‘Staycation’ – yet another newly-invented, dictionary-added word to describe the holiday trend of this season. More and more people, for various reasons, are choosing to stay in their home countries or cities for their vacations rather than going abroad. I went on such a holiday to what is undeniably England’s best-kept secret – Devon. More specifically, Plymouth.
“Let Me Entertain You”
Presumed to be a sleepy town, one can be forgiven for expecting a quiet seaside resort but there is so much to do, we couldn’t fit everything in! We did a lot from boat trips, to bicycle tours, to the requisite museum visit, to gin tours – and more. Plymouth is a city steeped in interesting history.
For example, Black Friars Distillery, home to Plymouth Gin, was originally a Dominican Order monastery built in 1431 and is now world-renowned for the gin produced onsite. Only two people, at present, know the exact blend of the oils needed to create the gin.
Also did you know that Pocahontas was a real person and the native American princess arrived in Plymouth from the New World in 1616? The history in this beautiful place is as rich as its views, opportunities and local pride and the world seems to be waking to that fact as MTV took notice bringing MTV Crashes Plymouth to Britain’s Ocean City.
MTV Crashes Plymouth, in its first year in 2014, brought some incredible talent to Plymouth’s iconic Hoe mixed in with the stunning backdrop of Plymouth Sound – to provide locals and visitors a night to remember.
The headline act, Kaiser Chiefs, were unbelievable live – and the other acts such as Rewire and Vasky were amazing in getting the crowd moving and singing along.
This year’s MTV Crashes Plymouth two-day concert programme, spread over 22nd and 23rd July, kicks off on Plymouth Hoe with a star-studded line-up including X Factor Winners, Little Mix, London rapper, Tinie Tempah, and Irish rockers Kodaline on day one while Dutch wonder-kid, Oliver Heldens, will headline day two and play an exclusive South West show to the MTV crowd. He will be joined by American electro house superstar, Steve Aoki, dance music heavyweight, Deorro, and chart toppers DJ Fresh, Route 94 & David Zowie.
Tickets can be purchased at www.seetickets.com
For more information on MTV Crashes Plymouth visit www.mtv.co.uk/mtv-crashes-plymouth
For more information on visiting Plymouth go to www.visitplymouth.co.uk
Where I Laid My Head
Surrounded by natural and man-made beauty, close to the city centre but far enough away to experience the stillness of nature, the Moorland Garden Hotel is definitely the place to stay. On my final day, I went on a long walk with some of my fellow travellers in Dartmoor National Park and it was breath-taking (with some wild ponies joining us along the way). I stayed in the Honeymoon Suite and was provided with a complimentary fruit basket and one of the best views on my personal balcony. Sleeping in a bed other than my own is always something I struggle with. I had no such qualms at this hotel – comfortable, clean and luxurious.
You know those places where breakfast is often included and it’s not really anything to write home about? Not the Moorland Garden Hotel. Not only do they have a fresh catch of any seafood locally delivered, they have an in-house chef, Bruce, who has an extensive background in the industry – and is passionate about what he does. Believe me, my palate could tell. The Wildflower Restaurant, as with the ornate Rose Arbour, are recent additions as part of some much-needed renovations. Local couple Brian and Sonia Meaden took on that mammoth task four years ago as part of a retirement project and the changes are significant and well worth a visit – or even as a wedding venue – as they recently got their licence to perform outdoor ceremonies.
Moorland Garden Hotel
Yelverton, Dartmoor, PL20 6DA. Tel: 01822 852245.
Located in ‘War Horse’ country, on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, just minutes away from Plymouth city centre, Moorland Garden Hotel is the perfect bolthole for a Plymouth break. Garden Rooms at the Moorland Garden Hotel start from £110.00 per night with breakfast. The hotel offers complimentary car parking and free Wi-Fi for all guests.
Moorland Garden Hotel, Yelverton, Dartmoor, PL20 6DA. Tel: 01822 852245.
Awarded ‘Best Restaurant in the South West’ at the Taste of the West 2013 Awards, the Wildflower Restaurant has large windows with views of the moorland garden and its own al-fresco dining terrace in warmer weather. With a traditional British menu, using only the best in locally-sourced produce, the menus change regularly and the wine list is carefully chosen to suit all palates. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.
Food, Glorious Food
There is no shortage of places to eat in Plymouth, but two places deserve honourable mentions for their delicious options and environmentally-friendly captures. The Boathouse Café, owned and started by Ben Squire, is first up. You can take a morning fishing trip and allow the Boathouse Café to cook your catch or simply take a leisurely boat trip, after your meal, in one of the largest natural harbours in the world – Plymouth Sound. The Plymouth Boat Trips started out as an idea 19 years ago, when Ben was 20, as he started taking people on tours in his fishing boat. He always loved fishing and cooking and combined the two options four years ago, opening up the Boathouse Café, close to the Barbican Landing Stage.
Next is the Rockfish Restaurant, rented to famous chef Mitch Tonks, by the National Aquarium. Only two years old, this restaurant has proven quite popular with locally-sourced fresh catches, while sustaining the environment. I had the Dartmouth Platter with monkfish, hake and plaice and it was absolutely delicious and so filling I could barely walk afterwards.
3 Rope Walk, Sutton Harbour, Plymouth, PL1 0LB. Tel: 01752 255974.
Celebrity chef, Mitch Tonks and his long-time friend Mat Prowse, opened the first Rockfish in Dartmouth. Good seafood is worth travelling for and there is no better place to eat it than by the sea. The location of Rockfish in Plymouth couldn’t be better for seafood lovers, overlooking the ocean and right next door to the National Marine Aquarium.
2-5 Commercial Wharf, Barbican, Plymouth. Tel: 01752 600560.
The Boathouse Cafe is an award-winning seafood cafe and restaurant, set in a unique location in the fisherman’s arches on the Mayflower Steps, just a stone’s throw from Plymouth’s historic Barbican. Their specialty is fresh fish and shellfish, sustainably caught by their own day boat, The Southern Star, along with a changing menu of meat and vegetarian dishes, made using locally-sourced, seasonal produce.
Plymouth Boat Trips
2-5 Commercial Wharf, Barbican, Plymouth. Tel: 01752 253153.
Plymouth’s premier fishing, ferry and cruising company offering Sound and Tamar cruising, speedboat trips and fishing trips including Cook your Catch with Fish ‘N’ Trips. Trips depart from the Barbican landing stage. Daily one-hour cruise tickets cost £7.50 for adults and £4.00 for children. A three hour Fish ‘N’ Trips boat fishing tour costs from £25 per person for three hours.
The National Aquarium is the largest UK aquarium that is also a charity, self-funded by ticket sales. It not only offers a vast range of sea life but it has played a significant role in conservation in the area and in providing a curriculum-based education for any children interested in marine wildlife. The Plymouth area is home to some of the most famous UK wrecks for divers to explore. Over 10 years ago, the National Aquarium was part of the creation of an artificial reef of the HMS Scylla of Whitsands Bay. We were given a tour of the facilities by Josh and found Nemo, among other great wildlife, and it is definitely a highlight of my trip.
National Marine Aquarium
Rope Walk, Coxside, Plymouth. Tel: 0844 893 7938.
The award-winning National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth is the UK’s largest aquarium, offering a fascinating insight into the underwater world, from the shores of Plymouth to the coral reefs of the tropics. A huge variety of sea creatures can be found including over 70 sharks. A registered charity, the aquarium is committed to research and conservation and offers educational programmes for schools across the UK. Adult tickets: £14.75, child tickets: £10.75 (aged four-15 years) and a family ticket (two adults, two children): £43.
Plymouth Gin Distillery Tour At Black Friars Distillery
Black Friars Gin Distillery, 60 Southside Street, The Barbican, Plymouth. Tel: 01752 665292.
Plymouth is home to the famous Black Friars Distillery, the oldest gin distillery in England, which dates back to 1793. The distillery is the home of Plymouth Gin and is located in the Barbican. The Plymouth Gin Distillery tour costs £7.00 per person and provides a fascinating 40-minute overview of the history of the distillery as well as an introduction to how Plymouth Gin is made. At the end of every tour, visitors are given a voucher to enjoy a Plymouth gin and tonic in the Distillery’s Refectory bar or take home a miniature bottle of Plymouth Gin.
Bike Hire With Rockets And Rascals
7 The Parade, Barbican, Plymouth. Tel: 01752 221295.
Rockets And Rascals offers bike hire for adults and children. Cycling is a great way to explore the city as well as travel beyond its main streets and discover some of Plymouth’s best parks, outdoor spaces and historical areas. The bikes feature lightweight, alloy frames, easy to use gears and comfortable saddles and handlebars as well as puncture-resistant tyres, mudguards and decent quality brakes, so riders can feel relaxed and safe. They also offer a fleet of mountain and road bikes for more serious cyclists who wish to go further afield or take on the local mountain bike trails. Every single bike in their fleet is fully checked before each hire, in the unlikely event of a problem they are always at the end of the phone and a replacement bike can be delivered to you.
First Great Western
Advance single fares from London Paddington to Plymouth start at £20.50 For the best value tickets and offers buy before you board at www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk, download their mobile app or telephone 03457 000125.