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For­mally home to a monastery, the Ply­mouth Gin Dis­tillery opened in 1793. Also known as the Black Fri­ars dis­tillery, it is the old­est work­ing gin dis­tillery in Eng­land. in­tent on in­vad­ing Eng­land. It might have been the re­sult of a laid-back English­ness but more likely a lo­cal knowl­edge of winds and tides which lead him to con­clude that, be­fore the in­va­sion, there was am­ple time to fin­ish the game. A cen­tral fea­ture on this grassy ex­panse is the glo­ri­ous 72 feet-high Smeaton’s Tower, a red and white look-out re­built here in the 1880’s when its orig­i­nal 1759 func­tion, as the fa­bled Ed­dy­s­tone Light­house, be­came im­pos­si­ble through the sea’s ero­sion of the rock on which it was built. Although there has been a naval dock­yard at Ply­mouth since the 1690s, as ev­i­denced by the im­pres­sive Royal Ci­tadel over­look­ing the Sound, the late-ge­or­gian splen­dour of the ‘Royal Wil­liam Yard’ is not to be missed. This im­por­tant group­ing of Grade 1 listed naval build­ings has be­come the hub of the city’s cul­tural and per­form­ing arts scene, as well as of­fer­ing re­tail ther­apy from its many in­de­pen­dent traders and nour­ish­ment in its pave­ment cafés and lounge bars. So many fa­mous peo­ple, like Henry VIII’S Cather­ine of Aragon in 1501, the na­tive Amer­i­can princess Po­co­hon­tas in 1616 and the re­turn­ing Tolpud­dle Mar­tyrs, in 1838, have first set foot on English soil at Ply­mouth and many have de­parted, among them Napoleon, en route to St He­lena, the sci­en­tist Charles Dar­win and ex­plorer Cap­tain Cook. You don’t have to be fa­mous to visit but, if you need a rea­son, 2020 sees the 400th an­niver­sary of the de­par­ture of those in­trepid 1620 pioneers, from whom mil­lions of US cit­i­zens proudly claim de­scent. A glit­ter­ing ar­ray of 400th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions is al­ready planned and in de­tailed prepa­ra­tion. To the west, over the River Ta­mar via Isam­bard King­dom Brunel’s mag­nif­i­cent 1854 ‘Royal Al­bert’ rail­way bridge, lies our rugged, west­ern­most county, Corn­wall, but stay in Ply­mouth for more sur­prises. A few traces re­main of Fran­cis Drake’s ven­ture, when Lord Mayor, to build a 17.5 miles aque­duct (Drake’s Leat), osten­si­bly to bring fresh Dart­moor wa­ter to the res­i­dents but more likely a lu­cra­tive power-source for his mills! Visit the Stir­ling & Son ship­yard, with the old­est cov­ered slip­way in the world, in use since 1763, or see the awe­some live ex­hibits at the Na­tional Marine Aquar­ium. Of course, it is the sea which dom­i­nates, whether it be for swim­ming and sail­ing, boat trips around the Sound, the an­nual Fast­net race or sim­ply for the spec­tac­u­lar views. A warm West-coun­try wel­come awaits!

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