Perfect Plymouth and a Tamar Treat

It’s one of the most iconic and historic cities in the UK – Plymouth is a barnstorming, brilliant place for a scenic sojourn with so much to see and do! It’s also a great crossroads for some fantastic journeys in the Great Scenic Journeys collection and is also really easy to get to from the Midlands, North and Scotland on the stylish and convenient Cross Country Trains and from London, Wiltshire, Avon, Somerset and Cornwall on the brilliant Great Western Railway. Let’s lift the lid on bustling Plymouth….

Hoe gives hope to a fab scenic sojourn to follow!

The ideal start to an adventure in Plymouth naturally begins with hopping on the number 25 Plymouth City Bus, an excellent way to catch a glimpse of this historic city’s charm. As the bus weaves its way through the streets, you’ll catch stunning views of the Hoe, a beautiful, expansive public space overlooking Plymouth Sound. This area is historically significant, as it is the spot where Sir Francis Drake famously played bowls while awaiting the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Hoe’s panoramic vistas provide a perfect introduction to the city’s blend of natural beauty and rich maritime heritage.

Super Smeaton’s a magnet as pulsating Plymouth approaches

Stepping off the bus, a stroll along the Hoe is a must. Here, the iconic Smeaton’s Tower, a striking red-and-white striped lighthouse, offers an opportunity to climb its steps for an even more spectacular view. Nearby, the Royal Citadel, a 17th-century fortress, stands as a testament to Plymouth’s strategic military importance. It’s fascinating to imagine the countless stories of naval defence that have unfolded here over the centuries.

Balmy Barbican’s brilliance

The 25 bus goes to the heart of the historic Barbican district, a maze of narrow cobbled streets and Elizabethan buildings. The Barbican is home to the Mayflower Steps, where the Pilgrims set sail for the New World in 1620. The atmosphere here is both quaint and lively, with an array of independent shops, art galleries, and cafes. For lunch, The Harbour Seafood Restaurant and Takeaway is a fantastic choice. Known for its fresh, locally-sourced seafood, you can indulge in a plate of fish and chips while enjoying views of the bustling harbour.

Distilling delight

Plymouth’s history is deeply intertwined with maritime exploration and military endeavours. However, it also has a rich cultural tapestry. The Plymouth Gin Distillery, the oldest working distillery in England, has been producing its famous gin since 1793. A tour of the distillery not only offers a glimpse into the traditional methods of gin production but also includes a tasting session.

Subterranean from the shores of Plymouth Sound to the tropics 

In the afternoon, a visit to the National Marine Aquarium, the largest in the UK, provides an engaging experience for all ages and over 250 species from across the world. With its impressive array of marine life, including sharks, rays, and a variety of colourful fish, the aquarium is both educational and entertaining. It’s a reminder of Plymouth’s ongoing relationship with the sea and its commitment to marine conservation.

Making tracks to the terrific, tranquil Tamar

For those interested in exploring further afield, a journey on the Tamar Valley railway line to Gunnislake is highly recommended. This beautiful route, part of the Great Scenic Journeys collection, offers breathtaking views of the Tamar Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In particular, the incredible, majestic and famous railway viaduct in Calstock, built in 1908, is worth the trip in itself.

From one bridge to another…

The journey is a tranquil escape into the countryside, showcasing lush landscapes, charming villages, and the tranquil River Tamar. Alternatively, crossing the famous Brunel bridge to Saltash opens up further adventures, including its lovely independent shops, walking trails and beaches, set against a backdrop of Plymouth. From Saltash, you can continue to Penzance, a picturesque town at the end of the line in Cornwall, known for its artistic community and stunning coastal scenery. The route from Plymouth to Penzance is simply wonderful and another one to be part of the Great Scenic Journeys family!

Football, Food and a feast of performances

Back in Plymouth, the city’s connection to sport is exemplified by Home Park, the home ground of Plymouth Argyle Football Club. With a passionate fan base and a long history dating back to 1886, attending a match offers a taste of local culture and community spirit.

As evening approaches, dinner at The Artillery Tower is a perfect way to conclude your day. This unique restaurant, set within a 19th-century military tower overlooking the sea, combines historical ambiance with exquisite cuisine. The menu focuses on contemporary British dishes crafted from locally-sourced ingredients, providing a memorable dining experience.

For entertainment, the Theatre Royal Plymouth, one of the UK’s largest and best regional theatres, offers a variety of performances, from West End musicals to cutting-edge dramas. It’s a cultural hub that attracts notable productions and performers, ensuring a vibrant night out.

Drake and Daley

Plymouth has been home to many notable figures. Sir Francis Drake, the legendary seafarer and privateer, is perhaps the most famous and no surprise there is a statue to commemorate him in the City (see above). His exploits and adventures are woven into the fabric of the city. Additionally, the city boasts connections to modern-day celebrities such as actor Tom Daley, an Olympic gold-medallist diver who grew up and trained here.

Obscure facts about Plymouth add another layer to its allure. The city was heavily bombed during World War II, leading to significant rebuilding efforts in the post-war era, which shaped its current layout and architecture. Also, Plymouth Sound is home to Drakes Island, a small island with a rich history, including roles as a religious centre, military fortification, and a site for scientific research.

Plymouth’s modern-day vibrancy is matched by its deep historical roots, making it a fascinating destination. Its blend of historical sites, natural beauty, and cultural attractions ensures there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re exploring the maritime heritage, enjoying local cuisine, or venturing into the stunning surrounding countryside, Plymouth promises a day filled with discovery and delight. To plan your scenic adventure across three Great Scenic Journeys, check out the links below….

Plymouth City Centre to Plymouth Hoe – Great Scenic Journeys

Plymouth to Gunnislake – The Tamar Valley Line – Great Scenic Journeys

Plymouth to Penzance – Great Scenic Journeys