Plymouth is a veritable treasure trove of attractions. But while some of its gems are proudly displayed for all to see, others take a bit of digging to uncover.
After an inauspicious introduction to the city centre, the despondent visitor need only walk a few minutes south to find a view that few of the world’s great cities can match.
In 1704 the writer Daniel Defoe described it as “a scene so serene, so calm, so bright and the sea so smooth, that a finer sight, I think I never saw”.
He was talking about the truly spectacular scene from The Hoe. It’s a breathtaking view of Plymouth Sound – one of the world’s deepest and most magnificent natural harbours.
You’ll see the occasional nuclear submarine slip among the yachts, cruise ships and canoes which populate this awesome amphitheatre of sea water. The Sound regularly hosts major events which draw crowds in their thousands to The Hoe – they include including the start of the Transat (trans Atlantic race), the international powerboat grand prix and national fireworks championships.
From the Hoe, it’s a short and delightful stroll down to the Barbican where you’ll find all the old world character and charm that has been so sadly lacking in the city centre since its heart was ripped out during the Plymouth Blitz.
The Barbican is an irresistible concoction of narrow, winding, cobbled streets peppered with inviting craft and curio shops, traditional tea rooms and art galleries.
The place positively oozes history from every street corner and cobble. There are the Mayflower Steps where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World in 1620. There’s the Elizabethan House in New Street dating back to 1548. And everywhere there are echoes of another swashbuckling era when the likes of Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh walked these streets before setting sail on their voyages of discovery.
The Barbican allows you to set off on your own voyage of discovery via water taxi to a number of interesting destinations including the Royal William Yard – the old naval victualing yard, built in the early 19th century to supply Royal Navy ships with food and other stores.
After 150 years of keeping its gates closed to the public, it’s now open to visitors and is one of the best places in town to enjoy a cocktail and watch the sun go down over the Cornish countryside.
It’s a quick ferry ride from the Barbican over to the Mount Batten peninsula, where Lawrence of Arabia was once stationed with the RAF.
And you’ll find a wealth of pleasure cruises, power boat rides, fishing and wildlife spotting trips available to book from the Barbican’s various boat operators.
For a great day out take the little ferry from the Barbican pontoon to Cawsand in Cornwall. It’s a gorgeous trip across Plymouth Sound to the impossibly pretty twin villages of Cawsand and Kingsand where you can while away the hours on the beach or set off on foot for the beautiful Mount Edgcumbe country park.
From Mount Edgcumbe, you can catch the Cremyll Ferry back to Plymouth. It arrives in Stonehouse, to the west of the city near the Royal William Yard, and from there it’s a 20 minute back to the Barbican (the Cremyll Ferry runs all year round but the Cawsand Ferry only runs in the summer months).
At Go Plymouth we’ve got plenty of other ideas for day trips, places to visit and things to do in and around the city.
See our Top Ten favourites.