Where to Best Explore Plymouth's Seafaring History
Plymouth has always been defined by its relationship to the sea. From its very first recording in the Domesday Book as Sudtone up its modern-day reputation as a haven for yacht lovers and surfers, the city has always been home to seafaring adventurers. If you want to explore Plymouth's fascinating nautical history, from pirates to naval battles, these are the best places in town to do it.
The Mayflower Museum
It has been almost 400 years since the legendary vessel Mayflower set sail from these shores to the New World, loaded with pilgrims dreaming of a better life on the shores of North America. Over in the states, the voyage of Mayflower has become a defining foundational myth of the USA, which is why this museum attracts thousands of Yankee tourists every year. There are models of the original ship as well as some fascinating exhibitions on the lives of the first generation of emigrant pilgrims. Go here to learn about one of the most famous and most important voyages in history.
Devonport Naval Heritage Centre
Plymouth is responsible for the world's continued fascination with pirate culture. The richest and most daring pirate in history, 'Black Sam Bellamy' was born here and used it as his base. Since his first voyage three centuries ago, Plymouth and the UK remains obsessed with pirate culture. We're eager consumers of TV and films like Black Sails and Pirates of the Caribbean, whilst fans across the country now early play pirate-themed online slots such as Baam Boom at Paddy Power. Visit this centre to learn about Plymouth's pirate history from start to finish.
Smeaton's Tower is a grand old lighthouse which has become an icon of the city. Built in 1759 at a cost of £40,000 (a staggering amount in those days), the lighthouse has been at the centre of countless dramatic events in Plymouth's history. The lighthouse still contains the original lantern room, which has been kept in pristine condition and offers a fascinating glimpse into the past. While it's no longer used to watch out for pirate ships and German U-boat submarines, you can head up there today for breathtaking views of the Plymouth Sound and the city beyond.
The Royal Citadel
The Royal Citadel is a sprawling military complex that serves as a powerful reminder that we should never take peace with our neighbours for granted. The coastal fortress was built in the 1660s to defend the city from our greatest enemies at the time, the Dutch, and is thought to have been instrumental in deterring invasions from our continental neighbours. These days the site is still owned and operated by the military, but anyone can explore this historic place by booking a place on the official guided tour, provided by military personnel. Tours only operate during the summer months on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and payment is only accepted in cash.
Plymouth has played a powerful role in the history of these islands and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the centuries to come. Visiting these places will demonstrate just how much history fills the streets of Plymouth.