There always seems to be something happening in the city's pedestrianised Armada Way and so it's no surprise that they host one of the most varied Christmas celebrations in the West Country. From the last week of November until Christmas Eve the bottom end of the precinct hosts a German-themed Christmas Market with wooden stall selling all sorts of, mostly hand-made, gifts and craftworks, along with various hot and cold food stalls and of course the obligatory mulled wine stands. Across the road, in front of the Guildhall, there's a modern fun fair with rides to suit all ages, and on the Piazza, below the Big Screen, there's a ice-rink, complete with skate hire facilities.
There's always a friendly buzz with free entertainment provided by various bands, choirs and individuals, whether planned or impromptu, and for me a perfect festive treat is the German Barbeque for its plump sausages, sizzling bratkartoffen with loads of bacon and onions and a cup of mulled wine to wash it all down.
One thing that visitors to Plymouth shouldn't miss is The Hoe.
The Hoe is a large open space overlooking Plymouth Sound and the English Channel (or La Manche in French). The word 'Hoe' is an old Anglo Saxon word meaning 'High Ground' and although the ground isn't particularly high the view from The Hoe is magnificent.
The most famous story relating to The Hoe is that of Sir Francis Drake who was playing Bowls here when he was told of the approach of the Spanish Armada. He is supposed to have said that there was plenty of time to finish the game and still beat the Spaniards. Whether or not he actually did say that is debatable but it's gone down in folklore all the same.
There are three areas involved in this walk:
- Plymouth Hoe, or the Hoe, which is an open public space - a lawn overlooking the water
- The Royal Citadel
- Barbican, which is an old quaint neighbourhood in Plymouth that escaped WW2 bombings
Think of the three areas connecting in the shape of a backwards fat "L", the Hoe to the west, the Citadel at the corner, and the Barbican to the north. the Hoe and the Barbican connect at the corners, so you can begin this walk at almost any point.
We started ours at Mayflower Steps where the Barbican and the Citadel connect at the east side. We looked at the historical plaques of settlers departing for all around the world and also of the mariners or fishermen lost at sea. Then we walked south around the outside of the Citadel with vast views of Plymouth Sound. We continued up the hill onto the Hoe where we could see the famous Tinside Lido, Smeaton's Tower lighthouse, the ferris wheel, and the war memorials. Then we walked through the Barbican neighbourhood.
I strongly recommend doing this early in the morning. We had the entire place to ourselves at 07:30 on a bright hot summer long weekend.
Sutton Harbour is situated opposite the Barbican Maritime Village. The Harbour has been used over the centuries for trade and emigration activity and a marina for sailors especially between the 17th and 19th Centuries.
Today it's mainly a marina for the mooring of yachts and boats and there are also a number of ferry services, seasonal, to Mount Batten and Royal William Yard from there and also chartered boat tours.
There has been a church on this site since the 8th Century. This church was enlarged and a tower was added during the 14th-15th Century. St Andrew's was assessed for worship by well known figures including Catherine of Aragon, Sir Francis Drake, Sir John Hawkins and many others. The church was restored by John Foulston in the 19th Century but burnt out in the Blitz during World War II. The church was reconstructed and rebuilt in 1957.
This memorial was built in May 1923 to those who have fought in World War I and the ceremony was attended by many dignitaries including government and military officials.
You can find out more information about the memorial via the website
Royal William Yard was part of the former Royal Naval victualling buildings which were built between 1825 and 1831. The buildings were of military importance in the country and has amazing views across the Plymouth Sound.
Today, Royal William Yard has been regenerated for mix use development and today houses cafes, bars, restaurants, museums, art galleries, offices and residential spaces. Please check out the Urban Splash website for further information.
Royal William Yard has an on-site marina and can be assessed from the Barbican Maritime Village by ferry in season. Alternatively, when I went, you can catch Plymouth City Bus No. 34 from the City Centre.
I thought it was worth spending some time admiring the old buildings and soaking in the atmosphere and views.
The Prince of Wales (who became Edward VII) opened this builidng in 1874 and was renowned for its interior especially the stained glass windows which illustrated Plymouth's maritime history. Sadly, the guildhall was burnt down and gutted during the World War II's blitz and subsequently was replaced by the present building on this site. The present building has recaptured some of the interior features of the originally building.
The building hires out the main hall, the lower hall, the lounge and general purpose rooms to a variety of events from concerts to wedding receptions.
This exhibition is worth visiting where one can learn about the Sutton Harbour, a working harbour in the Barbican Maritime Village, both past and present. There is a short film presentation as well as exhibits about the harbour and stories are told about the Pilgrim Fathers and the Mayflower, Plymouth's fishing industry and military stronghold and emigration.
It cost 2 gbp per adult (March 2012) to visit the exhibition. Please check the website below for opening times.
I paid a visit to Plymouth's City Museum & Art Gallery. I didn't have much time to look around so I was selective what I saw.
I particularly enjoyed From Plymouth to Pole: Scott, Science and the Men who Sailed South (On from September 2011 to April 2012). The exhibition is celebrating 100 years of Plymouth born Captain Scott's and he led the first ever Antarctic and South Pole Expedition. Please check the museum's
website for further information.
I also enjoyed the Plymouth: Port and Place gallery and I learnt about Plymouth's sea, military and social history.
There is free admission although donations are encouraged.
There are a number of monuments dotting around The Hoe. These include the following:
Plymouth Naval Monument
Royal Air Force and Allied Air Forces Monument
National Armada Monument
For further information, please check out this website and learn about the history of the said monuments.
These gardens are recreated to how an authentic Elizabethan garden would have looked like. This walled garden is behind the
Tudor Rose Tea Room in the Barbican Village. It's nice to take time out to relax there.
I didn't go inside the house because it was closed for the winter. The house is one of the oldest buildings in Plymouth and is situated in The Barbican Village.
Please check out the website for futher information.
The Barbican is the oldest martime village in Plymouth going back since the 12th Century. A lot of trade and maritime activity took place at old port over the centuries. Today you can see a number of historic buildings that have survived over the centuries such as the Elizabethan House and The Barbican, which is home to Tudor Rose Tea Room.
The attractions worth noting are the Plymouth Gin Distillery, which has been present since 1793; The Mayflower Steps where the Pilgrims made their voyage on the Mayflower ship to the New World in 1620; The National Marine Aquarium and also a number of shops, bars and restaurants.
It is worth spending time wandering there and taking in the city's maritime history and enjoy the amazing harbour setting!
The Plymouth Sundial is situated on the pedestrianised Armada way. This 27 feet high sundial and fountain was designed by Carole Vincent. The Sundial serves as a focal point and the seats represents countries of the world.