Ten Favourite Places to Visit Near Plymouth
Plymouth is the perfect tourist destination in Britain. As a base for days out it is unbeatable. If you visit Plymouth and have a free day when it’s lovely and sunny, here are some suggestions for beautiful places to go in and around Plymouth. As those of us who are lucky enough to live here know, Plymouth is gorgeously situated between the sea and Dartmoor, on the border between Devon and Cornwall, so residents and visitors alike are spoilt for choice for places to visit. Here are my ten favourite places to visit in Plymouth or nearby.
1. Plymouth Hoe
I know, all residents of Plymouth been there many times before, but you should go again. It’s easy to forget how amazing this place is so you need to be reminded of it. A warm sunny day is the best time to visit the Hoe; when the grass looks particularly green and has Plymothians and tourists draped all over it sunbathing or picnicking, when the sea is blue and sparkling and Smeatons Tower looks like a colourful stick of seaside rock, when the ice cream vans and cafes are doing a roaring trade selling ice creams, and Tinside Pool is heaving with swimmers. However it’s easy to forget that Plymouth Hoe can be impressive at any time of year; when winter storms are whipping up the waves dramatically, when the sea looks grey and forbidding, and the cafes are selling hot chocolate and coffee instead of ice creams.
2. Plymouth Barbican
Like Plymouth Hoe, it’s easy to take the Barbican for granted. Plymothians forget how great it is and need to be reminded to take a fresh look at it. Visitors certainly love the Barbican and it’s easy to see why. You can visit the Mayflower Steps from where the Pilgrim Fathers sailed to America in 1620, boats galore from fishing boats to yachts, seagulls, historic cobbled streets (did you know that Plymouth has the highest concentration of cobbled streets in England?), cafes with outdoor seating, gift shops, art galleries, British pubs full of character (and characters!), and I haven’t even mentioned that Plymouth Barbican is home to the National Marine Aquarium yet. Phew! What’s not to like? Although Plymouth Barbican is at it’s most glorious in the summer, it’s well worth a visit at any time of year to appreciate the changing moods of the sea and the sky, and to enjoy freshly caught fish and chips or a to sample food from the world-famous Cap’n Jaspers.
3. Royal William Yard, Plymouth
Royal William Yard with it’s amazing waterfront location is always worth a visit because it’s constantly changing. The Yard is one of the most important groups of historic military building in Britain and also the largest collection of Grade 1 listed military buildings in Europe. Formerly a Royal Naval victualling yard, it was built between 1825 and 1831 and is now being renovated to a very high standard by Urban Splash. Known for it’s restaurants, bars, shops, museums and art galleries, along with a mix of residential and office space, the Yard is truly unique. It has a vibrant buzz about it that reminds me of Covent Garden, or the waterfront in Bristol. There is now also a daily water taxi service operating from Royal William Yard to Plymouth Barbican which makes a great experience all on it’s own.
4. Saltram House and Country Park, Plymouth
On the outskirts of Plymouth this National Trust property is a convenient place for a day out for Plymothians. The house is a George II era mansion and the original Tudor house was altered and improved by the famous Robert Adams. The garden is mostly nineteenth century with an orangery, follies, shrubbery and specimen trees, whilst the park (which is free for visitors to roam) is extensive and involves woodland as well as riverside walks. Saltram has good visitor facilities (which you would expect from the National Trust) with a good cafe, toilets, gifts shops and a lovely duck pond in a cobbled yard. Saltram is a great place to visit at any time of the year; in the autumn the woodlands have stunning foliage to enjoy when taking a brisk walk, whilst in the summer the riverside walk is beautiful. Popular with dog owners, walkers and picnickers, as well as history lovers, we Plymothians are lucky to have Saltram right on our doorstep.
5. Mount Edgcumbe, Cornwall
Mount Edgcumbe House was built in the 1500s, but restored after the Second World War. It is jointly owned by Plymouth City Council and Cornwall Council. Mount Edgcumbe Park is a beautiful destination for a day out and includes the earliest landscaped park in Cornwall. The quickest way to get there from Pymouth is via the Cremyll Ferry, a small passenger ferry which has been a major crossing between Devon and Cornwall since medieval times. After leaving the ferry you will see the entrance to Mount Edgcumbe and will soon find the Orangery; situated in the Italian Garden and dating from 1760, it is now being used as a restaurant. A little further on is Mount Edgcumbe House itself and it’s beautiful formal gardens. The park is extensive and has some lovely walks with sea views, where you will come across as many as 55 Grade II and Grade II* listed structures, as well as a duck pond and a little beach. It’s one of my favourite places for a day out.
6. Dartmoor National Park, Devon
Dartmoor is a glorious expanse of rugged nature with granite-topped tors, running streams, historic remains, steep wooded valleys, heather-strewn moorland and hidden villages and hamlets. The famous Dartmoor ponies and many sheep roam the moors unimpeded and are part of it’s unique charm. Dartmoor encompasses 954 square kilometres and includes 450 miles of beautiful footpaths/ bridleways for people to explore and whilst many are content to picnic and enjoy the stunning views and tranquility on offer, other wish to take part in activities like walking, climbing, canoeing, cycling, horse riding, letterboxing and geocaching. Some of my favourite places on Dartmoor include Brentor Church ( set on top of a small tor, a long climb to get to church), Sheeps Tor (with it’s views over Burrator Reservoir), Wistman’s Wood (an ancient woodland of dwarf oak trees), and Widgery Cross (a granite cross to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria set on Brat Tor near Lydford, well worth the climb for the stunning views). Dartmoor is truly special and Plymouth is lucky to have this treasure on it’s doorstep.
7. Buckland Abbey, Devon
Buckland Abbey is a 700 hundred year old former Cistercian monastery near Yelverton, famous for being the former home of Sir Richard Grenville and also of Sir Francis Drake. Owned by the National Trust it is a great place to visit with it’s lovely gardens and meadows, orchards and woodland walks, with views over the Tamar Valley. The house itself is partly a museum and contains many fascinating items including the legendary Drake’s Drum. Attractions include an enormous medieval tithe barn, craft workshops and a herb garden.
8. Bellever Forest, Devon
Bellever Forest is owned by the Forestry Commission and is one of Dartmoor’s gems. The East Dart River runs through the forest and is a popular spot for families to picnic and children to play in the river. Walkers can venture through marked forest trails and can ascend Bellever Tor with it’s stunning views over Dartmoor, or walk the historic bridleway. Bellever is suitable for all ages and abilities; with it’s car parking and toilet facilities, gentle strolls by the river are available as well as longer walks for the more energetic.
9. Wembury Beach, Devon
Wembury Beach is the probably the best beach within easy access of Plymouth. A sheltered pebbly beach with a view of the distinctive Mew Stone, it’s popular with families, swimmers, surfers and kayakers. Walkers can enjoy inland and cliff side walks to Wembury Woods and the Yealm Estuary and around Wembury Point. The facilities are good too with the Old Mill Cafe for those without a picnic and and public toilets. Dogs are allowed on the beach from 1 October until 1 April. The Wembury Marine Centre organises rock pool rambles and it’s a popular place for local schools to visit and study sea life.
10. Bigbury On Sea Beach, Devon
Bigbury Beach is my personal favourite when it comes to the seaside. An enormous sandy beach with rock pools and caves to explore, it’s perfect for having picnics, beach cricket, making sandcastles and swimming or paddling. A striking feature of Bigbury Beach is Burgh Island which can be reached by foot across the sand when the tide is out. The island boast the Pilchard Inn, an ancient hostelry and the Burgh Island Hotel, where visitors are encouraged to dress in 1920’s style clothing. When the tide starts to come in, the beach shrinks until Burgh Island is cut off from the mainland and truly becomes a proper island. After an energetic day on the beach, visitors can visit the cafe and wind down with good food, ice cream and hot drinks. Dogs are allowed on the beach but are restricted to the right hand side in the summer. Lifeguards during the summer months make the beach a safer place to swim. Bigbury Beach is truly a magical seaside destination.
Over to You
Well now you know my ten favourite places for a day out in and around Plymouth. Would you add any to this list? What should number 11 be? It’s time for you to try them all out for yourself. Collect all ten and let me know how you get on in the comments section below. If you are considering an English holiday this year with the convenience of a city and easy access to history, heritage and nature, I can’t think of a better destination than Plymouth.