Visiting Plymouth, England

Plymouth - Britain's Ocean City

Plymouth has a reputation as a centre for voyage, discovery and military importance. For more than a thousand years the spectacular waterfront has been a port of call or point of departure for adventurers, emigrants, merchant traders, soldiers and sailors. Including, of course, the departure point of the Mayflower, marked by the Mayflower Steps.

In 2020 ‘The Box’ will open as a flagship museum and cultural centre for the region. The Box will house archives and a dedicated Mayflower exhibition.

The stunning views over Plymouth Sound from the Hoe will literally take your breath away. Take a boat trip ouinto the Sound - as the Pilgrims did - for amazing views back over the city. Plymouth boat trips offer a boat trip with Mayflower commentary.

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 of 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 ‘Plymouth Gin’ and was used by the Pilgrims the nights prior to their final departure.

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

The Mayflower 400 programme in Plymouth

Plymouth is developing a world-class culture and heritage programme for Mayflower 400 in 2020. Investment and support from Plymouth City Council combines with wider private/public sector investment to deliver a transformational year for the city. Highlights include:

  • The Mayflower Ceremony, a four-nations civic ceremony commemorating the Mayflower’s journey and legacy on the day of the Mayflower’s departure, attended by representatives from the UK, US, Netherlands and Wampanoag
  • The Mayflower Muster; as one the world’s foremost Naval bases, with a history stretching back to 1691, Plymouth will celebrate this heritage in partnership with the US and Dutch Armed Forces to create a spectacular festival including live displays, interactive demonstrations and a host of other activity
  • A £5m+ investment in heritage trails and public realm spaces, which will provide a major uplift to the city’s visitor offer. This will include improvements to the Mayflower Steps and three new trails exploring the city’s Mayflower history and wider heritage including Drake, Cook and its role in World War II and subsequent reconstruction
  • The opening of The Box, the city’s new £45m+ cultural hub. Alongside the Mayflower Exhibition, this will launch with a range of supplementary Mayflower content that will critically explore the multi-faceted legacy of the journey. Alongside this, over £1.5m is being invested in the Elizabethan House, one of Plymouth’s oldest remaining buildings. This will open as a new attraction in the vicinity of the Mayflower Steps in 2020, telling the story of the historic Barbican area from the time of the Pilgrims through to the present day
  • The Mayflower Ocean Festival, which will run from the 4th to the 10th of May. This will celebrate Plymouth’s status as Britain’s Ocean City Festival, bringing together the world-class transatlantic Transat, OSTAR and TWOSTAR races with the city’s existing Pirates Weekend and a host of new activities that will get people on the water
  • The Mayflower Makers volunteer programme, co-ordinated by Improving Lives Plymouth. This aims to train over 400 volunteers to deliver 100,000 hours of volunteering in support of the commemoration
  • The Mayflower 400 Community Sparks Fund, which will see around £150,000 invested in local organisations to deliver their own content for the commemoration. To date around £35k has been awarded to enable the delivery of projects including an international Morris Dancing meet, new town crier, international quilting competition and more
  • Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Mayflower production, delivered in partnership with the Wampanoag Tribe and Seth Lakeman. This will involve 2,000 members of the community on both sides of the Atlantic, and tell the Mayflower story from multiple perspectives
  • A programme of cultural content created specifically for the Mayflower 400 commemorations, including a visual arts production entitled Settlement by the Conscious Sisters, Le Navet Bete’s satirical play The Special Relationship and a series of musical performances delivered by the Plymouth Music Accord. This will augment Plymouth’s existing events calendar, with already includes some exceptional content including the British Fireworks Championship and Flavour Fest

 

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, damp and miserable passengers had already spent up to six weeks at sea basically getting nowhere, 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, the rest were 'economic migrants' - skilled tradespeople sent by the investors to help build the new colony.

It is believed the Pilgrims received a warm welcome in Plymouth. Those that did not live on board ship probably stayed in or visited houses around the quay such as Island House and the Elizabethan House. These buildings still stand today.

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.

The Elizabethan House, situated on New Street, was called London House when it was built in the 1580s. It may have been the Plymouth offices of the London Company of Virginia. Today it is called the Elizabethan House because it was built in the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

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.

Furthermore, Plymouth people were deeply interested in the Pilgrims destination. 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 and sick to continue the journey by sea.

Supported by our national sponsors and funding partners

And our Plymouth founder partners

Plymouth Mayflower Highlights

  • Mayflower Events
  • Attractions
  • Accommodation

01 Apr 20

The Box opens to the public for the first time

Plymouth, England

Smeatons Tower Plymouth Hoe

01 Apr 20

Opening of the Mayflower Trail

Plymouth, England

08-10 May 20

Plymouth Pirate Weekend

Plymouth, England

One Small Candle Tour Guides at St Andrews Church, Plymouth

01 May 20

Mayflower History Festival

Plymouth, England

04-10 May 20

Mayflower Ocean Festival

Plymouth, England

10 May 20

OSTAR 2020

Plymouth, England

23 May 20

University of Plymouth Choral Society

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

01-30 Jun 20

A production by Theatre Royal Plymouth and the Wampanoag

Plymouth, England

05 Jul-26 Nov 18

Plymouth Philharmonic Choir

Plymouth, England

06 Jul-02 Aug 20

Settlement

Plymouth, England

01 Aug-30 Sep 20

The Special Relationship

Plymouth, England

08 Aug 20

Pride 2020

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

01 Nov-30 Nov 20

Directions by Marcy Saude

Plymouth, England

04-31 May 19

Plymouth History Festival

Plymouth, England

01-31 Dec 19

Roots Up! by Street Factory

Plymouth, England

05 Aug 19

Rolex Fastnet Race 2019

Plymouth, England

22-25 Nov 18

Illuminate light festival 2018 - Plymouth

Plymouth, England

Plymouth Christmas Lights

15 Nov 18

Plymouth Christmas Lights Switch-On

Plymouth, England

29 Nov-16 Dec 18

Plymouth Christmas Market

Plymouth, England

03 Dec-03 Jan 19

Penguins: A LEGO brick trail

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.

Elizabethan House

Elizabethan House

Visitor Attraction

The Elizabethan House is a historic property laid out in the style of a merchant or sea captain’s home from the 1600s. The house is currently closed due to essential conservation work.

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.

Newlyn, Cornwall

Historic Site

The Mayflower is thought to have made a final unexpected stop at Newlyn, Cornwall to take a supply of fresh water on board.

Unique Devon Tours

Guided Walking Tour

Unique Devon Tours organises fascinating and entertaining holidays for small groups in this beautiful and intriguing area of England.

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.

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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