accommodations Here are my favourite places to stay when I visit the port:
- The Imperial Plymouth is a stylish guesthouse that offers hotel rooms and apartments. The ferry terminal with regular trips to France and Spain is only 20 minutes’ walk away.
- Overlooking Plymouth Hoe and coastline stands the Crowne Plaza. Their penthouse restaurant, by Chef Marco Pierre White, is just one of the best features of this hotel. Their comfortable and modern rooms are the perfect place to relax after using their spa and wellness centre.
- If you’re looking for a luxury stay, then the Boringdon Hall Hotel and Spa is a great choice. Located on the edge of Dartmoor National Park and just five minutes from Plymouth, the 5-star Hotel boasts amazing historic interior design and glamorous rooms. Antique furniture and a grand stone fireplace in the Great Gall make for a cosy stay. Their impeccable service, excellent spa and activities such as horse riding make this hotel a great place to stay.
Harbour no doubts that you’ll love Plymouth!
Even the Pilgrims found promise in Plymouth. I know you’ll love this wonderful port city and all it has to offer!