Plymouth has a wealth of maritime history. It was from Plymouth that national seafaring heroes John Hawkins and Francis Drake plied their trade and that the Plymouth Pilgrims departed for the New World. Sadly the Blitz turned much of the city to rubble, but today Plymouth is coming back with a vengeance, boasting a thriving city centre, top chefs in James Tanner and Mitch Tonks and a modernised waterfront with the UK's largest aquarium.
Few harbours have a history as rich as the Barbicans. In the 16th-century, naval commander Sir Francis Drake set sail from here to defeat the Spanish Armada, and just 32 years later the Pilgrim Fathers set off for New Plymouth, the key colony of the English settlement of North America. The fact that Devonport dockyards were targeted so extensively in WW2 demonstrates the area's continuing importance in the 20th-century.
Here in the 21st-century, it has bounced back with a charming grassy outlook known as The Hoe, and a delightful promenade overlooking the Plymouth Sound, the body of water at the confluence of the Plym, Tavy and Tamar estuaries. Out of town, make a beeline for Mount Edgcumbe, a grand mansion with extensive grounds, for the perfect break from city life. East of Plymouth there's also the early Georgian Saltram House, packed with fine art and furniture.
Back in Plymouth, families should make time to enter the breath-taking underwater world of The National Marine Aquarium. Its tanks are bursting with fascinating sea creatures, including over 70 sharks of more than ten species. Finally, end your visit to Plymouth with a local tipple. The Black Friars Distillery is the home to the world-famous Plymouth Gin and offers tours all year long. It also has an award-winning bar and restaurant.