Smeaton’s Tower is iconic and is both central to Plymouth imagery and central in Plymouth itself, standing high on the Hoe overlooking the sound. The tower actually used to be 14 kilometers out to sea, but because the foundation was beginning to deteriorate, it was moved inland for preservation while a new lighthouse was installed in the water to take over the functional duties. This isn’t so unusual – Smeaton’s Tower is actually the third lighthouse to have stood in its in-water location, although the first two suffered more tragic fates – one was swept into the sea during a storm and the other caught fire, both taking people with them. I learned all this (along with more graphic details of the deaths associated with the previous lighthouses) as I bought my ticket to climb to the top of Smeaton’s tower.
What I saw
In keeping with the theme of this trip, I had a very basic itinerary for Plymouth (Best summed up as: See the lighthouse, eat scones with clotted cream) and other than that I just kind of wandered around. And around and around and around and around and around. While my first full day was that aforementioned windy, rainy, borderline bitter day, my second day was sunny, mild (in the 50s), and all around lovely. I was thrilled that I got to see things in such varied conditions, but that meant I wanted to see everything multiple times – in the rain, in the sun, during the day, at sunset… And so I wandered. So rather than bore you with the full-on itinerary of how many times I circled back to Smeaton’s Tower and the Barbican (so, so many), here’s the overview (you’re welcome):
As I’ve mentioned, I was lucky enough to live in London with my family for a couple of years when I was younger. During that time, we went all in on trying everything and, as a family with a collective sweet tooth, this was especially true about chocolate. By the time we left, each of us had a clear favorite and so now anytime one of us goes back to the UK, the traveler is instructed to bring back chocolate (the Cadburys just isn’t same in the states!). As the one who decided to go back to the UK for a semester abroad, grad school, spontaneous road trips, and more than a couple of weddings, this duty often falls on me, and I suspect, although haven’t tested, that if I came back without chocolate, I would not be allowed back into my parents’ house until I acquired some of the good stuff.
Where I stayed
When I was booking accommodation, my only requirements were parking and a fairly central location. The Drake provided both, as well as an interesting history and super friendly hosts. The parking is easy, with several spots up front and additional spaces in the back. Thanks to my super compact car, I managed to snag the last spot up front, which, charmingly, required driving over the sidewalk to wedge myself in between the building, a post box, and a light post. Too easy with an Aygo! Have I mentioned how much that car grew on me over the course of the week?
But I digress.
I grew up in New England, which means that I learned about the Pilgrims early and often. I had multiple Pilgrim costumes and paraphernalia from multiple years of multiple school events, I took field trips to Plimouth Plantation, and I’m weirdly protective of, the admittedly underwhelming, Plymouth Rock. Like, I understand that it is a very small rock with a very large crack in it and that being stamped with 1620 doesn’t really give it any actual sense of legitimacy. That said, if you are visiting, ask to see the rock, and then openly mock it, I will dig deep into the corners of my memory for the ghosts of Social Studies classes past and muster up some outward indignance, even if I secretly agree with you.
The drive from Glastonbury to Plymouth is only about two hours, but with no set plans and a huge number of small towns and large parks in between, I decided to give myself an entire day for the drive. The next phase of my road trip was taking shape! After a final Glastonbury breakfast (porridge and honey!) and a warning by Mark to “stay off the B roads,” I got back in the Aygo and started off for Tiverton, a town I selected because it shares a name with another small town near and dear to my heart.
After an action packed first half day in Glastonbury, I woke up ready to see how much I could tackle given a full day in and around town. The short answer? A LOT.
Glastonbury, with its crossing energy lines, deep connections to Arthurian legend, and associations with Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Grail, draws in people who are looking for something. It doesn’t have to be something in particular, although it certainly can be – the shops are filled with everything from healing crystals and guides on Eastern mysticism to books about anarchy, veganism, paganism, and Harry Potter. If you are looking for anything even a little bit on the margins of the spiritual or mythical, or if you are looking to become more in sync with nature or the universe, then you have probably felt the pull of Glastonbury.
Back in September of last year, I was starting to feel a bit restless. I realized that I had absolute masses of use-it-or-lose it vacation time and that the end of the year was fast approaching, so I turned to the internet and started looking into all the places I want to go, places with decently priced tickets, places with good weather, and anywhere with pretty landscapes on Instagram.