Things to do Plymouth UK

November 24, 2015

Burrator Reservoir, Plymouth

Plymouth is one of Britain's largest seaports and naval bases, and ranks as the most important historically: it was just off Plymouth that the British defeated the Spanish Armada - marking the beginning of Britain as a world power. Situated at the mouth of the River Tamar, the boundary between Devon and Cornwall, Plymouth is now a sizable city together with Stonehouse and Devonport.

Bordered by a wide beach, Plymouth lies between hills that reach down to the adjoining bays. Surrounding woodlands and meadows combine with extensive parks and gardens to give the city an open and attractive aspect. Famous names connected with British maritime history, such as Sir Francis Drake and the Mayflower, are closely associated with this historic port.

1 Plymouth Hoe

The finest views of Plymouth and Plymouth Sound are to be had from the Hoe, a spacious park opened in 1817. Traversed by the Promenade, it extends past Drake's Island as far as the lighthouse on Eddystone Rock, 14 miles away.

It's also where you'll find the Armada Monument, erected in 1888 and decorated with the coats of arms of the towns that helped in the struggle against the Spanish. The nearby massive Naval War Memorial is worth a look, as is the Sir Francis Drake Statue. Also in Hoe, the upper part of Smeaton Lighthouse (1756) is open as a viewing tower. Be prepared to tackle the 93 steps, including steep ladders, to the lantern room for the lovely views.

2 Royal Citadel

The Royal Citadel was built in 1566 and remained the most important coastal defense in England for over 100 years. The structure encompasses the site of an earlier fort built in the time of Sir Francis Drake. It's still used by the military, so be sure to check tour availability for the attraction.

A highlight is the Royal Chapel of St Katherine-upon-the-Hoe, originally licensed for services in 1371 but rebuilt over the centuries. A road runs around the citadel, affording excellent views.

Location: The Hoe, Plymouth

3 National Marine Aquarium

National Marine Aquarium


The National Marine Aquarium is the UK's largest aquarium and offers superb educational programs and displays. Exhibits cover the world's oceans, from the shores of England to Pacific coral reefs. More than 70 sharks from 10 different species are housed here, including small dogfish and large sand tiger sharks. All feature in an excellent interactive dive show. On-site restaurants offer views of exhibits or across Plymouth Sound.

Location: Rope Walk Coxside, Plymouth

4 Saltram House

Saltram House (three miles east of Plymouth) was begun by John Parker in 1750 and is notable for its 14 paintings by Reynolds who lived in nearby Plympton. The artist liked staying at Saltram and painted portraits of the lord of the house and his family. The portrait of the artist himself (1767) that hangs on the stairway is the work of Angelika Kaufmann. Also of interest are works by Rubens, Stubbs, American presidential painter Gilbert Stuart, and superb collections of porcelain.

Location: Plympton, Plymouth

5 The Barbican

In the narrow streets of The Barbican historic quarter of Plymouth, visitors can see an excellent example of 16th century architecture in the Elizabethan House on New Street. It is fitted out exactly as it would have been in Tudor times. In Southside Street the remains of a 14th century Dominican monastery can still be seen.

At Sutton Pool, pleasure ships offer excursions around the harbor and Plymouth Sound. Of interest to American tourists are the Mayflower Steps, a gateway built in memory of the Pilgrim Fathers. A short distance away is a memorial commemorating the arrival of British aviators Alcock and Brown who, in 1919, became the first persons to cross the Atlantic in a seaplane.

6 City Center

Plymouth city center occupies the area around two broad avenues, Armada Way and Royal Parade, which adjoin Hoe Park to the north. Near St Andrew's Church are the 15th century Prysten House, the 16th century Merchants' House, a Tudor building housing a museum of social history, and the Guildhall with its pretty little towers.

Opposite St Andrew's is the Civic Centre, worth visiting for the viewing platform on the 14th floor. There are breathtaking views of the city and, in clear weather, distant Dartmoor. On Derry's Cross is the famous Theatre Royal, with the Athenaeum Theatre next door. Visitors can find things to do at the Plymouth Pavilions, a conference and leisure center with a swimming pool, wave-machine and ice rink. Finally, a little northwest of the city center is the Drake Circus Centre, a pedestrian zone with passageways of shops and restaurants.

Location: St Andrews St, Plymouth

7 City Museum and Art Gallery

The City Museum, situated in the Drake Circus Centre, contains exhibits including works of old masters, paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds, a valuable collection of porcelain and silver, and Italian bronze objects. Perhaps its most important artifact is the goblet Elizabeth I gave to Sir Francis Drake on his return from his three-year voyage around the world. Also check out the Plymouth Arts Centre for exhibitions by local, national and international artists.

Location: Drake Circus, Plymouth

8 Devonport

To the west of Plymouth city center, Devonport has many fine old Georgian and Regency houses. The Royal Dockyard, established in 1691 by William III, contains a memorial to the polar explorer, Robert Falcon Scott. Born in Devonport in 1868, Scott died in 1912 on expedition to the South Pole with his ship Discovery, now on display in Dundee. Gun Wharf, built in 1718, is also architecturally interesting.

The Devonport Heritage Trail is a great way to explore the area (particularly for hikers), while the more sedate Waterfront Walkway is offers good sightseeing for all ages and abilities.

9 Crownhill Fort

Crownhill Fort is the largest and best preserved of Plymouth's ring of Victorian Forts. There are cannon and underground tunnels to explore as well as ramparts and a massive dry moat. Visitors can take in numerous reenactments throughout the year.

Location: Crownhill Fort Rd, Plymouth

Mount Edgcumbe House

Mount Edgcumbe House

From Plymouth there's a ferry service to Cremyll in Cornwall, and the mansion of Mount Edgcumbe. More than 400 years old, the house is a fine example of English 18th century interior design. The surrounding landscaped park is full of color and brings together both European plants and more exotic varieties.

The house was featured in the Oscar award winning film Sense and Sensibility.

Location: Cremyll, Torpoint, Cornwall


Wembury is located to the southeast of Plymouth and has a beach noted for its rockpools. The Wembury Marine Centre educates visitors about the rockpools and how to protect them. A unique local landmark is the Mewstone. This triangular island has served as a prison and refuge for local smugglers, and is visible from the beach.

Location: Wembury Beach, Wembury


Ivybridge is noted as a good walking center for southern Dartmoor. The town's known for it's natural landmark, Western Beacon, a hill that overlooks the town. It takes its name from the 13th century Ivy Bridge.

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