Plymouth is a beautiful historic city, full of interesting places to explore.
Situated in a picturesque part of the south west England, in the region called Devon (right next to the border of Cornwall) Plymouth is known as the Britain’s Ocean City. It has the legacy of the most significant departure which helped to shape America.
As an American family who moved to the U.K. only few years ago, it was especially fascinating to visit this place and walk in footsteps of those who helped establish the American population.
What made it even more significant is the fact that 2020 is a year of the 400th anniversary of the famous voyage.
On September 16, 2020 exactly 400 years ago the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, Devon to the New World.
It is believed that more than 30 million people can trace their ancestry back to the 102 passengers and approximately 30 crew members of the Mayflower when it landed in Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts, in late November 1620.
The story of the Mayflower begins long before 1620 with people opposing the Church of England, secret gatherings, exile, prosecutions and finally ending with the escape to find new life and the freedom in America.
An interesting fact is that passengers of the Mayflower had no connection to Plymouth. It is only because of unfavourable circumstances the ship finally sailed from Plymouth.
The passengers of the Mayflower came from different parts of England and the Netherlands.
Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, the place my family calls home for the last 2.5 years, has strong links with the Mayflower story.
William Brewster, grew up in the village of Scrooby in north Nottinghamshire and he became leading Pilgrim.
William Bradford from Austerfield, a nearby South Yorkshire village was influenced by Brewster. After the arrival in America, Bradford became a Governor of the Plymouth Colony serving for more than 30 years.
The original plan was to sail to America on two ships in the summer of 1620. Unfortunately one of two ships, the Speedwell, leaked not once but three times. After the last leak in early September it was decided to load provisions from the Speedwell and select which passengers would sail on the Mayflower.
Today you can walk the Pilgrims’ trail and visit different sites including the Mayflower Steps. Here is a link to digital resource with sights of Mayflower trail.
The Mayflower Steps are located in historical old town known as Barbican. The original site no longer exists and a granite block with the ship’s name indicates only the approximate location of the place from where the ship sailed. The plate commemorating the voyage was installed nearby in 1891.
The Mayflower Steps have the British flag on one side and American on the other.
The history of the Mayflower is quite interesting so if you would like to learn more, visit the website dedicated to the story of the Mayflower :
Year of 2020 was planned as several months long celebration of the 400 year anniversary in many different part of the country. Due to Covid-19 all events have been moved to next year.
In Plymouth you also can visit the Mayflower Museum and experience the history up close.
We explored Barbican, beautiful old district of Plymouth on the western and northern sides of Sutton Harbour.
One of the oldest streets in Plymouth running north from the Barbican is New Street, which was previously called Rag Street. The narrow cobbled street with grade II listed buildings on either sides will make anyone feel as if you stepped back in time.
Another location worth mentioning is Plymouth Gin. It is situated in the heart of Barbican in a building which was once a Dominican Order monastery and was built in 1431.
Plymouth Gin has a long history. The Black Friars Distillery in Plymouth, where it is made, dates back to at least 1793. The building is also known for hosting the Pilgrim Fathers before they set off on the Mayflower.
Find time to visit the Parade Antiques and Museum. You will be amazed by the collection ranging from costumes and props from popular movie sets to old documents and ancient coins and even Charlie Chaplin’s original tramp suite from 1910.
Take a walk along the waterfront and you will enjoy the views of the harbour on one side and the walls of royal citadel, a 17th century fortress, on the other .
Soon enough you will reach the Plymouth Hoe- a beautiful green space with multiple memorials, iconic Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse, Art Deco Tinside Lido which is an open swimming pool right next to the sea. You can also see the Viking stone, Beatle Bums, Statue of Sir Francis Drake and Nancy Astor – the first woman to take a seat in the House of Commons.
Our hotel was overlooking the Hoe and it made it easy to explore this stunning park.
Because of the current situation, the Tinside Lido was empty and the recent storm created a bit of a mess in the pool, it looked as though it was not in use for many years, yet it is normally a popular place during summer months.
The statue of Sir Francis Drake reminded me of the street named after him where we lived in Marin County, California. I had to dig into the history of the person who is considered a local hero because of defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588. The history is fascinating but complex and not all glorious in my opinion.
Another “must see” sight located at Plymouth Hoe is the spot where The Beatles were photographed in September 1967.
The band was filming The Magical Mystery Tour when they happened to be at Plymouth Hoe and this photograph was taken by David Readfern.
We found this place after seeing an antique shop photo of The Beatles sitting on the grass with the lighthouse behind them. Then we decided to find the approximate location of where it was taken. Little did we know that spot is commemorated by a local artist!
“Beatle Bums” set into the grass with a reference right where the photo was taken from!
There is plenty to see and do in Plymouth – the National Marine Aquarium, Royal William Yard, Barbican Theatre, Plymouth Boat Trips, The Box…..all these we hadn’t time to do because Plymouth was our base for exploring Cornwall. Nevertheless the time spent in Plymouth was not only exciting but very educational as well!
We would love to return to Plymouth and explore more of what it has to offer!
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