DID YOU KNOW?
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!