Catherine Huckerby encounters war ships and rainforests on a surprising weekend break
Plymouth, why go there? Well the simple answer is to stay in a gorgeous Georgian manor house hotel called St Elizabeth’s. It’s in the tiny village of Plympton St Maurice, a short taxi ride from Plymouth airport, and set in six acres of landscaped gardens and woodland.
Dating back to the 17th century, it was formally owned by the Palmer family, who were local business and trades people. The skillfully converted interior has lost none of its period charm (despite being decorated in an understated contemporary feel and with all the mod cons), with roll-top baths and luxury giant sized Vi Spring beds with soft Egyptian cotton sheets. We instantly felt comfortable and relaxed. Too relaxed in fact to do much more than amble around the tiny village and pop into Plymouth docks, where Sir Francis Drake set sail centuries ago.
We decided on a short boat trip to see the war ships, only to discover that if we’d walked two minutes up the road we could have quite easily seen the war ships from the shore. All that sea air got us in the mood for a sumptuous dinner, which didn’t disappoint. After an excellent Plymouth G&T in the lounge we took our place for dinner.
We ordered fresh locally caught crab in a crab tower with poppy seed wafers and pink grapefruit, followed by locally farmed pork belly and sautéed potatoes with creamy apple sauce. The icing on the cake was the assiette of chocolate, a chocolate lover’s dream consisting of six different chocolate desserts from homemade chocolate ice cream to melt in the mouth chocolate mousse.
The next morning we decided to be a little more adventurous and work off some of the rich food we consumed. We’d heard about the Eden Project, ‘a global garden where you can see the world in a day.’ It’s difficult to imagine the scale of this charity project, which took years to build and is still ongoing. The first stage took two and a half years to construct and was completed in 2001. Built in a disused clay pit near St Austell, Cornwall, it has the largest canopy in captivity, quite a place for a Guinness Book of Records enthusiast. Wandering around the tropical biome, it really did feel like we were in a rainforest and the skating rink, open in the winter months from 2 November–21 February, was fun if a little embarrassing.
WHERE TO STAY
St Elizabeths Hotel, Longbrook Street, Plympton St Maurice, Plymouth, Devon PL7 1NJ, 01752 344840, www.stelizabeths.co.uk, standard room including full English or Continental breakfast from £139
Eden Project, 0871 200 2233, www.edenproject.com, adults £16, child £5, family £38