Sail Away With Me, Honey: A Day in Plymouth


Sail away with us to Plymouth, or if you're traveling by train, that works too!

We’d heard many things about Plymouth - one guidebook suggested we would encounter ‘palpable poverty’ and ‘architectural eyesores.’ We did find a sprawling cityscape, but we also encountered vibrant and intriguing energy. Plymouth camaraderie - not poverty - is palpable.

Plymouth was heavily bombed during World War II, so many of the older buildings that other English cities have to boast are no longer standing. Still, what Plymouth lacks in architectural beauty, it makes up for in a wonderful coastal spirit.

This spirit is embodied in the Transat Bakerly, a 3000 mile solo sailing race from Plymouth, England to New York, USA. We unknowingly visited just three days before the race was to begin, and Plymouth’s spirits were high. People lined the streets and music commandeered the city speakers. Ice cream was sold on every corner, good food was cooked by the harbor, and windswept sailors prepared to sail the sea.


Reflecting on the Transat Bakerly, we can’t help but remember the transatlantic journey of almost 400 years ago from Plymouth to what is now America, made by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. 102 English Puritans (with very American perseverance and commitment) were able to depart for the new world after many complications and setbacks. They originally embarked from London in July of 1620, but had to stop first in Southampton to meet up with another ship, the Speedwell.


These are the boats that will take the racing sailors across the Atlantic, from Plymouth to New York.

A picturesque view and an iconic landmark.

After the Speedwell sprung a leak, they stopped once again in Dartmouth for repairs. Thinking this was the last time, they departed only to return to Plymouth for one last pit stop. The Speedwell, once again, sprung a leak (surprise). The Mayflower, perfectly sea-worthy and not having any of this, decided to set sail alone.


In November of 1620, the Mayflower arrived at what is known today as Cape Cod. After several unsuccessful attempts to sail to the colony of Virginia due to winter weather, the passengers of the Mayflower decided to hunker down and settle their own colony, Plimouth.


Our own experience with the Mayflower Steps, the location commemorating the final departure point of the Mayflower for the Americas, was something special. Unlike the material nature of the flags we waved in our homesick hands, the Mayflower steps radiated an intangible nostalgia. Well, actually, as we were later informed (by a kind man dressed as a pilgrim for inexplicable reasons) the steps the passengers of the Mayflower actually descended have since been removed, and the steps on the dock in present day aren’t the originals - “but people pretend they are.”


Smeaton’s Tower in Plymouth is a wonderful place to reflect. Moved from its original location on Eddystone Rock in 1756, this lighthouse is now a main feature of the Plymouth Hoe waterfront. Though the steep and winding stairs present a challenge for little feet and little hands, that doesn’t stop eager families from scaling Plymouth’s most beloved beacon. From the top is a breathtaking view - to the south, the ocean expands before you, and to the north Plymouth sprawls.

Smeaton’s Tower is only one of many attractions that Plymouth has to offer. Travelers of all ages can enjoy lunch and ice cream at any one of the many restaurants and pubs found along the docks. The Merchant’s House and the Mayflower Museum are both a part of the city’s rich history, and the National Marine Aquarium is just another example of the more modern appeal of Plymouth. It’s a city with something for everyone - whether you’re a sailor, a historian, or two university students, there’s a reason to sail away to Plymouth.

DSC_0389Two Americans. One Plymouth.

Works Cited

 "Mayflower Museum - Heritage/Visitor Centre In Plymouth". 2016. Web. 20 May 2016.

Plymouth City Council. "Plymouth City Museum And Art Gallery - History Of The Merchant's House". 2016. Web. 20 May 2016.

"The Transat Bakerly". N.p., 2016. Web. 20 May 2016.

Text © Abbie Titcomb and Megan Otto
Photos © Megan Otto