Memories of Plymouth, Devon, UK

Updated on July 22, 2017
Stella Kaye profile image

Stella is from the UK and has written many articles concerning areas she is familiar with—mostly Devon, Cornwall, Yorkshire, and London.

Plymouth City Centre

A view of Plymouth's Civic Centre
A view of Plymouth's Civic Centre | Source

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

Drake's Island is soon to be developed as a hotel and leisure complex
Drake's Island is soon to be developed as a hotel and leisure complex | Source

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

Located on the Barbican at Plymouth, The Mayflower Steps commemorate the voyage of The Pilgrim Fathers to the New World in 1620
Located on the Barbican at Plymouth, The Mayflower Steps commemorate the voyage of The Pilgrim Fathers to the New World in 1620 | Source

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.

Plymouth's Barbican

The Barbican area at Plymouth is just a short walk from the City
The Barbican area at Plymouth is just a short walk from the City | Source

Devon Details

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

Although Plymouth is not renowned for beaches, it  does offer places where swimming is possible
Although Plymouth is not renowned for beaches, it does offer places where swimming is possible | Source

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 landscape in South Devon
Dartmoor landscape in South Devon | Source

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

A plaque to commemorate the establishment of the Roake Colonies in the 'New World'
A plaque to commemorate the establishment of the Roake Colonies in the 'New World' | Source

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

Darwin sailed from Plymouth on his voyage of Discovery
Darwin sailed from Plymouth on his voyage of Discovery | Source

Plymouth, Devon, UK

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    © 2017 Stella Kaye

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        Stella Kaye 3 months ago from UK

        Thanks for your comment, Jeff, as you are knowledgeable about pre-war Plymouth, there is plenty of scope for you to perhaps write an article about it. You may be interested to know that there's a Facebook group called 'Plymouth Old Pics' where you can see many photos of the city in times past and have a chance to reminisce with others.

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        Jeff Clements MBE 3 months ago

        I was born in 1934 in Plymouth and lived there until 1964. As you may realise my memories are not always so cheery, war, sunken ships and the blitz have remained with me all my life.

        As a pupil of Hyde Park Junior mixed school I remember the bombing of the school, the air-raid shelter (still there?) in the playground and the school lunches! I believe the school still has flat roof having had the top story removed!

        Children sometimes received food packages and often they were given to those who had lost their fathers at sea, ( I was one). We all had to stand in front of the class, unthinkable now!

        The two main grammar schools were united at the time to form the 'Emergency High School' and we wore our own uniforms, I was in the first year of Devonport High School but went every day together to Sutton High School in Regent Street.

        The Sound was filled with Sunderland flying boats and later air sea rescue launches. Crippled ships limped into the harbour, a well remembered one was the liberty ship AMERICAN FARMER which had no bow.

        D Day preparations were everywhere, including the huge 'village' beyond Higher Compton with American street names (Michigan Way etc) and 'prefabs'.

        When the war ended we cheered of course but for Plymothians it was a huge sigh of relief.

        The city was a total ruin and basements of bombed shops were filled with rubble and buddleia bushes.

        The Corn Exchange Market had a huge collection of 78rpm records soon after the D Day invasion, lots of swing and jazz.

        The new design of the city centre was a great

        mistake, well meant but think of the market at one end of Royal Parade and the bus terminus at the other, and potatoes measured in stones!!

        One may still see the fake three story buildings in Cromwell Street built to match the higher buildings in Royal Parade, they were actually only two stories high!

        My memories may be inaccurate I must admit but there were numerous curiosities, Charles Church 'sunk' on a roundabout for example.

        As an art student I had a good life and lived on the Barbican in Southside Street. In those days the harbour was tidal, full of trawlers and Breton fishing boats, the singing at night was wonderful.

        I could write much more.....!

        My best wishes to anyone still alive from those days.

        Jeff

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        Arthur Russ 11 months ago from England

        Great write up of a great part of the UK. I'm from Bristol so I and my family periodically venture into Devon and Cornwall for the occasional holiday touring the area.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 11 months ago from The Caribbean

        Not from the USA, but I'll also like the Mayflower Steps. You have it all-history, geography, culture and such scenic views. Beautiful read!

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