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Travel

Plymouth at Christmas

The sweet, heady aroma of mulled wine combined with the sizzling scent of bratwurst sausages drifted across the piazza with the colourful displays in the wooden stands showing brighter as the twilight darkened. Lights were everywhere. A funfair merry-go-round, a big screen display and in the background some whirling, spinning serious rides. All to the soundtrack of a brilliant saxophone busker.

So if you are looking for some Christmas spirit in the run up to the big day – go West.

Plymouth is geared up for the festivities with a neat blend of modern city shopping, historic experiences, classy restaurants and that Christmas market centrepiece.

The market runsfrom November 30th to December 21st with 50 log cabin stands featuring craft gifts, food and drink. The rest of the Devon city’s Christmas attractions carry on until Christmas Eve.

The Christmas Land Train ferries shoppers between the Drake Centre stores and the smaller, independent shops of the West End. In between is the market and amusements in the Armada Way piazza and gardens. Driver Graham and conductor Jenny gave us a tour in the train extending the route into the historic Barbican.

This area is an essential part of the Plymouth Christmas mix. The Pilgrim Fathers allegedly left for America from the Mayflower Steps. A list naming those who boarded The Mayflower is displayed on the wall of the cocktail bar of the Blackfriars Distillery producers of Plymouth Gin.

The occupations of those pilgrims probably explains why they had such a tough time establishing their New England colony. There were plenty of merchants or tailors no mention of farmers or gardeners.

The distillery in the Barbican is perfect for Christmas with a range of tours to find out how the famous gin is made and how to taste the huge range of gins now available. The Gin Connoisseur’s Tour at Blackfriars Gin Distillery costs £20 per person and lasts approx. one and a half hours: www.plymouthgin.com

Amid shopping and visiting Plymouth’s many historic attractions we also sampled some of the city’s eating options.

The Greedy Goose is in Plymouth’s oldest building, Prysten House, in the centre of Plymouth dating back to 1487. Owned by Francesca and Ben Palmer, chef Ben was a quarter finalist on MasterChef: The Professionals, in 2011.

Prysten House, Finewell Street, Plymouth, PL1 2AE Website: (www.thegreedygoose.co.uk)

Rock Salt Café is a local favourite family-run brasserie. Chef Dave Jenkins has worked for years around the West Country mainly in fine dining. His kitchen here produces great food with an atmosphere to match. 31 Stonehouse St, Plymouth PL1 3PE, Website: (www.rocksaltcafe.co.uk)

The Barbican Kitchen is in the Gin Distillery. Again a great busy atmosphere for lunch. The menu was varied and the food excellent. 60 Southside Street, Plymouth PL1 2LQ Website: (www.barbicankitchen.com)

Le Vignoble is a rather different establishment and good if you are searching for new ideas in Christmas wine. It is a wine lounge and wine merchant based at the historic Royal William Yard. They offer over 250 different wines, champagnes and liqueurs from all over the world. You can browse a selection of wines taking a tasting sample or a glass with tasting notes and expert advice on hand. To go with the wine there are platters of cheese or charcuterie.New Cooperage, Royal William Yard, Plymouth PL1 3RP Website: (www.levignoble.co.uk)

We stayed at the New Continental Hotel in Millbay Rd, Plymouth PL1 3LD, Website: (www.newcontinental.co.uk). It is within ten minutes walking distance of the city centre and the Barbican and waterfront as well as having a 150 year pedigree. Rates start from £75 per room (£85 B&B)

Find out more: Check out Plymouth’s Christmas information at (www.visitplymouth.co.uk).

Want to see more photos and videos from our trip to Plymouth? 

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