6 best things to do when visiting Plymouth, Devon

October 7, 2020

6 best things to do when visiting Plymouth, Devon

Once an important commercial shipping port to the Americas, the final departure point for the Mayflower and former home to the Royal Navy, Plymouth is a city rich in maritime history. Britain’s ocean city is one that exudes pride for its participation in colonising what is now known as the United States of America but is also deeply scarred by bombing during World War II known as the Plymouth Blitz that annihilated the city. Whichever way you look at Plymouth it’s a beautiful and fascinating city that caters to everyone whether your desire is to sample gin from the oldest gin distillery in the country, indulge in just-caught-that-day seafood, shop in the largest shopping centre in the southwest of England or swim in an art deco seawater pool. Want to know more? Great, let me take you through my 6 favourite things to do in Plymouth.

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This guide shares things you can do in Plymouth but please know there is so much more to see and do beyond the city such as coastal walks, visiting beaches and taking day trips to Cornwall, so make sure you explore further when you visit.

Remember to always wear your mask indoors and sanitise/wash your hands as often as possible.

1. Barbican

Barbican is a waterfront neighbourhood that covers both the west and north sides of Sutton Harbour, Plymouth’s original harbour where the Mayflower sailed from (see more below). Despite the city being hit hard by the Luftwaffe in WWII, 100 listed building still stand in the area today including the Old Custom House and Plymouth Gin distillery both built in the 1500s.

Present day, Barbican’s tiny cobbled streets are lined with shops, galleries, restaurants and pubs. It’s also where you’ll find the Mayflower Museum and the Plymouth Gin Distillery.

Whilst pottering around the streets make a plan to get brunch from Rockets and Rascals where you can choose from meat, vegan and veggie options.

PFH Fun Fact: Barbican has the largest concentration of cobbled streets in Britain.

2. Mayflower museum and memorial

400 years ago, on the 16th September 1620, a ship called the Mayflower made its final departure from England to the New World – now known as the United States of America – carrying 100 or so people plus crew with big dreams of building a new colony in the Americas.

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Across two floors of the Mayflower museum, located opposite the commemorative Mayflower steps, a permanent exhibition tells the story of who decided that they had had enough of England, why and how they went about attaining the Mayflower to make a 66 day-long voyage in cramped, damp and filthy conditions to the Americas. It also documents the six week-long troubles the passengers and crew faced before even departing from Plymouth and why Plymouth became the unplanned final departure point for the Mayflower.

There is some but little information on the impact the new settlers had on the Native inhabitants who had lived in the Americas for over 12,000 years so my advice is, visit the Mayflower Museum to learn of the hardship, determination and strength of the people who faced an arduous journey to make a new home for themselves, but please make sure that you continue your education further to understand the damage and heartbreak caused on the other side of their journey. Though many see and celebrate the successful voyage and settlement of the Founding Pilgrim Fathers and Plymouth Colony, it is important to recognise their ignorant behaviour towards the indigenous peoples whose livelihoods were plundered, pillaged and sold off from under them.

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Opening hours

Monday to Saturday 9am – 5pm

Sundays 10am – 4pm

Closed on Sundays between November and March

Closed 25th Dec – 1st Jan

Ticket cost

Adult £3

Children (5-16) £1.50

Family (2 adults and 2-3 children) £8

Senior and student £2.50

Accessibility 

Each floor is accessible by lift.

COVID-19 restrictions

Please use the provided hand sanitiser before and after entering.

Observe the one way system.

Wear a mask at all times indoors.

Please stay 1-2 metres away from others.

3. Plymouth Gin Distillery

Take a glimpse into the process of creating Plymouth Gin in the oldest working distillery in England where they’ve been using the original recipe since 1793. For just £11 per adult you will get to learn all about the fascinating history of Plymouth Gin which continues on to an immersive experience involving their botanicals during a tasting of three of their gins, ending with the opportunity to take home a miniature bottle of gin or enjoy a drink at their bar. Before leaving you’ll be given a 10% discount code for their gift shop.

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Tours last about 40mins, allow extra time if you chose to drink at their bar.

There’s also an opportunity to upgrade to a gin connoisseur and master distiller tour too. 

If you’re a gin drinker then I would put this to the top of your list in Plymouth because it’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about gin whilst tasting it, but also to learn about the city with an overview of the distillery’s strong ties to the navy.

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Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5.30pm

Sundays 12pm – 5.30pm

Closed on Mondays

Tours are ran daily and can be booked by calling ahead.

Ticket cost

Adult £11

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Accessibility 

As it is a listed building, the floors are uneven but ramps and lifts are available to gain access to each floor.

COVID-19 restrictions

Tours are limited to 8 people.

Tours must be booked in advance.

Please use the provided hand sanitiser before and after entering.

You must complete the track and trace form or log your location using the NHS Track and Trace app.

Wear a mask at all times indoors excluding the time of your tasting.

Please stay 1-2 metres away from others.

4. Minevera Inn

If gin isn’t your choice of tipple, pop into the oldest pub in Plymouth, Minerva Inn, where they serve a variety of local beers, ciders and spirits. Built from timber recovered from the Spanish Armada Fleet in the 1500s, drinks have been served at Minerva Inn since 1540. The walls are decorated with ephemera from the pub’s long history and photographs of how Looe Street, where the pub is located in Barbican, looked before it was bombed during the Plymouth Blitz.

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Whilst there, ask the friendly staff about the grim albeit interesting stories of the Press Gang’s occupation of the pub back in the 17th century and if your stomach can handle it, the ghostly tales of figures from time gone by.

Opening hours

Regular hours are:

Monday – Wednesday 11.30am-11pm

Thursday & Friday 11.30am – midnight

Saturdays 12pm – 12am

Sundays 1.30pm – 10.30pm

Please note that at the time of publishing (October 2020) pubs in England must close at 10pm under new COVID-19 restrictions.

COVID-19 restrictions

Please use the provided hand sanitiser before and after entering.

You must complete the track and trace form or log your location using the NHS Track and Trace app.

Wear a mask at all times indoors unless you are at your table.

Please stay 1-2 metres away from others.

Table service only.

5. Tinside Lido

Tinside Lido is Plymouth’s Art Deco seawater swimming pool built into the shoreline and cliffs in Hoe. This Grade II listed building was originally opened in 1935 and was a popular holiday for people living in the UK during the tourism boom in the early-mid 20th century. Unfortunately, for Tinside Lido, as international travel picked up towards the end of the century, fewer people visited and in 1992 it was closed and soon fell into disrepair. However, in 2002 funds were raised to restore the iconic outdoor pool and it was successfully reopened in 2005. Yay!

So now for just £5 you can take a dip in a beautiful 1930s seawater lido where on one side you can admire the classic Art Deco architecture and on the other you can gaze out to sea. Warning, the pool is only ever 2 degrees Celsius above sea temperature so if it’s a chilly day, prepare for a shock! 

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When you’re done, pop over to The Terrace (just a 2 minute walk away) where you can get a cuppa to warm your bones after a cold swim or maybe a glass of wine on a sunny day whilst looking out at the lido.

Though you can’t swim in the lido during the cooler months, you can still view it from a platform above the pool just off from the main road.

PFH Fun Fact: Tinside Lido was featured in a BBC ident.

If you’re visiting Plymouth in the summer, hang around Hoe Park at sunset to see the sun dip behind the hill, casting an array of peachy pink stripes across the sky.

Opening hours

The pool is open seasonally from 10.00 and each paid admission counts for a two hour swim.

The C-19 pandemic has altered the lido’s open season, so check here before paying a visit.

Ticket cost

Adult £5

Accessibility 

There is a road side lift to take you to reception.

There is an internal lift to the pool level.

There is a hoist in the main pool.

Dedicated toilets and changing rooms are available.

COVID-19 restrictions

Wear a mask at all times indoors.

Please stay 1-2 metres away from others.

6. Royal William Yard

Unsure about what you fancy for dinner and need a variety of choices? Or maybe you want dinner somewhere steeped in maritime history, then head over to Royal William Yard. Royal William Yard is a Grade I listed building that used to be naval buildings but is now the top waterfront dining destination in the city as it’s filled with restaurants as well as a boutique, salon, hotel, wine merchant and brewery, plus there’s a monthly food market.

Take no notice of Wagamama or Prezzo though as there’s far more exciting eateries including Le Vignoble with over 300 wines from around the world on offer and The Hook & Line where you can order from a menu of fresh seafood caught locally on the owners’ fishing boats.

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By the way, you’ll find the city’s first ever speciality rum bar at The Hook & Line, serving up a selection from all around the world including popular local rums. This is homage to the city’s and the restaurant location’s naval heritage. If ale is your poison, then try their signature ale: The Hook, Line & Sinker.

COVID-19 restrictions

Please use the provided hand sanitiser before and after entering.

You must complete the track and trace form or log your location using the NHS Track and Trace app.

Wear a mask at all times indoors unless you are seated at your table.

Observe the one way system.

Please stay 1-2 metres away from others.

Table service only.

 

I really enjoyed visiting Plymouth. Even without a particular interest in its naval history it’s wonderful to experience the city’s various nods to its maritime culture, whether it’s a tour at the distillery that used to supply the naval officers with gin, a swim in a seawater pool, a meal at a restaurant located in naval buildings or learning about the voyage of the Mayflower. 

Gabriella

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