48 hours in Plymouth, UK

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve visited Plymouth now, but this historical, marine city by the sea just keeps giving me new experiences. Here are my top picks for a weekend visit:

Walking the Hoe

Firstly, blow those cobwebs away and get yourself oriented by taking a breezy saunter along the seafront, known as the Hoe (cue romantic wind-blown hair photo-op). ‘Hoe’ is a Saxon word, which describes the sloping horse-shoe shape of this seafront. Sitting on the green expanse next to the lighthouse is a good spot for watching Plymothians flying kites, cruising long-boards and on occasion getting married in the picturesque surroundings! Weather permitting, there’s an outdoor lido just on the seafront for a cool, clear dip.

Cruise the harbour

Follow in the footsteps of the Pilgrim Fathers by setting off on a ‘Dockyard and Warships’ boat cruise from the Mayflower Steps. Plymouth Boat Trips offer regular and informative tours, which need not be booked in advance. The boat passes Western Europe’s biggest naval base, as well as colossal, grey warships such as HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion. Coming up in October there is a special spooky Lost Souls Cruise which coincides with Halloween.

If all that sea air makes you hungry, the Boathouse Cafe awaits your return, serving up the catch of the day, keep your boat ticket as this will afford you a cheeky discount. If the weather isn’t favourable, you can always take a rain check at Plymouth Aquarium, just a few steps away.

Gin tasting

Plymouth is home to England’s oldest working gin distillery. If you’re a gin drinker, this is a must! Tour guide Pippa expertly dissects a timeline of the gin business, then leads the way through a door marked ‘highly explosive’ where a fat-bellied copper VAT with a swan’s neck churns out this award-winning gin 3 times a week. Next our noses are acquainted with the 7 botanical ingredients that make up this once medicinal tipple and our tongues get a neat taste of the original and sloe versions.

My eyes widen with excitement at the sight of the Master gin tasting room which is like a secret science lab crossed with a perfumery. Finally upstairs in the Refectory bar, which boasts a beautiful wooden roof made from an old ship, we sit and enjoy a refreshing gin cocktail.

Boringdon Hall

While the Greedy Goose and Artillery Place are the go-to restaurants in central Plymouth, this incredible 5-star venue, just on the edge of Dartmoor, is worth the 15 min drive. The plush velvet sofas contrast beautifully against the ancient stone walls, which date all the way back to 1086, when Boringdon Hall was first mentioned in the Doomsday book. The menu states ‘surprise, delight, impress‘ and it delivers exactly that; the scallop starter and gorgeously garlicky lentil and mushroom main were divine. The food is elegantly presented with impeccable service. The unique atmosphere is one of simple sophistication and makes for a truly memorable experience.

The Barbican seafront

By day, the original harbour, which avoided being bombed in the World War II Blitz, presents quaint cafes serving cream teas, independent shops, boutiques and galleries. The cobbled streets are also lined with some 200 listed buildings! But at night it’s altogether a more exciting and vibrant place, with live music, cabaret and theatre. A string of bars sit cozily side by side, with outdoor seating and heating. So you can watch the glimmering water while supping a cocktail or few.

Nearby walks

A short drive from the city, you are spoilt for choice with a fine coastal walk at Noss Mayo; the enchanting, moss-coated, Wistman’s Wood at Yelverton and the peaceful expanse of the Burrator Reservoir, which provides water not only for the Gin Distillery, but also for the whole of Plymouth! And not to mention the wild beauty of Dartmoor itself.

Getting there

Plymouth is just a 3.5 hour train journey from Paddington with GNRW trains. A word of advice: avoid the first off-peak train on a Friday!

Comments (18)

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  1. Izy Berry says:

    I think my dad would love to go on that Lost Souls Cruise. To see Europe’s biggest naval base along with warships is his idea of a relaxing afternoon. He also happens to love Gin! That’s it, I’m taking my dad to Plymouth.

  2. Jack says:

    I have been Plymouth once.I love gin too much,and just like the article says if you like gin, Plymouth is a best choice. I am planning to visit Plymouth again next summer.Thanks for sharing.

  3. Maggie says:

    That lighthouse is so cute! I can’t remember the last time I saw one, they’re juts not popular here on the West Coast. And I love that you bought your dog along! This looks like the perfect weekend trip.

  4. Jennika says:

    Thank you Jack and Izy, I hope you have a wonderful time!
    Maggie, Plymouth is a dog-friendly place – Charlie (the Labrador) loves all the attention he gets from the locals.

  5. Joella says:

    First of all I love how the UK is so dog friendly. I would love to take my dog with me and visit. And I love all the activities there. The boating looks amazing and always a fun and different perspective to explore a place. And that gin tasting looks like fun. Did you discover a local favorite? mmm mmm and those scallops are just calling my name. Looks like you spent a perfect 24hr trip.

  6. Marcie says:

    The harbor cruise sounds great! I love experiencing a city from the water because it’s a great way to orient myself. And I love fresh seafood! What a fun weekend getaway!

  7. Bee says:

    Firstly, you have a lovely dog there. Plymouth has so much more than I imagined, I have heard of the place but did not know there was so much to see and do. thanks for sharing

  8. Lynne Sarao says:

    I’ve never heard of Plymouth before reading your post but I’m glad I stumbled across it because it sounds like a fantastic place to visit! I love being outdoors so a cruise on the harbor would be lovely! And then I’m absolutely want to find that plate of scallops you ate. It looks heavenly! Finally, I’d end the day with a walk and lovely shot of gin!

  9. Lisa says:

    Hmmm, now my mouth’s watering from the look of those scallops at Boringdon Hall. I’ve never visited Plymouth, but would like to try the cruise and see the harbour. I’ll remember this post for when I visit!

  10. Anna Schlaht says:

    I love seafront towns. Between the boat cruises, delicious seafood, and iconic lighthouses, it’s just so charming … like something out of a fairy tale. :) So thanks for putting Plymouth on my radar! I had no idea there was a Plymouth in the UK. I may have to go just for the seaside views and the gin tastings (my favorite) whenever we make it to that side of the pond next!

  11. I love seafront towns and Plymouth looks like an ideal destination. I would love to take a cruise and taste some Gin there. Great to know that Plymouth has England’s oldest working gin distillery. I am adding it to my list.

  12. Jennika Argent says:

    Well I must apologise, as I completely forgot to include Saltram House, which is a gorgeous grade 1 listed country mansion sitting within an 18th-century estate. The building still has all its original furnishings and is open to the public for viewing. It’s surrounded by gardens and woodland, with some very fine tree specimens, allowing you to experience a slice of the countryside without even leaving town. This year for the first time, there will feature an ‘Illuminated Gardens’ where the trees and gardens will be lit up over the Christmas period (beginning in mid-November) with a Christmas Craft and food fair!

    Ps. Joella, my favourite gin was the sloe variety!

  13. Laura says:

    Yeah, Gin tasting was nice there… But did you even visit Royal William Yard? That was a nice place too! We have been there when we explored parts of the South West Coast Path!

  14. Tim N says:

    Great piece Jen! Love the pics – those scallops look tasty. Looks like you had some nice weather for your trip too :)

  15. Brenda says:

    Plymouth is such a great British city. I really appreciate this write up of it. I haven’t visited Boringdon Hall and it looks well worth the drive outside the city. I’d also love a gin tasting and a roof made from a ship is certainly something unique to talk about. The south coast is also beautiful, so lots of nature and day trips within easy walk.

  16. Jimmy says:

    Hi Jennika

    I’ve been to Plymouth quite a few times but always just passing through to catch the ferry. (I’m ashamed to say I don’t even recall seeing the Hoe!) Next time it looks like I should arrive a day early and stop the night so that I can enjoy some of what the city has to offer.

    Regards

    Jimmy

  17. Lu says:

    I live close to Plymouth and never thought of visiting. It actually looks like quite a lovely place to spend the day – or perhaps even live. It’s lovely when a place has a harbour, it’s always a relaxing place to wander round. What an unexpectedly beautiful area, it’s definitely on my radar now

  18. May George says:

    Firstly, I would like to say thankyou Jennika for your blog about Plymouth.

    Secondly, thankyou for all your lovely comments.

    I have lived in Plymouth my whole life, and it truly is a beautiful and wonderful city. The Hoe and The Barbican is even more beautiful in the evening when all the lights are glaring off the water. If you haven’t been to Plymouth and like history, then it really is a place to visit. We are of course Britains Oceans City!

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