Plymouth Coast Guide
Plymouth is the largest of the Westcountry cities after Bristol which may be regarded as the gateway to the south west region. Lying on the banks of two rivers, the Plym and the Tamar and facing Plymouth Sound it is perhaps not surprising that Plymouth has a strong maritime tradition that includes both merchant and navy shipping. The small island in the centre of the Sound is Drake's Island and is named after the famous seafarer.
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Plymouth has been a working port for a long time. The Sound has been used as an anchorage and harbour since very early times. The expansion that resulted in Plymouth becoming a major UK port started in 15th century, when larger ships were being built for the Royal Navy which needed a deeper anchorage. Plymouth has since become one of the Royal Navy's main bases with warship often to be seen at anchor in the Sound and along the river front.
Britanny Ferries operate car ferries to Roscof in France and Santander in Spain.
Many epic voyages of discovery and conquest have stared form Plymouth. The most famous of these is the defeat of the Spanish Armada by Sir Francis Drake and the English fleet. History has it that Drake was engaged in a game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe when the Spanish fleet was first sighted in the English Channel. Drake was not alarmed by this and insisted on finishing his game before setting sail form the port. The English fleet chased the Armada up the Channel to Calais where Drake used fire ships to disrupt the Spanish fleet before launching a devastating attack. The Spanish ships took heavy casualties and scattered further losses occurred off the coast of Scotland when the surviving ships were caught in a fierce storm. The Spanish fleet was devastated and were never again a threat to Britain.
Prior to this epic battle Sir Francis Drake had made a name for himself after he had sailed around the world in the Golden Hind. In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America from Plymouth in the Mayflower. Another adventurous voyage was undertaken when Captain James Cook set sail in 1768 in search of new lands.
Replica of the Golden Hind in nearby Brixham harbour.
Modern day Plymouth is a lively city with a wide mix of commercial activities and plenty for the visitor to see and do. The recently opened Drakes Circus is an attractive shopping mall with many leading brands on display.
Plymouth Hoe is the wide expanse of grass and tarmac overlooking the Sound, this area is also where the military hold parades and the Queen has visited recently to present new colours to the Navy. There is also a lighthouse on the Hoe called Smeaton's Tower that is brightly painted in red and white strips. You can also see the Royal Citadel, a large defensive camp built at the east end of the Hoe by Charles II in 1670, which is now the base for 29 Commando.
The powerboat Grand Prix takes place each year off of Plymouth Hoe in July (check for details).
Also worth a visit is the National Marine Aquarium which is billed as the UK's largest with huge tanks containing sharks and many other exhibits.
Nearby is Whitsand Bay with its long sandy beach. The naval frigate HMS Scylla was recently sunk in the bay to form a reef for scuba divers to visit - see below. Also a visit to nearby Looe is worthwhile, a quaint but bustling fishing port with the opportunity to go fishing for sharks - if you dare!
Places to visit in Plymouth
National Marine Aquarium - Phone: 01752 600301 for details visit: National Marine Aquarium
Smeatons Tower - a lighthouse that was relocated from the Eddystone Rocks.
Mount Edgcumbe House & Country Park - A Tudor period house and extensive gardens. Phone: 01752 822236
South West Rib Charter - charter a Rib speedboat - Queen Anne Battery Marina, Plymouth, PL4 0LP Phone: 01753 206309
Silverline Cruises - 16, Welbeck Avenue, Plymouth, Devon PL4 6BG Tel: 01752 226243
Mount Batten Watersports and Activities Centre - 70 Lawrence Road Mount Batten Plymouth PL9 9SJ Phone: 01752 404567
Dartmoor National Park
Morwellham Quay - Historic port on the banks of the River Tamar. Phone: 01822 832766
Naval dockyard Mount Edgcumbe View of Drakes Island
HMS Scylla - now a dive site!
Map of Plymouth
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