"Devon's Proletarian City" Top 5 Page for this destination Plymouth by johngayton

Plymouth Travel Guide: 321 reviews and 688 photos

For the last 20-odd years Plymouth has been a place where I've variously changed trains, arrived by train and then gotten a bus to to places slightly further afield and sometimes had occasions where I've had to cool my heels for an odd day or two when my itinerant working life has had minor hiccups.

This is a city that I always enjoy - I even like the Brutalist concrete architecure of the post-WWII city centre - and every visit reveals something new.

Plymouth is Devon's largest city with a population of about a quarter of a million and is tucked in the county's south-western corner nestling against the border with Cornwall. Plymouth's development as a city is due to its location on its eponymous Sound, between the mouths of the rivers Plym and Tamar, which is one of Europe's largest natural harbours. Thus the city has a long maritime history and has been a naval dockyard for about 500 years.

It was from Plymouth that The Pilgrim Fathers sailed for America in 1620 and where Sir Francis Drake reputedly finished his game of bowls before sailing to defeat The Spanish Armada in 1588. Because of its importance as a naval dockyard it was targetted by The Luftwaffe during World War 2 and the city centre all but levelled during the 1941 blitz.

The modern Plymouth has therefore evolved from very much a "tabula rasa", beginning with the visionary 1943 "Plan For Plymouth" drawn up by the civic designer Sir Patrick Abercrombie and the city engineer James Paton Watson. The centre was rebuilt over a 20-year period and was designed specifically to be as pedestrianised as possible with the main boulevard of Armada Way, which runs straight through the centre from the railway station to The Hoe, being completely traffic-free. Whilst the concrete reconstruction is often derided as being stark and soul-less, this, to my mind, isn't a justified criticism in that the city is now a pleasant, relaxed, energetic space which is safe and accessible and above all functional.

Of course there is more to Plymouth than just its shopping centre. The Barbican area down by the old Sutton Harbour (from where The Pilgrim Fathers sailed) is a largely untouched "village within a city" retaining many original Elizabethan and Jacobean buildings on its cobbled streets and is now up-and-coming as the city's restaurant and nightlife district and of course has LOTS of Pubs!!

Plymouth, as a people's city, is, and always has been (its inhabitants sided with the Parliamentarians during The Civil War) very much a proletarian city with friendly down-to-earth locals but is also very much a cultured city with a strong theatre tradition, a great music scene, art galleries and museums and its university is now the 4th largest in Britain.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Great Pubs!
  • Cons:Can be a bit busy on weekend evenings.
  • In a nutshell:Definitely a city without airs and graces!
  • Last visit to Plymouth: Jun 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (61)

Comments (5)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Mar 26, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    Hello, John!~ It's nice to read your travel pages! Thanks a lot!

  • Jun 29, 2008 at 3:55 AM

    Never comfortable in the Eastern Eye. But it provides steady predictable fayre between pub and club for those who want an average curry. Not the oldest curry shed in the city by far.

  • cnango's Profile Photo
    Jul 20, 2007 at 6:51 PM

    Hi John, Hardly remember leaving the Dolphin, eh? Those pubs ound like fun. I would love to explore the Barbican area of Plymouth. Thanks for sharing, Nancy : )

  • May 21, 2007 at 8:12 PM

    So, you were at the Eastern Eye earlier tonigh?? He-he, so cool you've written about it, John!!

  • Callavetta's Profile Photo
    Sep 18, 2006 at 4:07 PM

    No wifi and no coffee maker! You must have been miserable.


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