Memories of Plymouth, Devon, UK
Plymouth City Centre
My Hometown: Plymouth
I lived in Plymouth, Devon, UK for the first twenty-one years of my life before relocating to London. It was only many years later that I fully came to appreciate the place where I grew up. My childhood and teenage memories have always been good ones; I could even go as far to say that I was privileged to live in such an idyllic setting, although I constantly wanted to get away from the place in search of new experiences in the days of my youth. Returning as a visitor with my own children made me realise what I'd taken for granted when I was young.
Sometimes I ask myself: why did I ever leave if everything there was as good as could be found anywhere in the UK? The only answer was that it must have been the lure of the capital and the opportunity to trade familiarity for something completely different.
Drake's Island in Plymouth Sound
Plymouth is one of England's finest cities by the sea. There's no lack of places to visit on an evening or weekend and in the summer the thought of venturing out and about becomes even more appealing. There's not only the chance to picnic in the verdant Devon countryside by the edge of a babbling brook but it's also possible to sunbathe on one of a vast choice of beaches; this is due to the mild West Country climate where even palm trees thrive. The warm water of the Gulf Stream blesses South Devon and Cornwall with a sub-tropical climate which the rest of the UK seldom enjoys.
Living in Plymouth which has a wealth of marine history gave me a zest for travel and a love of the sea from an early age. The sea made me aware that there was a world out there to be discovered and the older harbour area known as the Barbican instilled in me a keen interest in the past. Although Plymouth is steeped in history, it's now one of the most modern cities in Europe. This is because of the extensive bombing sustained during World War II. The city centre was virtually destroyed when The Luftwaffe dropped its bombs on Devonport Naval base. After the war, Plymouth City Council designed an ambitious new Civic Centre that would rise like a phoenix from the ashes to surpass its former glory.
Growing up here was a sheer delight and it was all too easy to take all this for granted along with the glorious, unspoiled beaches and the invigorating, fresh sea air. Many places in the UK which I've since visited leave a lot to be desired. The industrial cities of the north with their huge factory chimneys belching out toxic fumes are a world away from the clean, modern city I grew up in.
The Mayflower Steps
Visitors From the USA Love Plymouth!
Visitors from the USA are unlikely to miss a visit to Plymouth purely because this is where the Pilgrim fathers set sail for 'The New World' in 1620. Many Americans come here in search of their roots, especially those who live in the New England States. The Barbican area is full of quaint little curio shops and inviting restaurants and it's possible to stand at the exact spot where The Pilgrim fathers began their voyage. There is also The National Marine Aquarium which draws in plenty of tourists all year round.
In any tourist shop in Devon, you will no doubt find a postcard which says: 'Welcome to dear old Devon—the sunniest place this side of Heaven.' So it came as no surprise to me when the county was voted the best county in England in a survey by Country Life Magazine. Oh dear, I thought; now that Devon has achieved this enviable status it could upset the Cornish no end and they might storm over the Tamar Bridge to invade!
There is everything here for the discerning holidaymaker and it is the wide variety of activities on offer and the year-round availability of many different holidays to suit all tastes and pockets that have earned Devon its coveted title. From pony trekking and hiking in the wilds of Dartmoor to the more relaxing beach-centred holidays in places like the main resorts of Paignton and Torquay, there is something for everyone.
In winter what could be more appealing than a Devon cottage break with the warmth of a welcoming log fire and a stream running past your window outside?
The county is well served by rail and road links and there's an international airport near the county town of Exeter. Devon can also be reached from mainland Europe by sea. Approaching from Spain, the Santander car ferry takes twenty-four hours to reach Plymouth but from France, the journey from Roscoff takes only five hours.
The Hoe Seafront
Devon Is an Ideal Place for a Beach Holiday
Devon has always been popular with tourists from the rest of England who come in their hordes during the summer months to enjoy the milder climate for their traditional beach-based break. The third largest county in England and the only one with two separate coastlines, Devon offers an abundance of beaches and sheltered coves to explore. To the north, there is the shorter, rockier coast facing the Atlantic Ocean and the Bristol Channel, with the Exmoor National Park for a backdrop and to the south, Devon's longest coastline borders the English Channel. The latter enjoys a more temperate climate due to the warm waters of The Gulf Stream and both coastlines offer excellent walks, cycling and beach-based activities. The beaches are clean, accessible and offer some of the safest bathing in the country. From the red, sandy beaches of Dawlish and Goodrington Sands in the south to the pebbly coves around Combe Martin and Ilfracombe in the north, there's no lack of choice. There's also a plethora of caravan parks offering family-orientated holidays and no shortage of guest house accommodation along the seashore. Whether you choose to stay in a luxury seafront hotel or a quaint, little, thatched cottage, there'll be an ideal location for you to sample the coastal delights of Devon.
Brentor Church on Dartmoor
Dartmoor and Exmoor
For those who appreciate natural unspoilt landscape and a glimpse of moorland wildlife, a trip to Devon's interior is a must. Here you can see Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies in their natural habitat and spot badgers and foxes without having to stray too far from the beaten track.
You'll be enchanted by many a moorland tale such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was set on Dartmoor and Lorna Doone, R.D. Blackmore's Exmoor-based novel.
It's not difficult to see why visitors return to Devon year after year. For further ideas for fun-filled Devon holidays, this season Visit Devon.co.uk is a helpful site to check out.
The Roake Colonies Plaque
Food and Drink
A trip to Devon is incomplete without a traditional Devonshire cream tea. In every countryside and seaside tea room, you will be able to enjoy the delights of a homemade scone lavishly smothered with butter and jam and topped with a dollop of clotted cream. Dairy products and clotted cream fudge and toffees taste so good here due to the quality of the Devon grass which receives just the right amount of rain and sunshine to nourish the dairy herds.
Other culinary delights include 'Salcombe Smokies' which are smoked mackerel served with thickly buttered brown bread and horseradish sauce and seafood specialties which include crabs, lobsters and prawns as their main ingredients are always on the menu. Rich pastries and cakes are always available and other West Country delights such as lardy cake, saffron cake and the world famous Cornish pasty can be bought on every Devon street but will be guaranteed to play havoc with your waistline if you overindulge!
A sample of Devon Cider is not to be missed. Known locally as 'Scrumpy,' this can be deceptively potent when drunk without food and is best accompanied by a traditional "Ploughmans' lunch" of bread, cheese and pickle, available in any of Devon's pubs and country Inns. Other local alcoholic drinks are the world famous Plymouth Gin produced at the Blackfriar's distillery on Plymouth's Barbican and traditional mead made from local honey which is still made to a secret recipe formulated by the monks at Buckland Monachorium in the heart of Dartmoor's National Park.
Plaque to Commemorate Darwin's Voyage to South America
Plymouth, Devon, UK
After reading this article, would you like to visit England's West Country?
© 2017 Stella Kaye