Nature, history, culture and commerce combine for a buyer’s paradise on the south coast.
Plymouth in Devon is the biggest port city on England’s south coast. Known as Britain’s Ocean City, it’s proud of its maritime history – and rightly so. But there’s more to Plymouth than perhaps meets the eye.
It has a lively cultural scene, the highly-regarded Plymouth University (it was awarded a Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2012, and is the first modern university to found a medical and dental school) and excellent links with tech firms.
And it’s a stone’s throw from Devon’s rugged coastline and wild moors.
Living in Plymouth: what to expect
With 40% green space, Plymouth is the greenest city in the UK. And it sits on the edge of Dartmoor National Park and the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where there’s no shortage of hiking, horse riding and rock climbing opportunities.
Plymouth is also THE place for watersports. Sailing, scuba diving and surfing are among the many activities on offer at schools and clubs in the city and dotted along the local coastline.
And if it’s bucket and spade fun that you’re after, look up the excellent beaches around Plymouth, including Plymouth Hoe – East and West - and Mothecombe in Devon, and Portwrinkle and Downderry in nearby Cornwall.
Despite being heavily bombed during the Second World War, Plymouth still has a preserved historical heart. In fact, it has more cobbled streets than anywhere else in England, with some in the Barbican district dating back to the sixteenth century.
And rather handily, Plymouth’s broadband ranks in the top 10 nationally when it comes to coverage, with 97% of city premises able to use superfast connections, according to the city council.
Where to start your property search
City centre: You’ll find shiny new housing developments along the city waterfront, in areas such as Millbay, Barbican and Plymouth Hoe. But expect to pay a premium for a property with sea views.
If you’d prefer a period property, consider Plymouth Hoe, where there are rows of Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses.
And for other historical homes, why not opt for one of the areas undergoing regeneration? Royal William Yard, previously owned by the Royal Navy, has been converted into a mix of homes and commercial premises.
Suburbs: The north east suburb of Plympton, (a constituency held by both Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Joshua Reynolds) has easy access to both moors and city, offering the best of both worlds. With its own swimming pool and cricket club (including a thriving women’s team), its residents recently beat nearby Plymstock into second place in the Plymouth Herald happiness survey.
Other suburbs to look at in the north of the city, where there is a range of period terraced houses and flats and 1930s semi-detached family homes, include Peverell, Mannamead, Hartley, Stoke and Crownhill.
Coastal: If you’re looking for a fisherman’s cottage, nip over the county border into Cornwall. St Germans, based on the River Tiddy, has a community shop and post office, a sailing club, a fine priory and its own train station. The villages of Trematon and Cargreen, near Saltash (the Cornish side of the Tamar Bridge), are favourites with commuters who prefer to drive.
Countryside: If you yearn for stone cottages, moorland farmhouses and barns, put the villages of Yelverton, Crapstone, Whitchurch and Grenofen, north of Plymouth, and the town of Tavistock, which has its own farmers’ market, on your map.
Getting around and about Plymouth
Car: The main road that cuts through Plymouth is the A38. It’s a major trunk road that runs from Bodmin in Cornwall to Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. The A30 to the north offers alternative routes via Okehampton in Devon and Launceston in Cornwall.
Air: Pressure groups are pushing to get the city’s own public airport re-opened. The closest alternatives are airports in Exeter and Bristol which, between them, offer around 200 international flights via Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin and Paris.
Sea: You can take a ferry to a variety of destinations, including Cawsand and Cremyll in Cornwall, and Mount Batten, a 600-metre peninsula in Plymouth Sound, Devon.
If you fancy venturing abroad, Brittany Ferries runs services to Roscoff in France and Santander in northern Spain. Or you can sail wherever you choose after berthing your craft at one of the many marinas in the city.
Things to do in and around Plymouth
The Barbican and Sutton Harbour form the historical heart of Plymouth.
A maze of narrow, cobbled streets and alley ways, Barbican is home to art galleries, boutique shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants – and more than 200 listed buildings. It’s also where Black Friars Distillery, the working home of Plymouth Gin since 1793, and the oldest working gin distillery in England, is located.
Sutton Harbour is Plymouth’s picturesque harbour and marina. If you’re interested in the city’s maritime heritage, visit the Mayflower Steps, where the Pilgrim Fathers are thought to have left England in search of a new life in America in 1620, and trace the journeys of explorers James Cook and Sir Francis Drake. You’ll also find the National Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the country with more than 40 sharks.
If you’re a foodie, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Canteen & Deli at Royal William Yard will no doubt already be on your radar. Also look out for the Rock Salt Café and Brasserie, which was rated one of the best places to eat for under £20 by the Sunday Times. Visit the Cowlick Creamery tricycle for a quick ice-cream fix, grab an open-air coffee at the Quay Café in Sutton Harbour area or pop in to Tigermilk speakeasy cocktail bar, tucked away under the Duke of Cornwall hotel in Plymouth. You’ll have to ring a doorbell to gain access.
For retail therapy, look no further than Drake Circus shopping centre, which boasts more than 70 top brands all under one roof. For arts, crafts and more independent stores, opt for the Barbican.
At Plymouth Hoe, a large south-facing area in the city dubbed the Hoe, you’ll find Tinside Lido. The city’s iconic waterfront 1935 Art Deco lido is considered one of the top 10 outdoor pools in Europe. And nearby is Smeaton’s Tower, one of the world’s most famous lighthouses, built by John Smeaton in 1759.
There’s also a range of events to keep you entertained, including the Plymouth Pirate Weekend and the British Firework Championships, thought to be the country’s most spectacular fireworks display.
Trematon Castle (now owned by the Duchy of Cornwall) is where seafaring hero Sir Francis allegedly stashed his treasure before taking it up the Thames to Queen Elizabeth I.
4 Reasons to live in Plymouth:
- Watersports and outdoor activities
- Historic waterfront and naval heritage
- Tinside Lido, a beautiful Art Deco outdoor swimming pool
- Foodie culture, with River Cottage Canteen & Deli and Black Friars Distillery, the working home of Plymouth Gin, both in the city