Plymouth on a budget: How you can enjoy Britain’s Ocean City at little cost

Plymouth on a budget: How you can enjoy Britain’s Ocean City at little cost

If cash is tight while you’re on holiday, it can be an ongoing struggle to find things to do to keep everyone amused – particularly if you have children with you.

We know the importance of working to a limited budget, since the length and inclusions in our family gap year are dependent on us squeezing all we can out of our cashpot.

So we were more than pleased to manage to do plenty in and around Plymouth on a minimal budget. We spent six days there this month (July 2017).

It’s a fantastic city to savour and enjoy – and fortunately you don’t have to scratch the surface too hard to find things to do for little outlay.


Without a doubt, the waterfront is one of the finest parts of Plymouth – and most famous, so no need to dwell on this, save to say a walk from the cobbles of Sutton Harbour through The Barbican area (including The Mayflower Steps) along The Hoe to Smeatons Tower (lighthouse) will not disappoint. The coastline of Plymouth is so interesting there is likely to be something new which you spot each time you walk along the waterfront.

The long and varied coastline has a wow factor throughout


For a different walk, try Royal William Yard. After a longing daydream while passing Princess Yachts boatyard, amble on to the former major provisions depot for the Royal Navy (Plymouth still enjoys its long-held close association with the RN). Now a trendy, upmarket area with a clutch of bars and restaurants and a fine bakery or two, this place has a host of leisure activities and year-round events.

Royal William Yard is such a lovely place to while away a couple of hours


Not too far away is Dumford Street where Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once practised medicine. Some of Sherlock’s quotes are on plaques set in the pavement nearby – seeing how many you can find is good fun.

Turn detective and locate all the Sherlock Holmes quotes set in pavements in and around Dumford Street


Take an eight-minute ferry ride to Cornwall. The Cremyll Ferry is a relaxing and enjoyable trip from near Royal William Yard to Mount Edgcumbe.

The country park offers stunning views of Plymouth and Drake’s Island. Be sure to do the walk to the dilapidated folly and grab a picture-postcard image. The orangery, set in historic gardens, is an eye-catching venue for a cuppa.

We rounded off our inspiring hike by skimming pebbles and then endulging in a tub of real ice cream near the ferry terminal. The ferry is £1.50 each way for adults and 75p for children.

When you get off the ferry back in Devon, turn right and there’s a nice little children’s play park offering a photographic view of the water and Royal William Yard.

Mount Edgcumbe House is the centrepiece of the country park, a perfect place for a long walk with great scenery and views


House of Marbles – a 40-minute car drive from Plymouth to Bovey Tracey – is a fascinating museum of not just marbles. Our seven-year-old was mesmerised by the large, very large and wall-enveloping working models of marble runs. The whirring, zipping and winding is a joy to behold.

There’s also a glass-blowing workshop with a nice viewing platform offering a bird’s eye view of products being made.

The reputation of the restaurant (and its cake, we hear) meant it was all booked up when we were there so take a tip – nip into there and make a reservation soon after arrival.

Lots of unusual gifts, traditional games, cards, quality clothing and, of course, marbles are on sale in the shop.

Interesting, educational and free, this place is perfect for one of those wet day quandaries (but nicer weather enables use of the children’s outdoor playground too!).

The mesmerising marble runs provide endless fascination


Try combining a trip to House of Marbles with a visit to wonderful Buckfast Abbey nearby.

We visited this Benedictine monastery setting on a wet day; however, the immaculately-kept grounds were still delightful to wander around. The smell from the lavender garden is wonderful and parking and entry to the abbey is free.

The cafe is a little pricey but you get what you pay for – the delicious £5.20 Devon cream tea is a case in point.

The aroma of lavender is clear in parts of Buckfast Abbey’s gorgeous grounds


Have fun in Seven Continents Adventure Playground within Central Park, Plymouth. Imaginative and stimulating play equipment for ages toddler to about 12.

It’s all themed to tie in with the seven continents and a contents board tells visitors how. Bring a towel for arguably the top attraction – walk-through sprinklers and fountains activated by a foot stomp.

A very welcome aspect of this park is the condition of the equipment – no tired-looking pieces here in this Plymouth City Council facility and only minimal graffiti

Bring a picnic and you can comfortably while away a couple of hours.

Free entry with a free long-stay car park at the nearby Plymouth Life Centre.

Seven Continents Adventure Playground portrays the Spirit of Plymouth reaching all the corners of the globe


The Life Centre is not, as our son suspected, an aquarium but a leisure centre.

We couldn’t resist a peek inside as we passed its front door en route to the adventure playground. It’s a hive of activity in the front lobby with a cafe, access to the free spectator viewing area for the swimming pools and the climbing wall.

On closer inspection we discovered a fantastic flume and moveable floors, enabling the diving pool to also be used as a standard pool. It was a pity we didn’t get to go in during our stay in Britain’s Ocean City but we were to find another swimming gem a few days later…

Mount Wise swimming pools enjoy a wonderful setting

The outdoor pool complex at Mount Wise is perhaps one of Plymouth’s lesser known attractions. We know this because when we tweeted about how good it was, a regular visitor to the city asked where it was as she was unaware of it.

Set just a stone’s throw from the sea and with Mount Edgcumbe offering a backdrop, it’s three separate pools – a paddling pool with “Jacuzzi” area, a shallow (knee-high) pool and a main pool (with a roped-off area for lane swimming when we were there).

It’s not modern-looking but it’s clean, there’s plenty of space for sun-soaking around the pools’ edges and, best of all, it’s free! How many swimming pools can you say that about nowadays?

So there we have it. That’s our mini guide to great things to do in and around Plymouth which cost very little.

If you try any, let us know what you think. And also tell us of the ones you know about which we missed!

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