Nestled on the south coast of beautiful Devon, Plymouth is a historical city with hundreds of years of maritime history. Not only that, there’s a heap of spots to see and the best things to do in Plymouth that make it a great little city break whilst exploring wider Devon.
Over the centuries, Plymouth has seen its fair share of histories; all of which has shaped the city of the years. Home to England’s biggest seaports and naval bases, the city basks in rich maritime history, which includes its role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
Nowadays, you don’t need to worry about any sailing armadas and you can stroll the city with ease! So, to help you get the most out of your trip, I wanted to share some gorgeous spots you shouldn’t miss when you visit Plymouth.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Plymouth in Devon. Have an amazing visit.
1.) Plymouth Hoe
Plymouth Hoe, or simply “the Hoe”, is considered the centre and beating heart of the city.
Perched high above the harbour, this gorgeous park offers breathtaking views of the city and the wider area around Plymouth Sound. These are totally stunning, especially on a sunny day!
As you stroll, you’ll spot the Naval War Memorial and the Armada Monument which is designed with the coats of arms of the towns that aided in the battle in the 1500s.
After walking the Promenade, make your way over to the art installation known as the “Beatle Bums”. It serves as a reminder of the time when The Beatles came to Plymouth back in the 1960s.
Oh, and don’t forget the Tinside Lido, an outdoor swimming pool that is worth visiting on a warm summer day.
You’ll also get some picture-perfect spots from the viewing platform of the Smeaton Tower, a magnificent red-and-white striped lighthouse that stands proudly.
2.) Plymouth Sound
The Plymouth Sound, or locally known as “The Sound”, is a natural harbour that stretches from the southwest corner of Penlee Point in Cornwall up to the southeasterly point of Wembury Point in Devon.
This six-kilometre bay area is the perfect spot for a stroll along the trails. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best things to do in Plymouth if you fancy a little stroll away from the city itself.
You see, from here, you can join the famed South West Coastal Path. It’s one of the big ones to join (so prep well) or just choose sections to stroll (like we tend to do).
Plus, you’ll get some gorgeous views from Mount Edgecumbe Country Park. It’s easily accessed via the Cremyll Ferry and well worth a stroll.
3.) Royal Citadel
Right next to Hoe Park, the Royal Citadel is a historic fortress that has defended the coastline since the 17th century.
Nowadays, you can head inside to explore the citadel and visit spots like the Royal Chapel of St. Katherine-upon-the-Hoe. Plus, from here, you’ll also get some superb views of Plymouth Sound (from near the ramparts which are still armed with cannons).
It’s an iconic part of Plymouth and can’t be missed.
The guided two-hour tours in the Royal Citadel are open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from April to September.
4.) Plymouth Gin Distillery
Fancy a tipple? Then the Plymouth Gin Distillery should be your port-of-call!
It is one of the most historic gin distillers, producing its famous nectar since 1793. The gin product even became the liquor that was regularly supplied to the Royal Navy officers for centuries.
Today, you can hop on a guided tour in the facility and learn all about the gin distilling process itself. You’ll also get to learn more about its connection with some of the key pieces of Plymouth’s history. Such as the Mayflower and the Pilgrims.
Best of all, you’ll even get to try a few!
Heading east, across the South Devon Area of Natural Beauty (AoNB), is the coastal village of Wembury.
It’s another little gem that’s well worth visiting and feels like stepping back in time. Nowadays, the village is preserved and supervised by the Devon Wildlife Trust, which means it’s nicely protected for us all to enjoy.
Take a little stroll around the cosy village and be sure to spend some time on the coastline. It’s very quiet and serene and the perfect spot to visit if you fancy a quieter day away from the city. The views from around Mill Cottage are just gorgeous, especially at sunset.
6.) Royal William Yard
Just on the coastline, to the west of Hoe Park, is Royal William Yard – an impressive Naval building from the 19th Century that stands proudly on the waterfront.
Here, you’ll get to wander the converted buildings that are filled with little shops, restaurants and stalls that line the route. You might even spot some of the art studios within the yard, too.
If you fancy a wider stroll, head up to nearby Devil’s Point which has some lovely views down Firestone Bay.
If that’s not your thing, head over to Crownhill Fort – just outside the city centre itself. Established in the 1860s, the fort is considered to be the best-preserved stronghold among Lord Palmerston’s ‘Ring of Fire’ which protected the city of Plymouth during the Victorian era.
Today, the Landmark Trust manages the Crownhill Fort and opens it to the public every last Friday of each month. You can scout the fort’s ramparts and mysterious tunnels during guided tours, and relive the memories of the battleground with historical reenactments. In Spring, Firepower Day is a highly anticipated event wherein the visitors can witness the historic artillery guns in action.
In addition to the tours, the former Officers’ Quarters and fully-furnished luxury suites of the structure are also available for overnight stays.
7.) Saltram House
One of the best things to do in Plymouth (that’s just shy of Saltram Beach) is visiting Saltram House and Gardens. This National Trust property has a whopping 500-acres of an estate to explore which is totally breathtaking.
Once here, make sure to explore the Orangery and pristine gardens before hopping inside to see the collections of ceramics and art pieces in the manor.
8.) The Barbican
History flows along the narrow cobbled lanes of The Barbican, the circuit of ancient streets where 200 listed buildings of both Tudor and Jacobean architecture are perched.
It’s easily one of the most iconic spots and the best things to do in Plymouth if you want to a little stroll, shop or cafes for a bite to eat.
Strolling the area around Sutton Harbour will lead you to the Mayflower Steps.
These are well-known to have been taken by the Pilgrim Fathers upon their departure from England aboard the Mayflower to seek a new life in America in 1620.
Getting hungry? Stop off for lunch at Bonne Santé for their yummy firecracker prawns.
9.) Devonport Naval Heritage Centre
If you’re interested in exploring more of Plymouth’s maritime history, then head over to the Devonport Naval Heritage Centre.
The museum walks you through the whole development of the Dockyardand keeps the records of Plymouth’s crucial support to the Royal Navy. All of which’s pretty interesting.
Not only that, the Devonport Naval Heritage Centre provides shelter for the decommissioned naval submarine ‘Courageous’.
Afterwards, head on over to Fletcher’s Restaurant for their yummy seasonal menu. The venison was so good.
10.) Burrator Reservoir
Just outside the Plymouth is the lovely Burrator Reservoir. It’s a unique and relaxing escape to the countryside that’s within easy reach of the city and totally lovely to stroll around.
With heaps of woodland and trails, you might even get to spot some deer along the way! Now, it’ll likely take you around two (or more) hours to fully cover – so plan your trip in advance.
Oh, and if you’re looking for parking then head over to Burrator Quarry. It’s probably the easiest place we found to park up.
When you’re back in Plymouth, head over to the Tudor Rose Tea Rooms for some of their freshly-baked scones. They’re delicious.