We’re braving it across the border to the vibrant waterfront city of Plymouth, providing our top tips on how to make the best use of your time…
We may be biased here at Cornish Secrets and The Great Cornwall Guide as we think Cornwall’s the best place in the south west of England, but needless to say we appreciate a good day out in neighbouring Devon as much as the next person.
The Tamar River forms most of the border between Devon (to the east) and Cornwall (to the west); you may be staying in Cornwall but could be as you could be as close as five miles away, making it a wonderful way to see two counties while on holiday.
How to get to Plymouth
Depending on where you’re staying in Cornwall it’s likely that driving is often the easiest option.
However, the GWR service to Plymouth starts at Penzance and runs direct to the coastal city, with 13 stops along the way including Hayle, Truro and Bodmin Parkway. The route takes just under two hours and runs every 40 minutes.
What to see and do in Plymouth
This vibrant waterfront city has something to offer everyone, from watersports, walks and scenic spots to historical sites and areas of interest. We’ve rounded up Plymouth’s best attractions, when visiting for a day trip.
It’s likely that if you enjoy spending time in Cornwall you’ve probably a penchant for a paddle. Overlooking the sea at the tip of Plymouth Hoe, and voted one of the top 10 best outdoor pools in Europe, Tinside Lido is a slice of the quintessential British seaside from a bygone era.
A wonderful example of art-deco style and is Grade II listed, Tinside was built in 1935 and is open during the summer months this fantastic outdoor saltwater swimming pool. The pool opens in May through to September and costs £5.20.
Plymouth and the South West’s major new museum, art gallery and archive, The Box is the result of a multi-million-pound project which opened in 2020. Scooping a special commendation as European Museum of the Year 2022, The Box is a major cultural and heritage attraction for the city.
Prepare to be amazed by the cutting-edge galleries, high profile exhibitions, artistic commissions and an impressive programme of events. As a visitor you will embark on a journey of amazement, from prehistory to the present and beyond. With a deluge of discoveries at The Box, history buffs will enjoy learning about everything from the city itself to ancient Egypt, while art enthusiasts can admire fine art on display including Cornwall’s Newlyn School. Best of all? Admission is free.
National Marine Aquarium
You’d struggle to top the National Marine Aquarium’s location, sitting on the stunning Sutton Harbour. Prepare to be amazed by a fascinating underwater world, and learn about how we all play a part in conserving it at the UK’s largest aquarium. Expect deepwater fish tanks and over 4,000 animals to meet including sharks, sting rays, octopuses, jellyfish and a cheeky turtle.
With four main zones, the aquarium really raises the bar as exhibits include the UK’s deepest and largest tank, the UK’s largest native exhibit, and the UK’s largest single viewing panel with many more interactive displays for visitors to enjoy.
Photography: Jay Stone
Royal William Yard
Accessible by land and sea, Royal William Yard is Plymouth’s premier lifestyle destination, with its own harbour with mooring facilities and ferry service.
Steeped in history and named after King William IV, it’s surrounded by water. Royal William Yard is home to a stunning collection of Grade I listed buildings. Lovingly restored, it’s one of the best places to eat, shop, work and stay.
Climb the impressive staircase which links the Yard with the rest of the South West Coast Path and will take you to Devil’s Point which offers stunning views across the Sound. Or simply sit back with a cocktail in hand and enjoy the marine scenery.
Making regular daily trips from the Yard to the Barbican Landing Stage and back, Plymouth Boat Trips make it an easily-accessible and must-visit destination.
Other city highlights…
The centrepiece on Plymouth’s Hoe, Smeaton’s Tower has become one of the South West’s most well-known landmarks and is an impressive sight to see.
History enthusiasts should step back in time at Elizabethan House. Built in the late 1500s when Plymouth was a thriving port, it’s a rare, surviving example of its time. While the Mayflower Steps are close to the site in the Barbican area, from which the Pilgrims are believed to have finally left England aboard the Mayflower, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to settle in North America on 6 September 1620.
British Firework Championships
Every year in August, Plymouth hosts the British Firework Championships, where it’s all eyes to the skies. 2022 saw the 25th anniversary of the annual show-stopping event, which sees six of the UK’s top fireworks display companies compete in battle of the bangs.
If you time your visit right you can watch the sky light up to see who is crowned the best of the best.
Where to eat
The waterfront city boasts culinary greatness from around the world. Naturally, you’ll find plenty of seafood gracing the menus, alongside stunning views… there’s an eatery to suit everyone in Plymouth.
Bistrot Pierre is located in the stunning Royal William Yard, complete with restaurant, bar and heated terrace and just moments from the waterfront. Known for its great-value French-style dishes, if you’re looking for a wholesome breakfast to set you up for the day then Bistrot Pierre is just the ticket.
You can choose from any cooked breakfast dish – including eggs benedict and a traditional cooked breakfast – served with a hot drink and fruit juice for just £11.95.
Fancy eating beneath a flotilla of figureheads? The Box has a wonderful Kitchen & Bar which inhabits a magnificent space… and explains the artistic surrounding.
This unique restaurant offers brunches, lunches and delectable sweet treats for all the family. Showcasing the best that the South West has to offer, dishes use the very best local ingredients raised, grazed and grown in the surrounding landscape and fished from nearby waters.
We recommend the Cajun chicken tacos, served with guacamole, soured cream, pickles – a hearty portion, it’s a delicious way to refuel.
Sushi lovers will be well taken care of at Kuku. Serving contemporary Japanese cuisine, the menu showcases creative food combinations combined with local seasonal ingredients. From sushi and sashimi to traditional grilled dishes and classic Japanese offerings, the beautiful Grade II listed building, is just moments away from the city centre.
We recommend tasting a cocktail or two while you’re there, too.
Where to stay
If you want to extend your time in Plymouth, stay at the lovingly-restored Grade II listed rooms at Residence One by Bistrot Pierre. Located at the enviable Royal William Yard, there’s a collection of 14 stylish bedrooms, boasting a boutique-style, the rooms are filled with periodic architectural charm, light, and gorgeous interior touches.