Plymouth in South Devon
 THE BARBICAN -PLYMOUTH - IN DEVON  map ref SX4754                 
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Looking across Sutton Harbour from the Barbican, towards the National Marine Aquarium

The newly refurbished Mayflower Steps on the Barbican,with Plymouth's National Marine Aquarium in the background.

Tourist Information CentrePlymouth Tourist Information Centre
Island House
9 The Barbican
Plymouth PL1 2LS
Tel: 01752 304849
Fax: 01752 257955

Large parts of Plymouth were destroyed during the second world war, but the spectacular Barbican area survived, preserving the mediaeval street layouts and many of the Tudor Dwellings. The Barbican is a maze of narrow streets and alley ways, adjacent to Sutton Harbour, the original seaport of this historic area. The Barbican is also the home to many art galleries and is a Mecca for local famous artists. The narrow streets provide a home for an array of unique and individual shops, a veritable Mecca for antique collectors and art lovers alike. The House That Jack Built is a fascinating parade of tiny and unusual shops. The Barbican Centre has over 25 craft shops, design shops, and antique shops.

As a place, the Barbican is full of history, in New Street is 'Elizabethan House', a beautifully restored Captain's dwelling dating from 1548. In the house, you can see the original windows, spiral staircase winding around an old ship's mast. A short stroll further along the street brings you to the entrance of the restored Elizabethan Gardens, with their ornate pond and tranquil atmosphere. Walter Raleigh Francis Drake, John Hawkins and Captain Cook, all strolled through the Barbican before setting off from this historic area for foreign climes. In more modern times, Scott of the Antarctic set off from here on his final expedition to the South Pole.

The Tourist Information Centre can be found here in 'Island House', a late 16th century building which overlooks Sutton Harbour. Some of the Pilgrim Fathers are said to have lodged here, before departing on their epic voyage to the new world. A plaque on the outside of the building lists the names of these courageous pilgrims who left these shores to help found a new nation.

The Barbican is a working Harbour. Boats of all description busy themselves in the adjacent Sutton Harbour, or in the Queen Anne's Battery yacht basin. The Barbican is the departure point for the many boat trips, that take tourists around the Naval Dockyards on the river Tamar, or around the famous Plymouth Sound to secluded coves and beaches. The ferry to Cawsand, across the estuary in Cornwall leaves the Barbican four times a day, taking foot passengers to this picturesque little village.


Plymouth is the home of the National Marine Aquarium. The project was originally housed in buildings adjacent to the Citadel, close to The Hoe, but a purpose built home has been created from the old fish quay in Sutton Harbour. The imposing building creates a stunning sight as you view it across the harbour. Access from the Barbican is across the lock gates that guard the entrance to the inner harbour, passing the Mayflower Steps and the imaginative sculpture of a sea creature.

Once inside the Aquarium, you will be amazed by the breathtaking underwater journey. the exhibits reveal the strange and secret world of our oceans and riversl. The exploration starts on the high moors and you follow the course of the stream and river, down the slopes to the shoreline and reef, before the final destination - down into the deepest ocean.

The Aquarium has an awe inspiring collection of marine life, and your journey brings you into contact with a plethora of marine creatures, some pretty and peaceful, others sinister and deadly.

The end of the journey is the stunningly effective wall of ocean, an amphitheatre with a 15 metres wide and 5 metres high wall of glass, holding back over 700,000 litres of water.

Contained in this engineering marvel is a shark theatre set amongst a living coral reef. At feeding time, you can watch the Aquarium's team of divers enter the main display tank to hand feed the fish and sharks. The National Marine Aquarium is part of a Marine Conservation Programme, rearing sea horses from across the globe in their captive breeding programme.

For more information contact : The National Marine Aquarium. Rope Walk, Coxside Plymouth PL4 0LF Telephone: 01752 600301 Fax: 01752 600593


The old Fishmarket on the edge of the quay was transformed into a light and airy building to house the Barbican Glassworks during the restoration work in the area. The building currently houses the Edinburgh Wollen mill and a Restaurant

The Pilgrim Fathers - Mayflower Steps

The Mayflower sailed from Plymouth on the 6th of September, 1620, with 102 passengers and 48 seamen. Most of these were Puritans who broke away from the Church of England during the reformation and were seeking a new life away from the persecution by James I. The pilgrims had originally departed to Holland, some twelve years earlier - but were afraid of the prospect of becoming engulfed in the Dutch way of life and losing their mother tongue, so they decided to return to England and from there to travel to America. The Pilgrim Fathers, set off for the New World from Southampton, putting into Dartmouth's Bayard's Cove, to rest for a while before their epic voyage. On the 20 August 1620, their ships - The Mayflower and The Speedwell, set of for Virginia. Some 300 miles west of Land's End, they realised that the Speedwell was unseaworthy and returned to Plymouth - from where the Mayflower departed alone to complete the crossing to Cape Cod.

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