Hidden in the heart of Devon, Plymouth stands proud as a gem of the Southwest, where history, nature and a vibrant city life seamlessly blend. This coastal city, just about 220 miles southwest of London, is a haven for travellers, especially those embracing the unique freedom of van life.
Getting to Plymouth is quite straightforward, whether you’re starting from London, Manchester or Birmingham. By road, it’s a pleasurable journey on the A303 or the M5 and A38, passing through charming countryside and striking landscapes. A van traveller’s delight! If you’re more of a train enthusiast, regular services from London Paddington take you to Plymouth in just about three hours.
Once you’ve made your way to this coastal paradise, the world is your oyster! Where the River Plym and River Tamar converge, they form Plymouth Sound, Britain’s historic gateway to the Atlantic. Plymouth is a city soaked in seafaring history, and it’s here that Sir Francis Drake famously finished his game of bowls before heading out to defeat the Spanish Armada.
Start your visit with the iconic Plymouth Hoe, where this legendary game supposedly took place. Offering panoramic views over the Sound, Smeaton’s Tower, a 72-foot tall lighthouse, stands as a striking landmark on the Hoe. It’s a delight for both eyes and cameras, especially during sunsets!
Another must-see landmark is the Royal William Yard, a collection of Grade I listed buildings that were once a Royal Navy victualling depot. Now it’s a buzzing cultural hotspot, full of quirky shops, artist studios, and fabulous eateries – perfect for an afternoon of exploration and indulgence.
For nature lovers and keen walkers, Plymouth doesn’t disappoint. Just a short drive away, you’ll find Dartmoor National Park, with its vast moorlands, granite tors, and winding woodland paths – perfect for a day of hiking and picnicking. Try the popular Haytor walk, which offers spectacular views across the moorland and the South Devon coast.
The South West Coast Path, running through Plymouth, is another great option for walkers. Whether you take the tranquil path towards Wembury to the east or the rugged journey to Mount Edgcummon in the west, you’ll be spoilt with beautiful coastal views and an abundance of wildlife.
For a city drenched in history, Plymouth proudly shelters an abundance of fascinating tales. It was from Plymouth’s shores that the Pilgrim Fathers set sail in 1620, eventually landing in what’s now known as the United States of America. In honour of this journey, the Mayflower Steps monument is a significant landmark to explore.
Not many know that Plymouth was heavily bombed during the Blitz in the Second World War. Today, the city centre’s modern appearance belies this tumultuous past, and a visit to the City Museum and Art Gallery provides an informative insight into Plymouth’s resilient spirit.
For van life enthusiasts, Plymouth offers a range of fantastic facilities, including well-equipped campsites around the city like Riverside Caravan Park. Plus, the welcoming local community makes it a top destination for those wanting to experience the freedom of life on the road.
As the sun sets, head to Plymouth Barbican, a vibrant part of the city brimming with pubs and restaurants, perfect for a well-deserved bite to eat. It’s the ideal end to a day full of history, nature and a healthy dose of sea air.
Plymouth, with its blend of urban life, maritime history, and nearby natural beauty, provides the perfect backdrop for a van life adventure. It’s a city that welcomes the wanderers, the history buffs, and those looking to bask in nature’s wonders. So, pack up your van, set your course, and prepare to fall in love with Plymouth’s distinctive charm!