by Bob Barton (courtesy of VisitBritain.com)
England’s far south-western counties of Cornwall and Devon boast a seafaring tradition of adventurers, explorers, pirates and emigrants.
Even the 08:35 train from London’s Paddington station to Plymouth, Devon bears a ship’s name – “The Mayflower”. This was the vessel which carried a band of determined religious reformers, the Pilgrim Fathers, on their momentous journey to a new life in North America in 1620. After 66 days at sea they eventually settled in New Plymouth and laid the foundation of the New England states.
The story is brought to life in the naval port and city of Plymouth’s Mayflower exhibition, situated on The Barbican, opposite the historic harbour steps from which they set off nearly four centuries ago. It also tells how thousands of emigrants to the USA and other countries (mainly Australia and New Zealand, with Canada becoming popular later) started their journey here.
The city is full of seaside atmosphere, particularly around the old harbour with its fish market and customs house and the waterfront park, the Hoe. Here Elizabethan seafarer Sir Francis Drake is said to have finished a game of bowls before sailing off to confront the approaching Spanish Armada.
Going west from Plymouth you cross the wide river Tamar, leave Devon and enter Cornwall. There are views of battleships at anchor and the sparkling ocean beyond.
The UK has more coastline than any other country in Europe, with no-one living more than 75 miles from the sea. But it is only in Cornwall that you feel the sea is ever-present: a leg of land jutting into the Atlantic, its two coasts only four miles apart at the narrowest point.
Visitors to Britain’s south-west coast are left in no doubt of the sea’s role in shaping this area’s landscape and heritage. Add to this the fine cuisine, stylish hotels, picturesque harbours and gardens warmed by Gulf Stream currents – and you have the recipe for a perfect all-year holiday destination.
For more information on where to go, what to see and where to stay in this beautiful region, consult VisitBritain’s website www.visitbritain.com.