Welcome to Plymouth
I first arrived in Plymouth one freezing cold evening in December to start two years working for the Theatre Royal. I seemed to be surrounded by a grey city of concrete, abandoned shops, dubious looking takeaways and wondered what on earth I’d got myself into. A few weeks later after wandering around the city and chatting to a lot of ridiculously friendly strangers I was attached with great affection to this city and the surrounding beauty of Devon and Cornwall. For those of you trekking down here with your show I thought I’d give you a run down of useful things to know and places to find and hope you find the city as welcoming as I did. Despite the fact I now live in London, Plymouth feels like coming home.
The city is pretty small and the city centre easily walkable from one end to the other. The city centre sits along the coast with some stunning views a five minute walk from both the Barbican Theatre and Theatre Royal Plymouth and a fifteen minute walk from the university and The House. Because Plymouth sits along the coast it doesn’t have a ‘centre’ in quite the same way most cities do. The ‘centre’ is split into 5 rough areas: The Barbican, The Hoe, Royal William Yard, City Centre and the University/North Hill.
The Barbican Theatre is based in the heart of the historical Barbican area of the city which has much civil war history attached to it and was also where the pilgrims set sail for America. More importantly it houses the famous gin distillery where gin is still made to a traditional recipe and has protected status like champagne. The Barbican is full of character and tiny 15th century streets housing quirky cafes, charity shops and arts and crafts. http://www.barbicanwaterfront.com
The Hoe sits next to the Barbican and is the iconic picture we’ve used in all our marketing. It’s a large grassy / park area overlooking the sea. It’s a beautiful spot for a spot of miniature golf, an impromptu BBQ, a morning walk to get rid of the festival hangover or a dip in the saltwater Lido.
Moving away from the coast into the city and the architecture becomes somewhat grey. Plymouth was one of the worst hit cities in the second world war and the centre was almost decimated. This is remembered by the bombed out church that sits by Drakes Circus shopping centre. After the war Plymouth was rebuilt and although it can feel like this part of Plymouth is a drab mixture of concrete it’s actually mostly quite costly stone and is grade listed. The street that runs right through the centre is called Royal Parade and at the far end is Theatre Royal Plymouth. At the other end is Drake Circus – the fairly new snazzy shopping centre that houses essentials like M&S, Primarni and the Apple Store.
University and North Hill
On the other side of Drakes Circus, as the city begins to drift towards North Hill, there is the University of Plymouth where you’ll find The House. North Hill is famed for student nightlife and some truly terrible bars (Cuba, Back Bar, Caffeine Club) where I’ve had some of the best nights out.
Royal William Yard
If you continue a bit further out of the centre up infamous Union Street (which truly might be the most forlorn hangover of a street that once housed a vibrant life and is now trying to find its way again) you take a left after Aldi and wander through building sites of new flats down to old Georgian houses and find the Royal William Yard – once a Georgian Naval base and now home to posh flats, some cracking art galleries and various restaurants. While several of the restaurants are chains, the fact they’re in these stunning storehouse buildings right on the water saves them. Quite honestly the nicest Wagamama’s I’ve ever been to.
There are lots of lovely little independent cafes and restaurants, especially in the Barbican area. Once you get into the centre, it tends to be dominated by high street chains. Below are some of the places we’ve found – this is not an exhaustive list but a few of our favourites!
For Coffee and Wifi
City / University
Prime | 48 Ebrington Street PL4 9AD (WIFI)
GREAT little cafe near the city centre and university. They do cake, sandwiches, a daily hot special and whiskey later on in the day.
Rockets and Rascals | 7 The Parade PL1 2JL (WIFI)
Specialising in coffee and biking. You can also hire bikes here should you wish to explore Devon a little further.
Cafes and Cafe-Bars
Independent ones tend to be based along Southside Street in the Barbican area including Choccocino and the Flower cafe. There are a number of cafe bars along The Parade, Quay Road and Sutton Harbour looking out onto the Harbour in the Barbican area.
The Barbican / The Hoe
Monty’s | 13 The Barbican PL1 2LS
Brilliant for breakfast especially.
Dutton’s | Madeira Road PL1 2NU
Amazing views over the harbour in the garden on the cliff. You can also get a pint of ale with your scone and clotted cream!
Real Food Kitchen | The Barbican PL1 2JZ
If the weather is lovely, eat some local mackerel on the cobbled stones overlooking the Mayflower steps where the pilgrims set sail.
Tudor Rose Tearoom | 36 New Street, Barbican PL1 2NB
A classic tearoom.
The Terrace Cafe | 74 Madeira Road PL1 2NY
This looks out over the Lido and the sea. The food is average but if the sun is setting this is categorically one of my favourite Plymouth spots for a salad and a glass of wine.
Bacaro | 6 Quay Road PL1 2JZ
Outside seating as well as indoor, tapas, coffee and wine.
Royal William Yard
The Bakery | 3, the Bakehouse, Royal William Yard PL1 3RP
This is in the historic Royal William Yard and set in the old slaughterhouse. Everything here is locally sourced and made on the premises. You serve yourself and eat rustic breakfasts or ridiculously huge slabs of cake from wooden boards at benches. The coffee is especially good as is the locally grown and pressed apple juice.
River Cottage Canteen and Deli | Royal William Yard PL1 3QQ
Local produce, including cheeses, fish and imaginative cocktails in a historic naval building.
Rocksalt | 31 Stonehouse Street, Plymouth, Devon PL1 3PE
Local produce. Cafe by day and brasserie by night. Locals rave about it.
City Centre / University
Rumpus Cosy | 12 Derrys Cross, Plymouth, Devon PL1 2TE
A beautiful cafe run by our friends at Effervescent. Profits from the cafe support the creative work they do with young people.
American Coffee House | Cornwall Street PL1 1LP
Large independent coffee house.
The Treasury | Catherine Street PL1 2AD
Coffee, lunches, afternoon tea, dinner or just drinks.
The Berkley | Berkley Square, 19 Princess Street PL1 2EU
Food throughout the day and decent cocktails.
The Chancel | 2 St Andrews Street PL1 AH
Really lovely independent cafe bar with excellent wine and hospitality
Revolution | 1 Derrys Cross, Plymouth PL1 2SW (WIFI)
Revs may be a chain of dubious reputation in most cities but the Plymouth one has always been especially hospitable to the theatre community here. The food is definitely not plastic pubgrub and if you can blag an industry card they do some really decent deals and cocktails.
Caffeine Club | 46 Tavistock Place, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AX (Open 24 hours)
Coffee, milkshakes, food and cocktails. This is the place to go when you NEED a cooked breakfast at 2am alongside another Cosmo. Many a press night ends up here.
Plymouth has the sea on one side and dartmoor on the other. Many of the local restaurants source excellent quality ingredients from the surrounding farms and are surprisingly inexpensive when compared with similar places in other cities. If you are a fish fan you’ll find there are many local restaurants who serve ‘day-boat fish’ which has been caught locally that morning. Most of these restaurants are located in the historical Barbican or Royal William Yard areas.
See here for all the cafes and restaurants who used locally sourced produce.
My personal favourites:
B-Bar | Barbican Theatre, Castle Street PL1 2NJ (WIFI)
Thai under a tenner and conveniently at the Barbican Theatre.
Glassblowing House | 20 Harbour Avenue, Plymouth, Devon PL1 2LS
Best for local Mussels.
Boathouse Cafe | 2-4 Commercial Wharf PL1 2NX
One of THE places to go for local fish.
Quay 33 | 33 Southside Street PL1 2LE
If you want to go somewhere a bit fancy. You’ll need to book.
Lots of friends rave about:
Plymouth Arts Centre | 38 Looe St PL4 0EB
Barbican Kitchen | 60 Southside PL1 2LQ
Bistro One | 68 Ebrington St PL4 (AQ
Fish and Chips
Nearly all the restaurants and independent pubs do fish and chips. However for traditional fish and chip takeaways to eat on the Barbican or Hoe (and yes they’re almost all next to each other!)
Rockfish | 3 Rope Walk PL4 0LB
Harbourside | 35 Southside Street
Barbican Fish Bar | 36 Southside Street
Plymouth does not have the collection of arty pubs most cities have. It’s one artisan pub is Bread and Roses and many of the others are chains or a bit characterless. On the plus side a pint is considerably cheaper in most when compared with Exeter, Bristol or London!
Barbican / Hoe
The Ship | 4 Quay Road PL1 2JZ
Indoor and outdoor seating on the harbour. Excellent locally sourced fish and chips and at least three types of local cider on tap.
Admiral McBride | 1 The Barbican PL1 2LR
A slightly quieter independent pub.
The Dolphin Inn | 14 The Barbican PL1 2LS
An iconic pub thanks to it featuring in Beryl Cook paintings. Open fires and friendly contrary to popular belief.
The Gog Magog | 57-59 Southside Street PL1 2LA (WIFI) (Open until midnight)
Ok this is a Wetherspoons but sometimes that’s what your budget allows and this one is pretty reasonable. They also tend to have guest beers and ciders.
Pub on The Hoe | 159 Citadel Road PL1 2HU
Cheerful independent pub.
The Bank | Old George Street PL1 2TG (WIFI) (Open until midnight Wed – Sat)
This is a plastic pub in a really beautiful building in a really convenient location. Opposite stage door of the Theatre Royal it is the main haunt of staff and companies passing through. It serves food until late, has a decent sized beer garden and you can get a round in for under a tenner.
Brass Monkey | 12-14 Royal Parade PL1 1DS (WIFI)
For cheap food, beer and sport.
James Street Vaults (JSV) | 24 James Street PL4 6EQ
A great pub on the university campus although has locals as well as students. Does beer and pizza.
Bread and Roses | 62 Ebrington Street, Plymouth PL4 9AF (WIFI) (open until 1am)
This pub is our favourite. Open until late with an amazing collection of organic spirits, at least four types of local cider on tap which change weekly, guest ales and legendary chilli olives. It hosts an eclectic music scene from hip-hop to jazz. There’s an upstairs smoking terrace hidden away at the back.
Plymouth Gin Distillery | 60 Southside Street
The bar is on the site of the distillery and the tour is well worth it if you have a couple of hours (there’s a free G&T thrown in). Cocktails are with table service and are quality.
Official black cabs, for some reason, are ridiculously expensive in Plymouth whereas minicabs are cheap as chips.
Taxi First | 01752 222222
Need A Cab | 01752 666222
Tower Cabs | 01752 252525
Water taxis | Barbican to Royal William Yard
Definitely the most fun way to travel around the coast between these two areas. Annoyingly they only seem to be around in the day. http://www.royalwilliamyardharbour.co.uk/ferry.php
A Day Off
The Tinside Lido | The Hoe PL1 2AA
Mountbatten Water Sports Centre | 70 Lawrence Road PL9 9SJ
You can get the yellow water taxi from the Barbican to Mountbatten
Plymouth Pavilions Ice Rink | Millbay Road PL1 3LF
Plymouth Boat Trips | 2-5 Commercial Wharf, Madeira Road PL1 2NX
Fishing trips, short boat tours of the historical coastline and ferries to Cawsand beach in Cornwall and Mount Edgcumbe Country Park.
Reel Cinema | 25 Derrys Cross, Plymouth PL1 2SW
Vue Cinemas | Barbican Leisure Park, Shapters Road PL4 0LG
Plymouth Arts Centre | 38 Looe Street PL4 0EB
Beaches and Walking
Dartmoor National Park | http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk
National Marine Aquarium | Rope Walk PL4 0DX
The Plymouth Gin Distillery | 60 Southside Street
The Merchants House | 33 St Andrews Street PL1 2AX
Elizabethan Gardens | 33 St Andrews Street PL1 2AX
Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery | Drake Circus PL4 8AJ
Mayflower Museum | 3-5 The Barbican PL1 2LR
Saltram House | Plympton, Plymouth, Devon PL7 1UH
Mount Edgcumbe Country House and Park | Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park, Cremyll, Torpoint, Cornwall PL10 1HZ