For the last few months outdoor spaces in Plymouth have been a lifeline, haven’t they?
When we were in proper, full hardcore lockdown but were allowed out once a day for exercise, these were what kept so many of us going.
We couldn’t drive anywhere for exercise so were forced to do local walks close to our homes. I don’t know about you, but as much as I found this frustrating, it also meant we discovered new outdoor spaces in Plymouth we’d not found before. And that’s even whilst dragging around two year old twins who don’t walk far without moaning.
Now we can drive further afield and are allowed to meet up with friends, the outdoor spaces in Plymouth are really coming into their own. It’s just a shame the second we were allowed to do that, the weather turned pants!
It’s exciting tourist attractions are looking set to reopen again next month, but if you’re still feeling nervous and want to stick to free open spaces, this blogpost is for you.
If the rain holds off, there are some fabulous outdoor spaces in Plymouth to try out. Here are a few of the best:
This has to be the best, doesn’t it? You can’t live in Plymouth and not love Plymouth Hoe. Since lockdown eased and we’ve been allowed to meet friends at a social distance, I’ve been up to The Hoe several times. You can gaze out of Plymouth Sound, one of the world’s finest natural harbours, walk past Smeaton’s Tower, breathe in the fresh sea air, and take the children along the promenade on the bikes/scooters. Or grab a coffee or ice cream from one of the cafes on the seafront already open for takeaways. It’s the perfect tonic for staying in all day!
Mayflower Steps and Barbican
Whilst you’re up at The Hoe, take a wander down to the Mayflower Steps and the Barbican. If you don’t know the history behind them, the Mayflower Steps was where the Pilgrims set sail for America in 1620. They eventually landed in ‘New Plymouth’ and over 20 million Americans are believed to be descended from these travelers. It’s such a shame the Mayflower 400 anniversary celebrations this year have been postponed. Damn you global pandemic! And whilst it’s still quiet, have a wander around the Barbican’s cobbled street. Enjoy the tranquility before everything reopens and tourists descend. Whilst there are obviously people there doing the same, it’s lovely to see the cobbles of Southside Street so peaceful for once.
The kids will love looking at the boats on Sutton Harbour, and you’ll love checking out the restaurants and bars there ready for when lockdown eases. Surely we’re owed a few child-free evenings out by then? There’s a one-mile circular route off the South West Coast Path which is on level tarmac so great for pushchairs.
The fabulous play park might be closed off which is so sad to see, but the rest of Central Park is open and let’s face it there’s plenty of it to explore. You can even get a takeaway coffee from the new cafe. It was pretty busy when we went a couple of weeks ago so you definitely need to keep your wits about you for social distancing. But if you head off the main thoroughfare there’s lots of room to ride bikes, scooters, skateboards, run and play. The skatepark is open too, but that looked busy. Great to stand and watch for a bit though. My boys loved it!
Tucked away on the edge of Stonehouse, Devil’s Point is a beautiful spot. Visit to have a picnic and play whilst watching all the action on Plymouth Sound. You can enjoy the spectacular views out to Drake’s Island and across to Mount Edgcumbe, and there’s plenty of space to kick a ball around. The car park is currently closed though, but you can park elsewhere and walk. Most definitely one of the loveliest outdoor spaces in Plymouth.
Royal William Yard
If you’re at Devil’s Point, you’d be silly not to include a wander around Royal William Yard as part of your outing. The Grade I listed former naval victualling yard has been lovingly brought back to life. It now houses bars, restaurants, businesses and homes. It was constructed between 1825 and 1831, so is steeped in history and boasts stunning views out over the River Tamar and out to the Sound. There might not be much open down there yet, but I’d take this as a positive and enjoy the quiet. Kids will love running around on the Green and discovering the little nooks and crannies. Although I’m biased – I used to live there! There is lots of socially distant signage around to guide you and parking charges still apply at £2 an hour.
Freedom Fields Park
There are some fabulous parks around the city. And Freedom Fields is definitely one of the nicest outdoor spaces in Plymouth. Although the play park is a no-go area, there’s lots of space for the kids to play. Close to Greenbank and Lipson, the historic park has amazing views out to Plymouth Sound. There’s also a wildflower meadow to enjoy.
Pre-lockdown we used to love going to Devonport Park with friends. The play park is great fun, but there’s lots of open space for kids to ride bikes on both the grass and pathways. Dating back to the 19th century, it’s apparently the oldest formal public park in Plymouth. You learn something new every day!
If you’re in Plymstock you’ll have no doubt already been to Radford Park during lockdown, but if not, you MUST. It’s a beautiful place where kids can feed the ducks, play hide and seek, and explore the woods. There are pathways for bikes and views across Hooe Lake. It’s situated in the grounds of the former Radford House, a grand Tudor building and home of the Harris Family and their successors the Bulteels. But all you need to know is that it’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon.
Now I am ashamed to say that despite being a proud Janner, I’ve never been to Ham Woods. And it sounds like a great place. It has a nature reserve, woodland, rough grassland and marsh with more than 200 species of plants and almost 80 species of birds spotted there. Great for those kids who are wildlife enthusiasts!
If exploring woods is your thing, there are plenty to choose from in Plymouth. Have you tried Cann Woods yet? We did for the first time this lockdown and had a great time. Situated between Plympton and the moors, the car park is open and there are several routes to take. Paths are suitable for bikes, and there are picnic tables there for when you need a break.
My facebook feed has been full of people enjoying Plymbridge Woods since lockdown, and it’s a beautiful place. The car park has been shut but it’s not stopped people. You can reach it easily via the cycle path from Coypool. Or if bike rides have become your family’s thing try out part of the 29km route from Laira Bridge through Plymbridge up to Dartmoor. If you want a more sedate outing have a wander along the path through the wooded valley of the River Plym. You can watch out for wild flowers, birds and even deer. It’s one of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in Plymouth.
Sticking with woods, I’m actually wondering if I should let this little secret out of the bag. Dunstone Woods in Plymstock is literally less than five minutes from my house and I’m embarrassed to say I only went there for the first time in lockdown. You can access it from various residential streets, and it comes out onto a Green ideal for a game of football, or hide and seek. Before we could drive anywhere, it became my new go-to place. Possibly going there slightly too often – I may have heard my five year old say “not the woods, again!…”
The other place we’ve been to on more than one occasion have been our local playing fields – King George’s on the edge of Elburton. You’ll no doubt have playing fields within easy reach of where you live to. They’ve been ideal for a quick bike ride, playing with monster trucks, and even attempting to fly a kite. When you just want a quick half an hour’s breath of fresh air, they’ve been ideal. And for us have been one of the best outdoor spaces in Plymouth we’ve used.
If you want to take a drive out, try Burrator for a little wander. When we went it was one of the first weekends you could drive further afield so was busy. But once you got away from the parked cars and ice cream van, the number of people thinned out. You can cycle, walk or run around the circular route beside the reservoir. Or there are different areas where you can fork off and play, even having a little paddle in the water. My boys were enthralled, as you can see.
Jennycliff is another one of the great outdoor spaces in Plymouth to head for. It was the last place we went before lockdown came into force, and we love it there. Obviously the magnificent view over Plymouth Sound helps. But there’s also plenty of green space to run around, play and sit. You can also take a steep path down to the beach from there too.
As soon as we were allowed to drive for exercise beaches seemed to be top of the list for people to head for. And you can’t blame them – we’ve got so many beautiful beaches so close to us. If you don’t want to go far head for Bovisand or Wembury. But if you don’t mind more of a drive Bantham, Bigbury, Thurlestone and South Milton are definite favourites. Or head across the Tamar Bridge where you’ll find some beautiful ones in South East Cornwall.
We’ve done a few trips to Mount Batten since lockdown started to ease. The pier jutting out into Plymouth Sound is perfect for my boys on their bikes. There is also a green area for them to kick a ball around, and plenty of benches to have your picnic. I’m even heading there with my girlfriends this week for a ‘socially distanced’ catch up.
Living in Plymouth, you’d be silly not to have headed for Dartmoor in the last month or so. With wide open spaces, the National Park offers the perfect setting for the kids to run free and not have to worry about restrictions. Obviously some places are busier than others, but if you avoid those such as Cadover Bridge (where it seems the two metre rule does not apply!) you can find some fabulous spots. We’ve been enjoying the old airfield at Yelverton. The kids have vast amounts of space to ride their bikes and play hide and seek in the gorse bushes. There’s even an ice cream van – bonus!
No list compiled by me would be complete without a mention of Saltram, not would it? The parkland has been open the whole way through lockdown. But with the car park closed, it’s hit and miss if you can find a way to get into it, unless you’re cycling. But now the National Trust have reopened it with pre-booked slots which is ideal. The play park, cafe and shop are still closed, but the formal gardens are now open. People having to book a slot has made it extra quiet, so social distancing is easy. Make sure to book though as they’ll turn you away at the gate if not.
Where is your favourite outdoor space in and around Plymouth?
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If you enjoyed this post, and it’s made you want a bit more freedom, why not have a read of 10 top UK family holidays ideal for young children. If you’re still at teaching the kids at home and running out of steam, check out my posts on homeschooling ideas and resources. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all, read my post on Feeling the pressure to be a supermum in lockdown?
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