Judith Baker offers her guide to Plymouth as she explores the UKs Ocean city of Plymouth on a lively weekend break.
A recent trip to Plymouth on a warm August weekend found UK’s Ocean City lively, with plenty of families and friends enjoying the sunshine. But I discovered there is a lot more to Plymouth than sand and sea as I encountered history, culture and shipwrecks – not to mention gin!
The obvious starting point for my guide to Plymouth was Plymouth Hoe, with its spectacular backdrop of Plymouth Sound, one of the world’s great natural harbours. And of course, it is famous as the site of Sir Francis Drake’s legendary game of bowls before leaving to defeat the Spanish Armada. The Hoe’s superb sites include the Royal Citadel and Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse – rebuilt from its original base 14 miles out to sea, and the four and a half million ton granite and limestone breakwater.
Down below the Hoe Road you can enjoy the walkways and undercover sitting areas all the way down to the sea, where people swim, fish, or search for marine life on the pebble beach. The lovely Tinside Lido is a restored 1935 art deco lido – a natural sea water pool open from April to September.
After an ice-cream and a stroll along the promenade I headed towards Royal William Yard. Designed by Victorian architect Sir John Rennie and constructed between 1825 and 1831, Royal William Yard is steeped in history and has what is considered to be one of the most important groups of historic military buildings in Britain. it is also home to some interesting shops and cafes, not to mention delightful hotels such as the imposing Rooms by Bistrot Pierre, a restored Grade II listed building full of Georgian features. There are some lovely restaurants here too such as the characterful Hook& Line, well known for its seafood specialties and its rum bar!
While I was sightseeing for my guide to Plymouth, my husband, a keen scuba diver, was exploring the ocean around Plymouth which is famous for its many shipwrecks including HMS Scylla , home to some fascinating marine life.
My favourite spot while waiting for him to surface was at Sutton Harbour, people watching and imagining how the harbour would once have been filled with majestic Georgian sailing vessels. These days the marina is a sheltered location full of modern boats, fishing craft and yachts. Together with the cobbled streets of the Barbican it is also home to great pubs, restaurants, and eclectic vintage shops.
Also nearby is the Plymouth Gin Distillery, the oldest working gin distillery in England, dating to 1793. You can enjoy a tour, taste some of the gins and then relax with a cocktail in the historic Refectory Cocktail Lounge.
Of course, no guide to Plymouth would be complete without including the sea. The best way to see Plymouth is on the water, and Plymouth Boat Trips offer a range of cruises including a one-hour scenic Harbour Cruise across Plymouth Sound and a Calstock Cruise to experience the scenery of the Tamar Valley.
There are some wonderful grand old seaside hotels here, including the Duke of Cornwall built in 1863 and host to some illustrious guests including explorer Ernest Shackleton who stayed there with his team the night before embarking on their Antarctic expedition.
Images (C) Andy Fox, Jay Stone and Summit Imagery.
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For more information on the sights mentioned in Judith’s Guide to Plymouth and lots more, please visit the Plymouth Tourist Board
Recommended stay in Plymouth
The Moxy Hotel
Completely different is latest on the Plymouth scene is the Moxy Hotel, close to Plymouth Hoe with its scenic views. Moxy is as different from the traditional grand old Victorian seaside hotels as it could be. You enter a bright foyer with a huge blue ocean scene mural, colourful chairs and comfortable furnishings.
There is no reception area, you just alert a friendly member of staff at the bar that you have arrived while having a look round the relaxed informal surroundings bright with artworks, which continue the seafaring theme with giant fish and waves crashing along the walls. Designed to appeal to the young at heart, I am told that there is no typical clientele – the hotel doesn’t judge and its ok if you come to breakfast in your pyjamas!
The Moxy is close to the station and ferry port as well as the beaches and great seafood restaurants, ideal for busy travellers who will love the signature Moxy all-perks, and no-fuss feel.
Moxey Hotel, 14 Millbay Road, Plymouth, England, United Kingdom, PL1 3LH
T: +44 1752-422237 Rooms from £139 per might.