Plymouth rocks! 12 cool city spots to get on your radar
Winter in the city! Where to eat, shop and stay plus hidden gems from the in-the-know author of a fabulous new book celebrating the Ocean City.
When the Pilgrim fathers set out from Plymouth back in 1620, little did they know a global pandemic would come along 400 years later and ruin the city’s best laid plans for a world class commemoration. While those are now happening in 2021 (yay!), it’s not delayed the publication of a brilliant new opus, Mayflower A Sea Change, compiled by a talented team including Crowdfunder co-director Dawn Bebe, ex-Channel 5 and Lonely Planet journo Juliet Coombe and James Edgar (Gordon Ramsay’s book designer no less).
A cross between a travel guide and a history book, it cleverly weaves the story of the Mayflower’s journey and its 102 passengers with the vibrant people and places of today. It’s also stuffed full of insider know-how, on everything from great places to stay, famous Plymothians, curious facts and hidden gems. I can’t decide whether to gift a copy to my dad who’d love all the history and the pull-out map, to my sister-in-law who’d love the insider info (definitely one for the coffee table) or be naughty and keep it for myself.
In the meantime, I tracked down Dawn and interrogated her for info. Here’s her top Plymouth picks you should know.
Not many people know you can get on a ferry at the landing stage on the Barbican, boat over Plymouth Sound and in just half an hour be eating an ice lolly in the quaint fishing villages of Cawsand in Cornwall. It’s a quick cute commute, and a super-easy day trip with kids.
Most people know Tinside Lido, the Grade II listed Art Deco pool overlooking the Sound, but there is also the lesser-known Mount Wise swimming pool complex at Devonport. It also overlooks the sea, has three pools and stunningly for this day and age is free! And there’s a playground next door and Cafe Roma where you can grab a coffee.
3/Residence One, Royal William Yard
The Grade 1 listed architectural masterpiece, and Plymouth’s only boutique stay, is at the heart of Royal William Yard where you can enjoy living like the Admiral of the Fleet in one of 14 fabulous bedrooms. They overlook the secret gardens at the back, perfect for intimate wedding parties.
Plymouth has had an indoor market since the 1920s but it’s recently had major investment and is now full of super-cool stalls, including an Asian noodle bar, vegan waffles, and places to grab a coffee. It’s a real experience – a multicultural hang-out in the city centre – and a brilliant way to support local. There’s also an area where anyone can rent a bench for just £8 a day, so people thinking of setting up in business can test the market and meet potential customers while keeping their overheads low.
5/ Slogget & Son, Union Street
Union Street in Stonehouse was once down at heel and considered a really rough sailors-only part of town but now it’s ultra up and coming. Roland and Hannah Slogget have a long history with the street and have opened a home store, with loads of interesting vintage finds, mid-century antiques and Skandi chairs. Very on trend. Grab a coffee from The Clipper while you’re there.
6/ The Box
I can’t not mention the biggest cultural addition to Plymouth in years, and the largest investment in the UK in a decade. The Box basically took a small well-loved museum, punched a hole in the side and transformed it into a world-class arts and culture centre.
It’s packed to the gunwales full of fascinating archives and artefacts which had been sitting unseen in a dark room somewhere. There are huge ships’ figureheads hanging above you in the entrance, a life-size replica of a wooly mammoth (their bones have been found on The Sound), amazing art installations and The Box Kitchen, a stunning restaurant. It’s a really immersive experience and great for kids too.
7/View from the top, Crowne Plaza
The hip penthouse bar and restaurant at Crowne Plaza has been recently renovated (bye-bye brown carpets!) where you can get a 360-degree panoramic view around the city, over the Hoe and Plymouth Sound. It’s a cool place for a cocktail, and to get a bird’s eye view when the city’s amazing National Fireworks Competition returns next year on 18 and 19 August 2021.
8/ Rock Salt Cafe & Brasserie, Stonehouse Street
Here is a family fave because the bistro food is fabulous, it’s affordable and fine if you’ve got kids in tow. It’s a hit with locals for the casual vibe and its really lovely laidback atmosphere.
9/Southside Street, The Barbican
Southside Street on the Barbican sums up everything that’s creative about Plymouth, full of galleries, foodie shops and lovely people. Check out Gosh & Absolutely for super-funky handmade lampshades made from vintage material, Victoria Sewart and her curated collection of contemporary British jewellery designers and the Choccacino team room for artisan chocolates and cake.
10/ Identity Fashion, Royal William Yard
Identity Fashion is a totally inspiring place to shop for clothes. The owner Deni is Bulgarian – her mum is a fashion designer – and the clothing she makes is a mix of cool, slightly edgy day-wear as well as amazing evening dresses. Deni is brilliant at finding your style – you come out looking and feeling amazing.
11/ Jacka Bakery, Southside Street
For amazing sourdough, pastries and awesome coffee, don’t miss Jacka’s Bakery on Southside Street on the Barbican. It’s the oldest bakery in Plymouth.
Once a naval victualling yard now an award-winning Grade I listed destination with flats, offices, cools shops, cafes and restaurants with jaw-dropping waterside views of the Sound. At the far end you can climb a near floating staircase (the ‘Stairway to Devon’) to take you up to Devil’s Point where rumour has it witches were once dispatched. Just inside the main gate is England’s oldest postbox (no longer in use), and evidence of the old cooperage, brewery and the bakehouse where they made the ships biscuits still remains. For more insider history, like where in the Yard the Churchill film was shot or where Alice in Wonderland director Tim Burton stayed, take a tour with Jane Dymock or book yourself in for a Plymouth Walking Tour.
Want to get your Plymouth-loving paws on a copy?
Why didn’t you say? We’ve snaffled four copies worth a total £100 to give away to four lucky readers. Get yourself over to Muddy Devon’s Reader Treats for your chance to win.