Thursday, 12 March 2009

Plymouth: ships, shops and chips

Right, we're nearly there! Today let's look at another famous seaside town, this time one with a proud and long naval tradition - Plymouth.
It was here that Sir Francis Drake famously played bowls while the Spanish Armada advanced on the channel, where the Beatles were pictured enjoying the views of the Sound at the height of their powers, and where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail in their search for America.
Today Plymouth, about an hour's drive from Torquay, is a bustling city, with a large commercial centre, proud naval history and fantastic views over the natural wonder of Plymouth Sound. There are many attractions for the visitor, and you will struggle to fit everything into one day if you try to do it all.
Many people head straight for the new shopping centre, based around the large indoor Drake Circus, with its major high street stores, and revamped city precinct. Alternatively, head to the historic Barbican, which dates back to the 16th century and contains many points of interest including the Mayflower Steps, the symbolic leaving point of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620, and the Plymouth Gin Distillery, which offers guided tours (and tasting!).
Across Sutton Harbour is the National Marine Aquarium, which is a wonderful attraction for the whole family. It houses many impressive tanks with sharks, turtles and all the creatures found in the waters around our coast.
Overlooking the sea is Plymouth Hoe, made famous as the scene of Sir Francis Drake's game of bowls the day England was about to be invaded by the Spanish Armada. It offers superb views across Plymouth Sound and is home to the Royal Citadel, which offers a guided tour and still houses a battalion of marines.
You can also catch a ferry across to Queen Anne's Battery, with great views back towards the Hoe and also out to sea, or take a cruise up the River Tamar, past the Devonport Royal Dockyards, with its frigates and nuclear submarines.
As you can see, a visit to Plymouth might require some forward planning!

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