Things to do in Plymouth
Plymouth is one of England’s most important seaports with an eventful history and an impressive modern reinvention to become the destination it is today.
Fleets left from here to attack the Spanish Armada centuries ago, and the port was heavily bombed by German air raids during the Second World War. With a rich heritage and a picturesque location, Plymouth is an essential visit if you’re with us at Devon Cliffs Holiday Park. From maritime marvels to modern comforts, the town is a coastal gem that beckons exploration. So, if you’re pondering things to do in Plymouth, here’s our recommendations.
Kick off your adventure with panoramic views from Plymouth Hoe. The famous red and white Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse that forms the park’s centrepiece dates to 1759 and was relocated stone by stone to its current site when its original location proved unstable.
Overlooking the Plymouth Sound inlet, the Hoe is the ideal spot for picnics, selfies, and enjoying summer sunsets.
Royal William Yard
If you’d like to know more about Plymouth’s maritime history and royal connections, then visit this historic naval yard. A set of Grade-I listed buildings have been regenerated to provide a prestigious location for dining, shopping, and sightseeing.
In the summer, outdoor events take place here including concerts and markets, and it’s worth wandering the site to discover its past providing food and drink for naval sailors and officers.
The Mayflower Steps
Two minutes across the Sutton Harbour Swing Bridge from the aquarium, you’ll find this historical memorial. Travel back to 1620 and retrace the pilgrims' footsteps before they embarked on their legendary voyage to the New World.
A symbolic doorway marks the point where 102 pilgrims first headed to North America, reaching Virginia’s Plymouth Rock after 66 gruelling days at sea.
National Marine Aquarium
If your interest in the sea leans more towards what’s in it, than what’s on it, then this is a must-see treat. Among the top indoor things to do in Plymouth, the National Marine Aquarium can be found at the dockyard opposite the Mayflower Steps memorial.
Gawp at sharks, marvel at manta rays, and get a crash course in marine conservation in one of the UK’s best aquatic attractions. Divided into themed sections, the aquarium’s highlights include amazing octopuses, luminous jellyfish, and a reconstructed reef environment.
Plymouth's cultural hub is a recent addition to its arts scene, its shimmering steel and glass shape standing in contrast to the adjacent University of Plymouth. The museum includes thousands of paintings, ceramics, textiles, and other artefacts, arranged in themed and rotating collections throughout the year.
There’s a good mix of local and national exhibits including a full-sized reconstruction of a woolly mammoth, a media lab, and an exploration of the Port’s illustrious and infamous history.
Mount Batten Watersports and Activity Centre
Having learned about the city’s maritime history, you might be itching to get out onto the water yourself. Head to Mount Batten at the mouth of the estuary to the south and try your hand at a wide range of activities including paddleboarding and kayaking.
Those who prefer to say on dry land can try indoor climbing or soft archery. You can also walk around the famous 17th-century Mount Batten artillery tower, which is opened to the public on special occasions, as well as hosting weddings!
Plymouth Gin Distillery
Plymouth Gin is of course another liquid treasure famous in the region. Sip history in every drop at the oldest working distillery in England, founded in 1793. A range of tours and tastings are available, ranging from a one-hour overview to an in-depth Master’s Tour, which includes a historical talk, an in-depth tasting a chance to distil your own variety.
After the tour, lounge in the Refectory Bar and Cocktail Lounge, where you can choose from an extensive menu in a Grade-II listed building. Try a classic pink gin cocktail, served in a Martini glass.
For those sun-kissed days, this Art Deco outdoor pool is the perfect place to get some lengths in or simply relax on a recliner on the sundeck and watch the world pass by.
Built in 1935, the Lido has been voted among Europe’s top 10 outdoor pools. The saltwater pool is open during the summer months, with early bird sessions on Tuesday mornings.
However, the Lido is a design classic worth checking out even when the pool is closed.
Saltram House and Gardens
On the outskirts of Plymouth, you’ll find this grand Georgian home and sculpted grounds, courtesy of the National Trust. Set in extensive grounds including salt marshes, meadows, and parkland, this is a must-visit.
The house itself is full of antiquities and curios, while most of the grounds are dog friendly. Check out the 18th-century orangery and marvel at the neo-Classical saloon designed by superstar Georgian architect Robert Adam.
For foodies and shopaholics, this bustling indoor market offers local delicacies, crafts, and a hearty slice of Plymouth life. Established in 1959, the market boasts more than 40 stalls, ranging from fruit and flowers to fabrics and fine art.
There are more than a dozen places to eat and drink while you browse, including Turkish street food, Thai food, hearty English fare, and delicious cakes.
Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park, Cornwall
Hop a ferry across the River Tamar from the Mayflower Marina and in minutes, you’re in a whole different county – Cornwall! Mount Edgcumbe House sits in an 865-acre estate on the Rame Peninsula with spectacular ocean and river views.
This 16th-century Tudor-style mansion is one of the grandest in the county, but it’s far from being an exclusive private retreat. Instead, the house welcomes visitors, with attractions ranging from archery, a circus barn, a miniature railway, disc golf and the chance to trek with alpacas, while enjoying scenic views over the estuary.
The Barbican Marina
The Barbican is Plymouth’s Elizabethan port, whose cobbled lanes, warehouses, and quays offer an insight into what the city might have looked like 500 years ago. Its narrow lanes, traditional pubs and quaint shops offer many Instagrammable moments.
The Barbican building that forms the area’s centrepiece was once the city’s fish market. It’s been converted for retail and dining, making this a great place to while away an afternoon, or seek out a filling Sunday lunch.