City Centre Plymouth's original city centre was almost completely destroyed in the Second World War. It has been totally restored with a modern grid pattern of wide, mainly pedestrian streets, making shopping a pleasure. The whole shopping area has been attractively landscaped, the trees and flowing streams cooling the hottest summer day. Plymouth has a wealth of fascinating shops, both large and small, including all the big names. There are a wide variety of pubs, clubs and restaurants within the centre too. You can still see some places of historical interest amidst the modern buildings.
Plymouth Hoe The
The Barbican Follow the road down past the Citadel and you'll take a step into history as you come to the
Mutley & Peverell Just north of the city centre you'll find the heart of community life, in the busy area around Mutley Plain. Here are many small shops, banks and services, catering for the more basic needs of the city's residents and the large student population, whose bedsits abound. A few minutes walk takes you to Mannamead, an area of higher income housing. Peverell is mainly a middle class residential district, with the huge
Stonehouse, Devonport & Stoke Stonehouse and Devonport are two of the original 'Three Towns' of Old Plymouth. Stonehouse's most interesting landmark is now the Royal William Victualling Yard, a 14 acre site open to visitors. The large Royal Marines Barracks at Stonehouse is an unexpected sight, amidst rows of expensive Georgian houses. Devonport was famous as the city's naval centre.
The suburbs of Plymouth stretch out in military precision along the hills and valleys of the estuary of the River Plym, offering residents low cost housing. In complete contrast is the Georgian splendor of
The main industrial areas lie to the north of the city, with centres in manufacturing and high technology. Here you'll find the factories making Sensodyne toothpaste and Wrigleys chewing gum, as well as Toshiba, British Aerospace and many more. The Plymouth Albion rugby team has its home here too. Low cost housing covers the many hills, although the main route north towards Dartmoor is a high price residential area. Here you will find
North of the City
This is a pleasant area of countryside, bounded on the east by Cornwall and on the west by Dartmoor. It has a few small towns and many interesting places to visit. Tavistock has been a centre for marketing, industry, trade and culture for many centuries. It's an attractive, prosperous town, where you can visit the
East of the City
Wonderful riverside spots can be found here, such as
This last great wilderness in southern England has many moods; misty and mysterious, bleak and foreboding, natural and unspoilt. Three hundred million years of history are on display, from the naturally eroded tors and the Bronze Age settlements like
South Hams This district stretches from South Dartmoor to the South Devon coast and covers many miles of Devon's traditional rolling countryside, historic old towns, quaint little villages, clean beaches and no less than five river estuaries. There are many tourist attractions in this area, from the water-coasters and death slides of
The beautiful countryside, rugged coastline and fascinating towns of Cornwall offer many delights. Sample traditional cuisine at the Jubilee Inn and explore history at
A major seaport in a major seafaring nation, Plymouth's history revolves around the sea, and the city came into its own in the Elizabethan era when privateer-sea captains set England on course to become the ruler of the known world.
Prehistory During the Bronze Age, about 2000 BC, Plymouth became connected to the rest of the country by a ridge road that is followed by the present day road out of Plymouth to Tavistock. The major settlement was probably on Mount Batten, a late Bronze Age/Iron Age settlement which traded with the Roman Empire and was continuously occupied for some 1500 years.
As the Bronze Age became the Iron Age around 450 BC, the people of this area became the Dumnonni, the Celts. They watched the Romans come and go without making too big an impression on the area, although the name 'Stonehouse' given by the Saxons surely must refer to a Roman villa of some size in that area.
After the Romans left in 410AD, very little is known of the next 300 years of Dumnonni rule except legends. Later the Saxons invaded, and ultimately drove the Dumnonni into Cornwall and Brittany, but they left their name to Devon (Demn).
Early History At the time of the Norman conquest, Plymouth was farmland. It became a port in the 12th century. Named Sudtone in the Domesday Book (1086), Plymouth's original harbor is still called Sutton Harbour.
It was tin mining that accounted for the original growth of the city, because mining silted up the Plym and made the original port of Plympton less usable, while Sutton Pool remained a deep sheltered anchorage; the first record of the name Plymouth appeared in a cargo roll of 1211 here.
A developing trade and the shipment of armies to France during the 100 Years War led to its early growth, but Plymouth really began to expand with the development of larger ships in the 15th century, when Sutton Harbour provided a perfect anchorage for warships.
The Great Sea-faring Age It was from the shelter of Plymouth Sound that Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, then the Pilgrim Fathers (1620) and later Captain Cook (1772) and Darwin sailed off to adventure and fame.
It was the home port of other famous Elizabethan seafarers like Martin Frobisher, Richard Grenville and Humphrey Gilbert, as well as Sir John Hawkins, son of the mayor of Plymouth and cousin of Drake, who was the architect of the Elizabethan navy. In the campaign against the Spanish Armada in 1588 he was knighted during the actual battle.
The seafarer most commonly associated with Plymouth is Sir Francis Drake, who achieved his knighthood through an epic voyage around the world. Setting out from Plymouth in 1577 in the Golden Hind, he returned three years later as the most famous man in the Kingdom.
This fame escalated when he was vice admiral and John Hawkins was rear admiral of the fleet that defeated the Armada in 1588. Losses were England nil, Spain 51. He later became mayor of Plymouth and represented the city in Parliament, ultimately dying at sea in 1596 during another campaign against the Spanish.
Drake's fame was legendary even in his day. Founder of the British naval tradition because of the heroic quality of his exploits, he was one of the greatest privateers of all time, and his legend continues, particularly with Drake's Drum (to be seen at Buckland Abbey), which is said to beat to call the nation to arms in times of peril. Twenty-four years after Drake died, on September 16, 1620, the Mayflower set sail for America. Many Americans make the pilgrimage to the Mayflower Steps in the Barbican where a plaque listing the passengers marks the spot.
Another famous Plymouth mariner was Captain James Cook, who set out from the Barbican in 1768 in search of a southern continent. Today the Barbican, with its Tudor and Jacobean buildings, such as the Elizabethan House, gives an idea of what Plymouth must have been like before the Luftwaffe violently redesigned it.
During the Civil War, 1642-46, Plymouth declared for Parliament and was held by the roundheads while the rest of Devon and Cornwall were Royalist. Every attempt by the Royalists failed to break the protective ring around the town, but its population and commerce were devastated by battle and disease, and its growth was severely stunted for many years after the fighting ended.
In 1690 the Royal Dockyard was built on the eastern bank of the Tamar, and the town of Plymouth Dock (renamed Devonport in 1824) was founded. A third town, Stonehouse, developed between Devonport and Plymouth, and all were amalgamated in 1914.
Because of its military and industrial importance, Plymouth was one of the most severely damaged by the Luftwaffe during WWII. The program of reconstruction resulted in some fine commercial, shopping, and civic centres. New approach roads link the city with new bridges over the Plym and Tamar.
The Westcountry's largest city, Plymouth is a centre of industry from ship building to information technology. The cultural capital of the area, with an important heritage, Plymouth is today still a hive of artistic activity: the Theatre Royal plays host each year to the RSC and is a major venue for plays and musicals on their way to or from the West End.
And the sea is never far from consciousness the fine marine aquarium, the marine-biological laboratories, the upper part of Smeaton's lighthouse brought from Eddystone, an Armada memorial, Drake's statue on the Hoe, the Royal Marine Barracks, and the Naval Dockyard all remind us that Plymouth is now, as has always been, first and foremost a seaport. The city is still, as it has been for centuries, an important port and naval base, brawling, boisterous, tough and energetic.
People have traveled the world to visit Plymouth for many centuries. The Pilgrim Fathers are said to have much enjoyed their accommodation in the Island House and other inns here, and the hospitality they received before setting off for America. Hundreds of years later you will find that hospitality still very much in evidence. Plymothians are well used to visitors and love having them. One thing is for sure however, the facilities offered have much improved since the days of the Pilgrims!
Accommodation ranges from the deluxe, in a few cases, to the very inexpensive, with an enormous amount to choose from in the medium range. Many of the hotels and guesthouses are within the city centre area or on the Barbican and Hoe, only minutes away. This makes shopping and sightseeing so much easier for the visitor, as it can be done effortlessly on foot. But with the beauties of Dartmoor, Cornwall and the South Hams so close at hand, you may want to find accommodation there for your base.
In the deluxe range, the premier hotel has to be the Burgh Island Hotel of Agatha Christie fame, the magnificent Art Deco building on a little island just off the coast at Bigbury-on-Sea. Its suites all have magnificent sea views, as well as Art Deco furniture and the fun of traveling to the mainland on the world's only giant Sea Tractor.
The Copthorne in Plymouth's city centre is very popular with business and international travellers. Many of their staff are highly trained linguists. If you stay at this expensive, but high quality hotel, you might well have the Royal Ballet Company or Baron de Rothschild as fellow guests.
The Plymouth Holiday Inn is well equipped with several luxuriously appointed bedrooms, including many with magnificent views across Plymouth Hoe.
The Posthouse is not the most beautiful building you'll ever see, but the inside more than makes up for it, with fine, comfortable rooms. This is another hotel with superb views across Plymouth Sound out to the Eddystone lighthouse. There are many facilities for conferences, seminars and business meetings.
If you are looking for a hotel with exterior as well as interior magnificence, the Duke of Cornwall harks back to earlier times. It has turrets and castellations and an air of elegant grandeur. The inside is just as magnificent, with sweeping staircases and a superb chandelier. Even Sir John Betjeman called this 'the finest building in Plymouth.'
The New Continental Hotel is very comfortable. While you are relieving your tensions with a relaxing swim, don't miss the large, hand-painted tile mural by local artist, Diana Bennett, in the swimming pool. It depicts a classical scene, with marble pillars and mostly female figures, tastefully draped, lounging around an indoor bathhouse.
The Moorland Links Hotel is just north of the city, on the edge of Dartmoor. Set in magnificent gardens, with adjoining golf course, it is a splendid hotel. Close to both the industrial and scenic areas, its location is ideal for both business and leisure travelers.
The Horn of Plenty is a country house hotel, set between the rivers Tavy and Tamar, and surrounded by the foothills of Dartmoor. It has four acres of beautiful gardens and orchards for its guests to enjoy and a wonderful atmosphere, with log fires in winter. The restaurant has won many awards and the hotel has been designed for the luxurious pampering of adults.
In the moderate range, a good option is the scenicTwo Bridges Hotel on Dartmoor. This was apparently the Duke of Windsor's favorite place to stay whilst on fishing trips, and it certainly has more than its fair share of enthusiastic anglers now.
Back on the outskirts of the city, the Novotel, placed conveniently at the big Marsh Mills roundabout, is another hotel very popular with business travelers. It has a very good conference trade.
Old fashioned hospitality and personal service are assured at the Imperial Hotel, an elegant Victorian building with comfortable rooms. It's the nearest hotel to the famous Theatre Royal, so a good place to choose if you've come down especially to see some of their magnificent performances.
Another conveniently placed hotel is the Grosvenor Park, located near the Plymouth Railway Station. Their rates are very reasonable, with refurbished bedrooms, a residents' bar, elegant restaurant and quiet lounge. They also do themed breaks, so if you are into golf, diving or bowls, they can offer you a good package.
The Bowling Green Hotel on Plymouth Hoe lives up to its name, overlooking Sir Francis Drake's Bowling Green. Besides the wonderful views across the Hoe and Plymouth Sound, look in the opposite direction and you'll see Dartmoor on the horizon.
There are several accommodation choices in the inexpensive range. They range from very basic rooms like at Brimpts Farm, to handy campsites and youth hostels, to the wealth of bed and breakfast establishments that line Plymouth's leafy back streets.
Westwinds is a welcoming, family-run hotel close to Plymouth Hoe. They offer an excellent full English breakfast and also allow small pets.
Come and enjoy the ozone on the seafront at Plymouth! That surely must account for the Rusty Anchor's name, but rest assured, everything else is in excellent condition.
The Kynance Hotel is a handy place if you're planning to travel to Europe by Brittany Ferry. The port is close by and they will be happy to supply an excellent breakfast before you head out for the early morning ferry.
Sea Breezes is a typical Victorian town house, also very close to the ferry terminal. They are only 25 yards from the seafront, with a good view of the ferries coming through Plymouth Sound.
The kind folks at the Osmond Guest House will pick you up from either the train or the bus station. Their tastefully decorated Edwardian house is open all year, has excellent facilities, and is in the West Hoe region on Plymouth's seafront.
Plymouth Youth Hostel is situated in a historic house in the residential area of Stoke, and you must join the association to stay here. Most accommodation is communal, although you can rent family rooms.
If you have children and a tent, you may want to stay at the Woodlands Camping & Caravan Park. Two nights stay here will give the whole family free access to the wonderful Woodlands Leisure Park with oodles of adventurous activities like death slides and water-coasters. Another excellent camping place is Southleigh with its warm swimming pool and nightly entertainment in the summer. They also have masses of caravans and several children's play areas including a fun zip wire.
There are many more hotels and guest-houses available in Plymouth with prices to suit every pocket. So come to Plymouth and feel right at home.
With so many centuries of maritime exploration behind the city of Plymouth, it's not surprising that its restaurants cover a wide spectrum of international cuisine. You'll find an Indian restaurant not looking out of place in a 16th century building and a Chinese restaurant hugging the waterfront. Tucked away in old cobbled streets or magnificently modern edifices you will also find Irish, Thai, Greek, Spanish, Mexican, French, Italian, Malaysian, American and more.
Top of the list of local favourites has to be those serving fresh fish and seafood. From pubs and cafes to elegant restaurants you will find seafood galore. Take your choice from lobster, shrimp, crab, prawns, mussels, sea bass, lemon sole, halibut, trout, salmon, monkfish, swordfish or John Dory; all available on local menus. In these days of mass produced food, a fresh, naturally fed fish remains the epitome of culinary delight.
At The Brasserie you can enjoy views of the marina as you eat; Piermasters will make you feel you are dining beside the Mediterranean, while Platters is as jolly and busy as any fishing boat. Even if your proud boast has always been that you 'hate fish,' don't leave Plymouth without trying a local crab sandwich at the very least. The Queen's Arms makes these sumptuous enough to change the habits of a lifetime.
Why not dine on the waterfront at the Wet Wok, admiring the boats on Plymouth Sound as you eat? Deep in the historic Barbican is the Crystal Dragon, while the Ocean Palace has wonderful Dim Sum at lunchtime. The Wah Tin Garden is one of the few places in Plymouth that specializes in Malaysian cuisine as well as Chinese, while the delights of the Hoe Cantonese restaurant are a healthy as well as a tasty choice.
Thai restaurants, like the Thai House, add an exotic touch to the local seafood, while the Thai curries there and at the Thai Palace have to be tried to be appreciated.
Indian cuisine is also alive and kicking in Plymouth - especially those vindaloos! The Indian mastery of combining spices to perfection cannot be surpassed, so be sure to sample it here. The Taj Mahal is the oldest Indian restaurant in the area and well worth a visit, while the Moghul, situated in New Street, does wonderful duck. The name Veggie Perrin's may not immediately conjure up the idea of Indian food, but the excellent vegetarian Gujarati cuisine is as authentic as you'll get anywhere.
Italian delicacies like pizza and pasta are now as common on tea tables as Yorkshire pudding and fish and chips. But nobody does them better than the Italians themselves, so it's well worth visiting a few Italian restaurants to try the authentic versions. The Positano is where local Italians go to eat, while Bella Napoli serves superb fish dishes. The Pasta and Pizza Bar will give you exactly that, but so much better than at home.
Elegant French cuisine can be had at the Café Rouge, which also has an excellent wine bar. Dining at Chez Nous is like being in rural France, while Chambers Restaurant serves classic French dishes. Several excellent restaurants also include French cuisine in their repertoire. Bistro Bene is one example that produces international dishes of high quality.
The Greeks have a superb way with fish too, and the Village offers a magnificent mixed fish grill if you cannot choose between all their specialties.
Fast food can be found at the youngsters' favorite sites of McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut, but there are hundreds of smaller restaurants and cafes that can rustle up a good meal in a short time. O'Brien's Irish Sandwich Bar also serves excellent Italian coffee while Cap'n Jaspers is a unique, al fresco establishment, much loved by Plymothians and visitors alike.
Traditional British and local food can be found in abundance in Plymouth as well. Combine sumptuous food with buildings steeped in history by dining at Tanners in Plymouth's oldest building, the Prysten House. Or try a 500-year-old waterfront fort, the Artillery Tower. You can even get an Elizabethan Banquet at the Tudor Rose Tea Rooms, complete with fire jugglers, mead and serving wenches.
There are many excellent restaurants not far from Plymouth, on Dartmoor or the South Hams. The Old Ship Inn is well worth a visit, and if you've never eaten in a thatched cottage, Old Mother Hubbard's is the real thing. If you want to combine the beauties of Devon with first-class food, board the Riviera Belle for steam propelled gourmet travel.
If you are intent on drinking rather than eating, or want to combine the two in a more informal manner, then you have masses of choice. Wine bars and pubs abound, with many varieties of Real Ale. In the city itself there is every type of drinking establishment possible, from the 'spit and sawdust' and lively Irish music to the sophistication of the Union Rooms. The Bank, Yate's Wine Lodge and the Significant Half all offer good drinking within the city centre. Barbican pubs like the China House and the Maritime are also popular with locals and tourists alike.
But if you'd rather see ghosts than pink elephants, head for the pubs of Dartmoor and the South Hams. Here all the spooks have taken up residence in the ancient hostelries. The Brentor Inn and Pilchard Inn both have resident phantoms, while the one at the Rock Inn is so life-like that one of Mrs. Thatcher's bodyguards is said to have shot at it!
If you look hard enough you'll be able to find something in Plymouth to please everyone, at a price you can afford. Don't hesitate to explore the streets away from the city centre. With a bit of luck you'll find a gem that the locals are trying to keep to themselves; a cosy, friendly pub or a breakfast café that serves enough to feed an Olympic athlete. Don't hesitate to go in and try it out for yourself.