Article by Frances and Michael Howorth
Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims leaving the city for America. The city of Plymouth is all set to play host to an increasing number of Superyachts eager to sample the best of British hospitality.
Plymouth is the Great British superyacht port in the south west of the UK that is gearing up for an influx of visiting superyachts planning to arrive over the course of next year. Already American owners and charter guests are organising visits to this easy to enter harbour as part of their own research into family history. Marinas are reporting a steady stream of berthing enquiries over the next 12 months with many Captains stating that they need to be able to witness celebrations
The official Mayflower 400 UK commemorations are set to showcase an exciting year-long programme of ambitious cultural and artistic events. They range from dynamic community spectacles to large-scale festivals. Breath taking lights shows, unforgettable festivals, inspiring exhibitions and world class events will be among the highlights of a memorable 12-moth events programme in the Mayflower 400 anniversary year. Four hundred moments each marking one of the 400 years since the sailing of the Mayflower in 1620 begin with the dazzling Illuminate light shows in November 2019. , Touring exhibitions, informal and formal gatherings and world class events that will captivate a memorable 12 months of commemoration through to November 2020 and the closing Illuminate ceremony.
Located at the mouth of the Rivers Yealm Plym and Tamar the port and its rivers form the county boundary twixt Devon and Cornwall, while the city has the highest number of post-war listed buildings outside London and is cited as a unique example of a 20th-century city. Yet it also has many historic buildings that survived the war, such as the 15th-century Merchants House and the Elizabethan House. It was in Plymouth, that offshore solo yacht racing started, Sir Francis Chichester’s around the world solo voyage started and ended here and it is 250 years ago, that Captain Cook set off from Plymouth to chart the Pacific. In more recent times the superyachts Alamshar, Sarafsa, Samar and Vava II have been built here and it is in Plymouth and the surrounding suburbs that Princess Yachts build a significant proportion of large motor yachts. Plymouth is renowned for boating, sailing and hosting major inshore and offshore racing including: the Americas Cup, the Fastnet finish, power boat championships and a range of regattas and other sailing events throughout the year.
The port is a wonderfully sheltered haven with a massive and highly effective breakwater allowing for plenty of deep water anchorages. There are seven marinas hereabouts all capable of handling tenders used by superyachts at anchor but those capable of handling large yachts include Sutton Harbour Mayflower Marina and Yachthaven Marina.
A Statutory Harbour under law, Sutton Harbour is not only superyacht capable but is also home to the second largest fishing boat harbour in England. Accessed through a 12 metre wide lock that free flows except when closed three hours either side of low water when it opens on request the port happily handles yachts of 45 metres and can handle larger ones by arrangement. Slap bang in the middle of the old town this is where the action takes place as Sutton Harbour takes centre stage to historic Plymouth
Mayflower Marina offers both permanent and visitor berthing together with some of the most outstanding cruising waters with anytime access for boats up to 20m and facilities to offer larger boats by arrangement. Ashore it has most of the facilities visitors would require, including maintenance, repair, basic provisions, chandlery and they are particularly proud of the marina’s award winning restaurant. Offsite Plymouth’s City Centre is only a 5 minute taxi ride away and has plenty to offer including, the Theatre Royal, cinemas, museums, the marine aquarium, a huge array of shopping opportunities, supermarkets, restaurants, bars and cafes.
Yachthaven Marina is a Five Gold Anchor Marina lies at the mouth of the River Plym in the shelter of the Mount Batten peninsula, offering comprehensive facilities and exceptional 24 hour service, just minutes from the open water of Plymouth Sound. Accessible at all states of the tide Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (it is closed on Christmas Day) the marina has CCTV surveillance, electronic bridgehead access gates and free Wi-Fi available to those docked there. Yachts of up to 52 metres can be accommodated without fuss so long as the draught does not exceed 4.5 metres but larger yachts can find space providing the harbour master has been consulted first. Other marinas capable of handling smaller craft and superyacht tenders include: Queen Annes Battery, the Royal William Yard, Kings Marina and Millbay Marina
When it comes to culture Plymouth really packs a punch. The Royal William Yard for example is home to the largest collection of Grade 1 listed Naval buildings in the UK. Walk to Devils Point, Swim in the tidal pool or watch paddle boarders at Firestone Arch, explore art at Ocean Studios & coffee at Column House Bakery. Plymouth’s Breakwater, described as ‘the Channel Tunnel of its era’ is what makes the sound so peaceful while Mount Batten Tower (built in circa 1650) guards the southern approach to Plymouth’s harbour. Each is fascinating. The Art Deco Lido is one of the finest examples of a 1930’s and it overlooks Plymouth Sound (the oldest, continually studied, marine area on earth. While the city itself has the highest concentration of cobbled streets in England; and lots of ‘green space’ (40 percent of the city), with over 100 hectares of wildflower meadows. Devonport Naval Heritage Centre formerly known as the Plymouth Naval Base Museum is a maritime museum well worth visiting while Smeaton’s Tower the most iconic of Plymouth’s landmarks is a memorial to celebrated civil engineer John Smeaton, designer of the third and most notable Eddystone Lighthouse. The Mayflower Museum is the perfect spot for exploring seafaring history and the Mayflower’s 1620 voyage and it includes a model of the ship herself.
For us, one of the highlights of our stay in Plymouth was out trip all the way up the Tamar to Calstock. Taking a boat trip on a summers evening must be one of the very best ways of enjoying the countryside. We visited the National Marine Aquarium and marvelled at the deepest tank in the UK, purifying 75,000 litres of seawater a day. A Master Distillers tour of Plymouth Gin, is a must if you have a morning to spare. The opportunity to create your very own Gin surly is a temptation to hard to miss out on especially as you get to take your booty home with you. Explore the house and gardens at Mount Edgecumbe as we did catching the ferry across the harbour. It is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon as is a visit to nearby Dartmouth with its Naval History. We love the Historic Barbican and the Brunel Bridge and the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club with its stunning views is a great spot for a sundowner.
Get away from it all
Superyachts that visit Plymouth and have guests who want to venture a little further away should investigate the World’s Best Gin in the beautiful harbour of Salcombe famous for its sailing club, while Falmouth has its fascinating the National Maritime Museum. Try and squeeze in a trip to the port of Charlestown with its nautical history and the opportunity of visiting locations where the TV series Poldark was filmed. The wild expanses of Dartmoor are great for those who want to go trekking and for those who want a quaint English village by the water there is Noss Mayo and Newton Ferres and of course the Ship Inn! With fabulously safe anchorages within the protected sound there is plenty to do after a yacht drops the hook. There are great sandy beaches at Kingsand Bay, Cawsand Bay, Wembury Bantham beach Mothecombe and off Burgh Island
Out & About
In Plymouth and in need of food then be sure to try the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill at dinner time and Mitch Tonks’s Rockfish restaurant for lunch. We loved the food at Le Bistro in the Fort William Yard and we adore the tiny fish and chip shop called Platters on the Barbican. There is no shortage of watering holes in Plymouth and among them the Skyline Cocktail Bar in the Penthouse of Crowne Plaza Hotel has stunning views across the harbour. Our favourite is Le Vignoble, a boutique wine and tapas bar famous for wine tasting and its plates of tasty charcuterie. The Waterfront Bar on the site of what was the Royal Western Yacht Club founded over 175 years ago and where the plaque commemorating the start and finish of Sir Francis Chichester’s solo voyage around the world is located is a great place to get a dram or two as are the Treasury Bar the Refrectory Bar
Tags: Mayflower 400, Plymouth
So for those visiting Plymouth in 2020 here is our recommendation on where to stay. The Crowne Plaza is a contemporary 4 star hotel in a prime location with stunning views over looking Smeatons Tower, the original Eddystone lighthouse, right across Plymouth Sound. Views from the stunning Skyline Cocktail Lounge on the Penthouse level are a yacht spotters dream. This IHG hotel offered a great night’s sleep free Wifi and an excellent breakfast. The Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill is situated on the penthouse floor of the hotel also boasts panoramic sea views while treating guests to signature steaks, timeless English and French classics all delivered with Marco’s unique flair. The Bistro Rooms are located in the lovingly restored a truly stunning Grade II* listed building in the historic Royal William Yard in Plymouth. The owners of Rooms by Bistro Pierre have taken the time, care and attention to use traditional craftsmen and building methods to bring the house back to its former glory, full of Georgian features. Its collection of 14 stylish, simply appointed bedrooms are filled with periodic architectural charm and are the ideal place to relax after a day of exploring the stunning area. Rooms are located just across the green from the bistrot where we enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner during our stay.
Just outside the city boundaries and a wonderful ride away by superyacht tender, Pentillie Castle is a family-run castle set in a 2,000 acre estate set on a bank of the River Tamar. It offers accommodation on a Bed & Breakfast basis in 9 en-suite luxury bedrooms, accommodating up to just 18 guests. The Coryton family have owned Pentillie Castle since the early 1800’s and the present generation are a small but passionate team who take enormous pride in what they do. The chance to stay in a real castle whose exterior doubles as the location backdrop for the TV series Delicious should not be given up.
Bordingdon Hall Hotel & Spa is an enchanted place on a hill outside Plymouth. The Elizabethan manor house with its dramatic exterior and majestic surroundings combine to make this a palace or pampering that begins at the bar where they serve gin distilled on the premises to the dinning table in the exquisite Gallery Restaurant that specialises in intimate, classic, memorable dining, underpinned by discreet and attentive service. Every effort has been taken to meticulously restore and retain the dramatic architecture of each sleeping suite whilst offering all the mod cons expected in a 5 star hotel. The Gaia Spa is a space in which find ones self naturally relaxed, enjoying facilities and therapies that provide the opportunity to nourish mind, body and spirit, resulting in a balance between the individual and the wider world we live in.