Exploring historic Plymouth
A weekend in Devon's lovely city on the sea
A recent trip to Plymouth on a hot August weekend found the city lively, full 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 tour 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 specialities and its rum bar!
While i was sightseeing 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 Georgina 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 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 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.