Discover the charm and bustling atmosphere of Stonehouse in Plymouth
For years Plymouth was at the vanguard of the UK’s naval and shipbuilding industries.
And, situated at the mouth of the Tamar estuary, the waterside neighbourhood of Stonehouse once played an important part in the city’s ocean-going ambitions.
Military and industrial obligations changed over time, though, and the area took a turn for the worse.
However, the past few years have seen clever redevelopment schemes, and increasing recognition of the neighbourhood’s charms turn Stonehouse into a buzzy, bustling locale.
The Fig Tree @ 36
An unassuming little restaurant that you could be forgiven for thinking is someone’s front room, The Fig Tree @ 36 is a little eatery with a big reputation.
The place takes its name from the fig tree that sits in the restaurant’s back yard and is a cosy and casual space (even well-behaved dogs are welcome) offering top-notch bistro-style dishes.
The food is delicious, and it comes as no great shock to find that The Fig Tree made it into the Michelin Guide in 2021.
Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant is closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and Sunday evenings.
Booking ahead is essential, and it’s best to call ahead anyway if you need to ask about vegan and veggie options.
There are certain spots in Plymouth that are remarkable in their own right.
The kind of places that are just lovely for what they are, without the need of anything other than a bit of TLC now and then. Devil’s Point is one such spot.
Taking its name from the treacherous tides that collide here, Devil’s Point is a tract of grass and old, ruined buildings that face out to sea, providing serene views of Devon, Cornwall, and the ocean ahead.
There’s also a tidal pool here that’s free and open to bathers all year round.
The pool is sheltered enough to avoid said dodgy tides and it's heartening to know that the local council is committed to keeping it clean and in use.
A nifty little foot ferry that’s a sedate alternative to crossing into Cornwall via the nearby Tamar Bridge.
The Cremyll Ferry (in one boat-shaped form or another) has been taking passengers from Stonehouse across the River Tamar to Mount Edgcumbe for centuries.
The trip takes just eight minutes and the ferries run every half hour, seven days a week, starting around 7 am and ending around 6 pm.
Adult tickets cost £2, children’s tickets are £1 and dogs on leads travel for free.
The ferries operate on a first-come, first-served basis and tickets can only be bought onboard. Guaranteed lovely views along the way.
Take your bike for an extra quid.
Royal William Yard
Royal William Yard is undoubtedly the jewel in Stonehouse’s regenerated crown.
As with much of the neighbourhood’s infrastructure, the yard was constructed in the nineteenth century as a functioning naval facility, providing waterside storage for the goods that came in and out of Plymouth’s docks.
Following a long period of neglect, careful restoration of the area started in the early 2000s, and now Royal William Yard is an elegant collection of residential flats, boutique stores, and places to eat and drink.
The pizzas at Wildwood are worth a mention, and the Bistrot Pierre restaurant serves good value French food.
The Artillery Tower
Built in the 16th-century during the reign of Henry VIII to bolster Plymouth’s sea defenses, the Artillery Tower was originally a battlement for housing military cannons.
Since then, it’s served all manner of purposes, including working as a coastguard station, and is now a well-regarded restaurant.
It’s a family-run business and the emphasis is on quality, local meat, fish, and game.
Dine here and you’ll be talking about it forever. Yes, for the food, but also for the views and the atmosphere.
It’s worth noting that this building is a tower so, as such, the entrance to the eating space is via a flight of stairs.
Open for dinner from Wednesday until Saturday from 7 pm, and we recommend you call ahead to reserve a table.
South West SUP
As a leisure activity, the UK hasn’t seen anything like the current stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) craze since skateboarding arrived in the 1970s.
Suddenly paddleboards are everywhere, and there’s a whole industry that’s shot up around the sport, including businesses offering board hire as well as lessons.
Stonehouse’s South West SUP is a paddleboard school with a solid reputation for delivering hands-on help to nervous starters and for hiring out the best, safest equipment at decent prices.
The team also offers guided tours around the quieter local waters, including gentle evening punts.
The business is located within the Royal William Yard complex and is also home to the organic coffee shop, The Shack.
There are army and navy surplus stores, and then there’s Bogey Knights.
Established in the 1890s by one H.W. Knight, the store has sold ex-military equipment, chandlery, electronics, and apparel ever since.
There are conflicting theories about how the ‘Bogey’ part of the name came about.
But the fact remains that this shop has a legendary status among artists looking for inspiration, collectors, browsers, and nosy people alike.
An Aladdin’s Cave that accounts for many a lost hour, Bogey Knights has been under new ownership for the past few years and now offers film and TV production companies with props and outfits.
Open Monday to Friday, 9 am until 5 pm.
Right next to the Cremyll Ferry’s landing stage, Elvira’s Café has been dishing up very good, no-nonsense food for longer than most care to remember.
Elvira’s specialise in keeping it simple, and you’ll get value for money here, all served up by their friendly, smiley staff.
Breakfasts here are the stuff of legend, and there are tasty vegetarian and vegan versions on offer too.
The café offers homemade specials (quiches, pies, cakes), the food is cooked to order and, along with the breakfasts, the homemade curried parsnip soup is particularly recommended.
Open daily from 8 am until 2 pm (Friday from 7.30 am), takeaways are also available.