Hello again everyone and welcome to the second instalment of my guide to different aspects of life in Plymouth. As we head nearer to Christmas and start wearing woolly jumpers and big coats, we start to organise ourselves in readiness for the festive season. This is why I thought I would have a chat about how great it is to live in our ocean side city. My last blog concentrated on areas and activities around our waterfront and coastline, this time, I thought I would talk about city life and all the benefits that it can bring.
I moved to Plymouth from, what is in comparison, the small county town of Taunton to join the Royal Navy in 1993, I still cannot believe that this was 30 years ago. When I got here, I was a little overwhelmed by all the amenities that were on offer and the size of the city itself. I wouldn’t consider myself a country boy, but I guess at this time in my life I really was and I found the transition exhilarating.
There were restaurants, shops, cinemas, pubs, clubs, parks, and lots of traffic. It is true that I used to walk miles to the bus stop to get a bus to school as a kid, here every area had its own school, sometimes two or three all within a few minutes’ walk away, but the biggest change for me was the socializing aspect of the city.
The Barbican was, is and will always be a mecca for socializing, especially in the summer and even more so on bank holidays, as it is the place where so many people congregate for meeting with friends and having a drink or three. Many people start a good afternoon out closer to their houses and most seem to end up following a well-trodden trail to the Barbican where you can sit, chat, eat or dance until the sun sets and further in to the evening. There is something for everyone, from cocktail bars, pubs, clubs and some really great restaurants as well.
For me, I do love a wander around the cobbled streets of The Barbican looking around the antique and curiosity shops and the odd charity shop as well. If you wander off the beaten track, there are some real gems there waiting to be explored like artists’ studios, tea rooms and the odd psychic to tell you your destiny.
The one thing that I have noticed since living in Plymouth for over three decades now is how much things really do change. What was Bretonside Bus Depot is now The Barcode, a large complex for people to go and enjoy themselves. There are burger bars, restaurants, cocktails and drinks, cinema, childrens’ activity centre and parking all in one place, what could be simpler or easier.
Drake Circus is the largest shopping complex for Plymouth and has retail and food outlets over three floors. I do feel that this facility could benefit from having some bigger named brands in there but for what it is, you can find most of what you need. Clothes, books, food, toiletries, eateries, jewellers, foot wear or just coffees, you can find all here as well as the added benefit of onsite parking.
Mutley and North Hill have a younger / student vibe with lots of bars and coffee shops to suit all wallets with the addition of one of the city’s newest attractions – The Box. This is Plymouth’s biggest art gallery and cultural centre, which is now home to thousands of fascinating objects from all around the world and includes many local exhibits spotlighting Plymouth’s heritage and achievements. Plymouth prides itself on its arts and culture and regularly hosts many exhibitions and events throughout the year. This is the second time I have mentioned The Box, but I still have no favourites or prejudices for places to go or things to do in Plymouth.
It is around this time of year that Plymouth sets up the Christmas Market on the city centres piazza. Plymouth Christmas Market will run from 30th November to 17th December this year and will be sure to have lots of festive treats on offer. The last Christmassy thing is the panto, oh no it’s not, oh yes, it is! Every year it keeps audiences enthralled right through to the new year, but not many people realise that there is usually another panto / Christmas show at the Barbican Theatre or you might want to go to one of the many other Christmas shows that are put on by local am-dram societies.
This year Cross Keys Estates are proudly sponsoring Zak the Zombie and the Christmas Repair Shop, a production by the very talented Theatre of Boom. I can’t wait to see this as some of my closest friends have not only written it but also taken starring roles in the performances and before you say anything, YES, I am being a little bias, but what else do you expect when you come to realise just what a friendly and sociable lot of people Plymothians truly are.
I hope you have all enjoyed reading this and look forward to writing part 3 for you.
Take care everyone and have a very Merry Christmas.
Hello again folks, as we well and truly leave summer behind us, I thought I would take a moment to inform as many people as possible about what a great summer we had here in Plymouth.
Plymouth residents actually originate from lots of different areas, mostly due to the naval personnel that relocate here and bring their families down here to live with them but also the student population that come down here to study and find that they love the place so much that they decide to make it their home.
It is said that Plymouth has the most beautiful natural harbour in the world, so let’s start with our coastline and waterways. There is something on offer for everyone, whether it is coastal path walks, horse riding on beaches, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, motor sports, sea swimming, scuba diving, fossil hunting or just plain sitting down and looking out to sea, there is more than enough to take your fancy.
How about taking an afternoon on Plymouth Boat Trips? Did you know that you can hire a boat for a river cruise, corporate event, birthdays, anniversaries, romantic sunset cruises or even if you want to scatter a loved one’s ashes at sea. I have personally used them on multiple occasions for entertaining family friends and clients alike and every time, it has been a huge success. I have also hired Plymouth Rib Rides for a birthday treat for a member of the family, it was brilliant exhilarating fun.
Another favourite of mine is a bit more relaxed, take a trip on the historic foot passenger ferry from Stonehouse to The Rame Peninsula, loved for centuries by all who have travelled on her, the Cremyll Ferry is one of Plymouth’s true gems even if the crossing only takes eight minutes, the stunning backdrop of Royal William Yard and Plymouth Sound are definitely going to be a memory that you will treasure.
Being on the coastline of Devon, Plymouth has a number of marinas with incredible views and some offering an array of places to eat and attractions to give you that sense of a real coastal holiday experience. The surrounding towns and villages of Plymouth have some of the most spectacular sandy beaches, perfect for basking in the sun, water sports or crab fishing.
Keeping to the water theme, what about a day at the aquarium? The National Marine Aquarium, to give it its full title, was opened in May 1998. It is the largest aquarium in the UK and is home to over 5,000 marine animals. It acts as an educational institution by teaching visitors about the marine environment but is so much more and really good fun for all the family. Located in Sutton Harbour beside Plymouth Fish Market. If you cross the foot bridge over to the historic Barbican, there are lots of interesting and varied attractions from antique shops, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, tourist shops and of course the famous 15th Century Mayflower Steps where the Pilgrims set off for America in 1620.
Plymouth has 37 ancient monuments including boundary stone, milestones and other key markers which add a huge amount of interest to any budding history buffs looking in to the local landscape heritage. There is a Plymouth Trails app that you can download to make this an interesting and fun day for the family.
For those of you who like the arts, then Plymouth is definitely the place for you to come and visit. One of my personal favourite places is the Theatre Royal, located on Royal Parade. Such an obviously identifiable building with its striking architecture and the iconic statue of Messenger looming tall to the front of the building at 7 meters tall. This beautiful work of art was created by a Cornish artist, Joseph Hillier, and depicts an actress in a crouching position about to run on to a stage.
This installation was commissioned by the theatre and was unveiled to the public in 2019 as part of Plymouth City’s Mayflower 400 celebrations. We are very lucky to have such a fantastic theatre in our city as we are often privileged to have productions debut here before they go on national tours as we also have TR2 (Theatre Royal 2). This is a Production and Learning Centre on the bank of the River Plym. It contains set, costume, prop-making and rehearsal facilities for new productions as well as being one of the biggest education and outreach programmes for a regional venue in the UK.
One of the city’s newest attractions is The Box. Plymouth’s biggest art gallery and cultural centre which is now home to thousands of fascinating objects from all around the world and includes many local exhibits spotlighting Plymouth’s heritage and achievements. Plymouth prides itself on its arts and culture and regularly hosts many exhibitions and events throughout the year.
If you are happy to drive just a few minutes north of the city you’ll find one of the finest and largest national parks in Britain – Dartmoor! What a fantastical mesmerizing place this is, so much so, I will keep this one for my next blog about our fabulous City of Plymouth…