390km (242 miles) SW of London; 259km (161 miles) SW of Southampton
The historic seaport of Plymouth is more romantic in legend than in reality. But this was not always so -- during World War II, greater Plymouth lost at least 75,000 buildings to Nazi bombs. The heart of present-day Plymouth, including the municipal civic center on the Royal Parade, has been entirely rebuilt; however, the way it was rebuilt is the subject of much controversy. Instead of reconstructing half-timbered Elizabethan buildings, many property owners preferred the concrete bunker approach.
For the old part of town, you must go to the Elizabethan section, known as the Barbican, and walk along the quay in the footsteps of Sir Francis Drake (once the mayor of Plymouth). From here, in 1577, Drake set sail on his round-the-world voyage. The Barbican also holds special interest for visitors from the United States as the final departure point of the Pilgrims in 1620. The two ships, Mayflower and Speedwell, that sailed from Southampton in August of that year put into Plymouth after suffering storm damage. The Speedwell was abandoned as unseaworthy; the Mayflower made the trip to the New World alone.