A Tour of Plymouth Barbican
Plymouth is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK. Bursting at the seams with history, it is a pleasure to stroll around Plymouth. Here we present some ‘virtual’ tours that may give you a sense of some of the experiences that awaits visitors to Plymouth.
Note – This tour of Plymouth only covers the city centre and the waterfront. There are many fascinating outlying areas in the city that are worth exploring, from the suburb of Stoke to Central Park with its extensive sports facilities.
From the Hoe a short walk along Madeira Road takes you past the Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club and Duttons tea room, named in memory of a heroic rescue from the wreck of the Dutton. Behind you, are the ancient and mysterious walls of the Citadel, which date from the time of the English Civil War.
When you reach the Plymouth Barbican itself, you will see many more boats. A positive array of masts and the pleasant clinking sounds their rigging makes, will greet your approach and you will see the many fishing boats, yachts, and pleasure cruisers moored in the still waters of Sutton Harbour.
All around this intriguing location you will find many historic buildings, housing cosy traditional pubs, surprisingly contemporary restaurants, interesting little souvenir shops, and the tantalising aroma of fresh locally caught fish and chips being fried.
You can enjoy the al fresco life with a freshly-brewed coffee, or perhaps something a little more potent at a table with characteristic views across the water. Plymouth Barbican has a charm and character that has changed little over the centuries. Sitting by the cobbled streets, with your refreshments, listening to the gentle lapping of the water, you will enjoy the sight of the little fishing boats bobbing with an occasional seagull perched upon a mast or spar.
Children and adults alike find the Plymouth Barbican a delight, and there is plenty of seating and ample opportunity to enjoy snacks and drinks from around the world. One of the local landmarks is the friendly sight of Cap’n Jaspers blue and white livery. Generations of Plymothians have enjoyed the unpretentious food and drink here, served outdoors. If you haven’t been to Cap’n Jaspers, you haven’t been to Plymouth Barbican.
Occupying a prominent central location, on the site of the old Plymouth Barbican Fish Market, the Plymouth Barbican Glassworks gives you the chance to see and buy the world-famous Dartington Crystal.
National Marine Aquarium
Across the water, accessed by an intriguing mechanically operated swing footbridge (to allow taller boats to the inner moorings), the distinctive waved roof and green glass windows of the National Marine Aquarium can be glimpsed across Plymouth Barbican. This is the largest aquarium in Britain and contains Europe’s deepest tank.
The Aquarium is a must-see for all visitors to Plymouth Barbican. Kids love to see the sharks, particularly when they swim directly towards you, turning at just the last moment. If you time your tour right, you will be rewarded with a memorable spectacle as divers enter the large tank to feed the enormous variety of fish. This is often accompanied by an entertaining talk which is suitable for both children and adults.
Regular events and exhibitions add variety to the visit. Don’t forget to see the displays concerning the UK’s only artificial reef, based around the wreck of the HMS Scylla. You won’t regret it and if you are a diver, this is a must-visit item.
From the Aquarium, Plymouth Barbican bay can be viewed from an entirely new angle, and there is a restaurant with outdoor seating so that you can enjoy the view in a more leisurely manner.
Mayflower Steps Monument
One of the most famous landmarks of Plymouth lies on the Barbican. The Mayflower Steps commemorate the spot from where The Mayflower set sail for America on 16th April 1621.
Visitors can stand on a metal balcony and experience before them the same vista that the Pilgrim Fathers saw all those years ago as they embarked upon their great adventure from the Mayflower Steps. A discreet metal plaque commemorates the departure. Nearby, a plaque lists the names of those who undertook this great voyage on The Mayflower. Some of the names are memorably quaint, and bring a flavour of those historic times to the present. The monument itself may seem modest compared to its historic significance, but standing on the very spot cannot fail to move visitors to recall the emotions of those families with their few possessions as they set sail.
Today, Plymouth remembers the voyage each year by joining with visitors from America every Thanksgiving Day to celebrate.