One of the best things about living, or holidaying, in the centre of Plymouth is that all the city’s main attractions are within easy walking distance of each other.
There can’t be many other cities where you step through your front door and within a 10 to 15 minute walk can reach hundreds of shops, international restaurants, bars, clubs, one of the country’s best regional theatres, the National Aquarium and what is arguably one of the most spectacular natural harbours in Europe.
One of the not so great things is the fact that Plymouth is one of the most isolated big cities in Britain when it comes to links with London and other major UK and European destinations.
The city’s small airport is due to close in December 2011 (due to lack of business), train travel to London is time consuming and expensive and the 238 mile car journey to the capital takes at least 4.5 hours on a good day. Ironic that it can be quicker to fly to the Spanish costas than it is to drive to London!
Of course getting around Plymouth and the surrounding countryside very much depends on how you got here in the first place.
If you arrived by car then all well and good. Because if you plan to use the city as a base for extensive sightseeing in the West Country then a car is your best bet.
There are countless wonderful day trips to be enjoyed within easy driving distance of Plymouth – from fabulous family attractions such as Cornwall’s world renowned Eden Project and the marvellous Monkey Sanctuary at Looe through to magnificent meanderings across Dartmoor or along the Cornish coast.
If you don’t have your own car there are plenty of cheap car hire firms in the city and many are good about dropping the car off and collecting it from wherever you happen to be staying.
Getting about the city itself is easy enough on foot – a walk from the Royal William Yard at the western edge of Plymouth to the Barbican Leisure Centre to the east of the city centre shouldn’t take you more than half an hour. The city centre itself is highly compact with the main shopping area, bar strips, Hoe and Barbican all within easy walking distance of each other.
There’s a good network of local bus services linking every area of the city and providing a regular service over to Torpoint in South East Cornwall (via car ferry – see below). A frequent bus service connects Plymouth with the charming market town of Tavistock, 11 miles north of the city at the western edge of Dartmoor.
Local coach operators provide city tours, sightseeing trips and package deals taking in some of the country’s top tourist destinations including Alton Towers and London’s theatre land.
As you’d expect in a maritime city, there are plenty of opportunities for getting about by boat. Brittany Ferries run services to the French port of Roscoff and to Santander in northern Spain from Millbay Docks (a 10 minute walk to the west of the city centre).
Local water taxis connect the Barbican with Mount Batten and during the summer months they run services to the Royal William Yard and the twin villages of Cawsand and Kingsand on the Rame Peninsula.
The Cremyll Ferry at Admiral’s Hard in Stonehouse, a 15-minute walk west of the city centre, provides frequent services across the Tamar to the Mount Edgecumbe country estate (foot passengers only).
The Torpoint Ferry operates a 24-hour service for foot passengers and cars, linking the city with South East Cornwall. Avoid the rush hours if you’re a holidaymaker because the service is heavily used by commuters.
On the Barbican and Hoe foreshore you’ll find a huge range of pleasure boat cruises offered throughout the summer.
Trains to London Paddington are frequent and the journey time is between three to four hours. The best bit about the journey is the stretch between Teignmouth and Dawlish Warren where the train runs right along the seawall. The sea views are simply breathtaking – so make sure you’re sitting on the right when you’re London bound and the left when you’re heading toward Plymouth.
You can also take a train direct from Plymouth to the north of England, Scotland and South Wales. The cheapest way to get to and from London is by using the Megabus service (if you can stomach the often gut wrenching loos!).
The Tamar Valley line, which runs along the Tamar River estuary between Plymouth and the east Devon village of Gunnislake (about 10 miles north of the city), offers gorgeous views of countryside which has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.