A historic year commemorating a unique moment for Plymouth in 2020

For more than a thousand years Plymouth's spectacular waterfront has bustled with adventurers, emigrants, merchant traders, soldiers and sailors.

Including, of course, the last stop for the Mayflower before its epic voyage across the Atlantic, marked today by the 'Mayflower Steps'.

In 2020, Plymouth will be one of the centres for the Mayflower 400 commemorations with an ambitious events programme that will light up, captive and wow audiences visiting the city from all over the globe.

It will honour Plymouth's reputation as a centre for voyage, discovery and military importance in its glorious waterfront setting. 

From cultural exhibitions, outdoor installations and live shows to community activities and sports programmes, there will be something for everyone during the Mayflower 400 year in Plymouth.

 Watch our video introducing the commemoration year below:

The Mayflower 400 programme in Plymouth

Mayflower 400 involves a year-long national and international commemorative programme with more than 100 events around Plymouth that will mark the city's part in this historic moment.

Mayflower Week in September 2020 includes a major public commemoration ceremony, telling the Mayflower story in a new way, that will take place a year today on Plymouth Hoe. Involving 1,000 local people and the Band of HM Royal Marines, it will include representatives from the four nations directly involved in the Mayflower story – the USA, UK, Netherlands and Wampanoag. 

The commemorative year launches this November with Illuminate 2019 – a spectacular light-based festival in Plymouth from 28 November to 1 December 2019. With projections, light installations, live performances and interactive opportunities there will be something for everyone to enjoy as the waterfront is lit up.

The 12 month programme in Plymouth will also include wide ranging events from large-scale public art installations, cultural exhibitions and live shows to community dance performances, theatre, creative works and community sports programmes.

The exciting signature events in Plymouth include:

Illuminate 2019 - the launch of the Mayflower 400 commemorations
November 28 – December 1, 2019
A dazzling festival of light with projections at Royal William Yard and the Barbican marking the start of the anniversary year. Free for all the family. 

Opening of The Box
Spring 2020
Plymouth’s flagship cultural visitor attraction for the region, whose opening programme includes the national commemorative exhibition, ‘Mayflower 400: Legend & Legacy’

Mayflower Sports Week
21 – 29 March 2020
In association with Plymouth Argyle, Plymouth Albion and Plymouth Raiders

The 400 by Le Navet Bete
Summer 2020
A comedy take on the special relationship between the US and UK at the Barbican Theatre

This Land
June 15-21, 2020
Community-led theatre production involving people on both sides of the Atlantic and folk musician Seth Lakeman, exploring the Mayflower story at Theatre Royal Plymouth

Settlement
July 6 to August 2, 2020
Creative event in Central Park by 27 Native American artists. Free for all the family.

‘Roots Up!’ by Street Factory
July 25, 2020
Take part in a free, mass street dance reaching from The Barbican to The Hoe

Mayflower Week
September 14-10, 2020
This memorable week of activities will see daily fly pasts, a visit from the Matthew (a replica 15th century tall ship) and a number of unmissable events, all of which will be free to attend.

It will also include the Mayflower Ceremony public commemoration event on 16 September and the following events:

  • International Field Gun Competion, 14 September: This traditional competition will have its own special event on Plymouth Hoe, with junior and senior teams competing for the prestigious title
  • The Royal Marines Rehabilitation Triathlon, 17 September: Traditionally held in Lympstone but transferred to Plymouth for this extra special year, injured serving and former tri-service men and women will compete with a swim at Tinside, cycle ride and static row on Plymouth Hoe promenade.
  • Mayflower Muster, 19 to 20 September: Expect an exciting two-day festival celebrating our military heritage in partnership with the UK, US and Dutch Armed Forces, including live displays, interactive demonstrations and a host of fun activities for families.

Public Art Installation
September 1-30, 2020
A monumental scale public art installation appearing in Plymouth

Mayflower 400 Community Sparks
2019 - 2020
Community workshops, events, music, theatre, dance and storytelling throughout the year

More details and more events can be found by clicking the links above or by exploring our events section

Visiting Plymouth

The stunning views over Plymouth Sound from the Hoe will literally take your breath away. Take a boat trip ouinto the Sound for amazing views back over the city.

Plymouth today is a melting pot of historical sites, memorials and museums - alongside a vibrant cultural scene, stunning places to eat and some of England's finest beaches are never far away. Sightseeing in Plymouth is easily done on foot - explore the Barbican, Sutton Harbour, Royal William Yard and the Hoe.

Tour guides offer walking, driving and ancestral tours in the city of Plymouth and the surrounding regions. See the attractions list below for further details.

When in Devon - a cream tea is a must – Plymouth has a great variety of restaurants and places to eat. The Gin Distillery offers tours of historic ‘Plymouth Gin’.

Visitors should head over the Tamar Bridge into Poldark's Cornwall - for more fabulous coastline, great seafood restaurants and attractions including the Eden Project.

Plymouth and the Mayflower story

The Mayflower and Speedwell were 300 miles clear of Land's End when the smaller ship once more began leaking badly and couldn't risk continuing. They turned about for Plymouth.

By this time the cramped and damp passengers had already spent up to six weeks at sea, with a fair wind and good fortune they would have hoped to be closing on their destination by then. The Speedwell was finally declared unfit for the journey. Some of the Pilgrims dropped out; the remainder crowded onto the Mayflower, which required re-provisioning, despite funds running low.

She left on 16 September with up to 30 crew and 102 passengers on board. Just under half of them were Separatists, but all the passengers came from a variety of backgrounds and places all over England and from Leiden in the Netherlands - with lots of different motivations for travelling.

It is believed the Pilgrims arrived in a Plymouth that was maritime town trading with ports and places all over England and the into the Mediterranean. Some of the bustling port of 1620 still survives today with historic buildings such as Island House, the Elizabethan House and the old customs house still standing.

Island House, situated on Southside Street, dates from between 1572 and 1600 and is reputed to be one of the houses the Pilgrims were entertained in prior their departure for the New World.

New Street Plymouth

The Elizabethan House is found on New Street (pictured above) and represented a relatively new area of the town’s development in 1620, as the street dates from 1584, the year English ships sailed to Roanoke and created England’s first colony in America.

The Protestant community were also sympathetic to the Pilgrims cause. Plymouth had a long Protestant tradition and the port had been previously used as a base for fighting Protestant England's war against Catholic Europe.

When the Speedwell and Mayflower anchored in Plymouth, many families in the town had seen their men sail off to fishing grounds in New England and Newfoundland. They were probably aware too that the end of August was too late to set sail across the Atlantic and their men were due to return home.

The ship-builders in Plymouth said the Speedwell was unfit to cross the Atlantic, the Mayflower would therefore have to travel alone. There was not enough room for everyone on board one ship but, by then, some Pilgrims had already lost heart or were simply too weak to continue the journey by sea.

But the Pilgrims pressed on, with a unimaginable difficult journey ahead of them - one that would have consequences for history that they could not have contemplated.

Supported by our national sponsors and funding partners

And our Plymouth founder partners

Plymouth Mayflower Highlights

  • Mayflower Events
  • Attractions
  • Accommodation

24-25 Mar 20

Some Call It Home

Plymouth, England

Smeatons Tower Plymouth Hoe

01 Apr 20

Opening of the Mayflower Trail

Plymouth, England

05 Apr 20

Plymouth Philharmonic Choir

Plymouth, England

08-10 May 20

Plymouth Pirate Weekend

Plymouth, England

08-31 May 20

Mayflower History Festival

Plymouth, England

10 May 20

OSTAR 2020

Plymouth, England

23 May 20

University of Plymouth Choral Society

Plymouth, England

29-31 May 20

South West Paddle Fest

Plymouth, England

Elizabethan House

01 Jun 20

Elizabethan House Opening - Plymouth

Plymouth, England

01 Jun 20

Mayflower Marine Tech Expo

Plymouth, England

03 Jun 20

Plymouth and District Organists’ Association

Plymouth, England

17 Jun 20

Plymouth Symphony Orchestra

Plymouth, England

16-20 Jun 20

This Land

Plymouth, England

20 Jun 20

Stamp Exhibition and Collectors Fair

Plymouth, England

05 Jul 20

Plymouth Philharmonic Choir

Plymouth, England

06 Jul-02 Aug 20

Settlement

Plymouth, England

25 Jul 20

Roots Up! by Street Factory

Plymouth, England

12 Jul 20

Drake's Island Swim

Plymouth, England

01 Aug-30 Sep 20

The 400

Plymouth, England

03-09 Aug 20

Pride 2020

Plymouth, England

09 Aug 20

The Mayflower 400 Breakwater Swim

Plymouth, England

Smeatons Tower Plymouth Hoe

14-20 Sep 20

Mayflower Week

Plymouth, England

19-20 Sep 20

Mayflower Muster

Plymouth, England

16 Sep 20

Mayflower Ceremony

Plymouth, England

09-16 Sep 20

Flower and Quilt Festival

Plymouth, England

01 Sep-31 Oct 20

Wampum: Stories and Shells from Native America

Plymouth, England

22 Nov 19

Directions by Marcy Saude: Decolonial Dreamscapes

Plymouth, England

28 Nov-01 Dec 19

Illuminate Plymouth 2019

Plymouth, England

Mayflower Museum

Mayflower Museum

Visitor Attraction

The Mayflower Museum explores the story of the voyage of the Pilgrims and their journey aboard the Mayflower.

The Black Friars Plymouth Gin Distillery

The Black Friars Plymouth Gin Distillery

Visitor Attraction

The oldest working gin distillery in England. The Pilgrims are thought to have dined here on the eve of the Mayflower departure.

The Mayflower Steps

Monument / Memorial

A monument to commemorate and mark the departure of the Mayflower ship from Plymouth in 1620.

Smeaton's Tower

Smeaton's Tower

Visitor Attraction

Smeaton's Tower is a memorial to celebrated civil engineer John Smeaton, designer of the third and most notable Eddystone Lighthouse.

Mount Edgcumbe House & Country Park

Mount Edgcumbe House & Country Park

Park / Open Space

Mount Edgcumbe Country Park is listed as Grade I on the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

The National Marine Aquarium

The National Marine Aquarium

Visitor Attraction

The National Marine Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the United Kingdom.

Royal William Yard

Royal William Yard

Historic Site

The Royal William Victualling Yard was the major victualling depot of the Royal Navy and an important adjunct of Devonport Dockyard.

Saltram House

Saltram House

Visitor Attraction

Refined Georgian house with a notable interior, period furnishings, porcelain and smart grounds.

Select South West Tours

Guided Walking Tour

Delivering luxurious, customisable trips For private groups.

The Box

Visitor Attraction

The Box, a state of the art museum, will open in 2020 as the flagship building for the Mayflower 400 commemorations.

Mayflower Steps

Adult tickets start at £8

Plymouth Walking Tours

Guided Walking Tour

Explore the historic city of Plymouth with the expert guides from Devon & Cornwall Tour Guides

Crowne Plaza Plymouth

Crowne Plaza Plymouth

Hotel

Overlooking Plymouth Hoe's greenery and the coastline, the Crowne Plaza Plymouth is less than 10 minutes' walk from Plymouth city centre. Panoramic views across the Plymouth Sound bay feature in the 11th-floor dining room.

Jurys Inn Plymouth

Jurys Inn Plymouth

Hotel

In the heart of the city centre adjacent to Plymouth's historic tourist quarter and shopping centre.

New Continental Hotel

New Continental Hotel

Hotel

The New Continental Hotel’s central location makes it easy to explore Plymouth's maritime delights.

Boringdon Hall Hotel and Spa

Boringdon Hall Hotel and Spa

Hotel

The 5-star Boringdon Hall Hotel and Spa is situated on the edge of Dartmoor National Park and just five minutes from Plymouth.

Copthorne Hotel

Copthorne Hotel

Hotel

The Copthorne Hotel Plymouth offers spectacular views towards the historic Barbican and Hoe areas.

The Grosvenor Plymouth

The Grosvenor Plymouth

Bed & Breakfast

Originally built in 1879 this beautiful Victorian property has been welcoming guests since 1990.

The Duke of Cornwall Hotel

The Duke of Cornwall Hotel

Hotel

Set in the heart of Britain’s Ocean City, the Duke of Cornwall is a stunning period hotel brimming with character and style.

Premier Inn Sutton Harbour

Premier Inn Sutton Harbour

Hotel

Dream of life on the open waves with Premier Inn Hotel Plymouth City Centre (Sutton Harbour). Just minutes from Plymouth's bustling shops and buzzing nightlife you're in a great location.

Travelodge Plymouth

Travelodge Plymouth

Hotel

Travelodge Plymouth is in the heart of the city, a short walk from the breathtaking views of Plymouth Sound from Hoe Park.

1620

1620

Hotel

1620 will be a landmark redevelopment on the iconic facade of Plymouth Hoe.

News

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