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GUIDED WALKS IN DEVON WITH ABSOLUTOURS

Plymouth – Port of Departure

Enjoy breath-taking views of Plymouth Sound and waterfront whilst strolling across Plymouth Hoe. See Sir Francis Drake’s statue and the Armada Memorial with stories of exploration, discovery and heroism. Plymouth was the point of departure for many whose journeys were imposed upon them or were made by choice. Visit cobbled streets around Sutton Harbour and the Barbican’s Elizabethan buildings familiar to the Pilgrim Fathers, who stayed here before journeying to the ‘New World’ on the Mayflower’. Emigration was big business. At the end of your walk, grab a local ice cream or relax on the historic Barbican quayside, dining on fresh fish.

Contact Viv to enquire

Moderate walking fitness. Generally fairly level walking but with a few steps and hill between The Hoe and Barbican areas. Mostly paved with some cobbles. Parts of this walk may be challenging for those with personal mobility considerations. Sensible walking shoes, clothing suitable for weather conditions.

guided walks in plymouth, devon with viv robinson registered blue badge tour guide

Plymouth, in Devon, is inextricably linked with the sea; a port from where, for centuries, emigrants have departed and voyages, by explorers such as Sir William Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, and Captain James Cook, have been made. In C16th, before the Pilgrim Fathers left on the Mayflower to establish a pioneer settlement in Massachusetts, Sir Walter Raleigh shipped colonists from Sutton harbour to the ‘New World’ and established a settlement on Roanoke Island in what is now North Carolina.

During the C18th the only government emigration depot in country with room for over 1000 people waiting to board ship was located in Plymouth. Emigration was big business!

Transportation of criminals to Australia, and promise of free passage to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Cape of Good Hope, for those seeking a new future, saw over 430,000 people leave Plymouth as emigrants during the C19th and early C20th.

Walk Plymouth Hoe for breath-taking views of Plymouth Sound and West Hoe Pier where ‘Look II’, Anthony Gormley’s sculpture expresses tensions between whether to leave or stay, desire to make roots, search for adventure and a free life. When strolling along the spacious promenade stories of exploration and heroism are revealed as we pass Sir Francis Drake’s statue, the Armada Memorial, Smeaton’s Tower, many other monuments and intriguing features.

Around Sutton Harbour on Plymouth’s Barbican, we find cobbled streets, lined with cosy cafes, buzzing pubs, eclectic shops and galleries, an Elizabethan garden and buildings, the colourful fishing harbour, Mayflower Steps and host of memorials to many who sailed from here on unique voyages.

At the end of the walk a Cream Tea – Devon style – can be arranged as an optional extra, or you may wish to grab a local ice cream, or relax dining on fresh fish in a harbourside café or restaurant.

Contact Viv to enquire

The Highlights:

  • A 2 ½ hour guided walk led by a Blue Badge Guide
  • Walk along Plymouth Hoe with outstanding views of Plymouth Sound
  • Visit to Plymouth’s historic Barbican and Sutton Harbour
  • Opportunity to walk under, and photograph, the Mayflower Steps
  • Use of personal radio receiver connected to Tour Guide wireless audio transmission system for improved audibility and social distancing on walk.
  • Optional extra – Cream Tea
  • Accompanied by Blue Badge Guide with Covid safe measures in place

Full Day Tour Options

  • Combine this walk, with a visit to Plymouth Gin, oldest working gin distillery in England, followed by short, guided walk into Plymouth’s centre to view the Prysten House, St. Andrew’s Church and Guildhall on Royal Parade. Optional light lunch
  • Combine this walk with the ‘Resurgam City Transformed Walk’ and visit to ‘The Box’ Plymouth’s new museum, gallery and archive with shop, café, bar and special Mayflower Exhibition. Optional light lunch
Contact Viv to enquire

Plymouth – Resurgam – A City Transformed

The people of Plymouth and Devonport suffered devastating aerial bombing in WW2, with much of the original city damaged beyond recognition. The city we see today is testament to the spirit and determination of the people and the innovative rebuilding project that created a modern city from the ruins left by the Luftwaffe.

Explore the central areas from the Box to the Hoe, contrasting pre-war streets and buildings with the modern layout to uncover dramatic stories that give a human perspective to the experience of war.

Contact Viv to enquire

Moderate walking fitness. The city is accessible to wheelchairs, although the climb from Armada Way to the Hoe is comparatively steep. Sensible walking shoes, clothing suitable for weather conditions.

guided walks in plymouth, devon with viv robinson registered blue badge tour guide

The royal dockyards at Devonport were a prime military target for the Luftwaffe; especially after the fall of France in summer 1940. Proximity of the dockyards to civilian centres meant Plymouth became the most heavily bombed city in the country, after London. In 1939, evacuees from London and other cities came, seeking sanctuary only to find themselves in as much jeopardy far from home. Imagine the scene, each night through the Blitz, when up to 50,000 people fled Plymouth for the countryside by whatever means available to shelter in barns, churches and even outdoors.

Resurgam (I shall rise again) painted over the west door of the bombed shell of St Andrew’s Church sums up the spirit of the people. As early as July 1941 ideas for a ‘bold and comprehensive’ rebuilding of Plymouth resulted in the most complete planned city of postwar Britain, designed around wide central thoroughfares and bold, functional architecture with modern neighbourhoods. Today many of these modern buildings are listed for their architectural value. Amongst them surviving older buildings tell of an older way of life and huge endeavour in the face of great adversity.

Meets outside The Box, Plymouth’s new museum, and walk into the centre of the modern city tracing lines of pre-war streets and buildings to compare these with the post-war design. Respected postwar buildings with innovative designs are seen and two churches: one a memorial to the Blitz; the other a testament to the will to rebuild are visited. The commanding view from the Hoe reveals why the port and neighbouring naval dockyard has given rise to Plymouth being known as the Ocean City.

The tour is suitable for any age and level of interest. Families are welcome as it may be particularly enjoyed by children who have studied WW2 at school.

The Highlights:

  • A 2 hour guided walk led by a Blue Badge Guide
  • Walk discovering Plymouth’s story of destruction,struggle and rebirth to a modern city
  • Use of personal radio receiver connected to Tour Guide wireless audio transmission system for improved audibility and social distancing on walk
  • Accompanied by Blue Badge Guide with Covid safe measures in place

Full Day Tour Options

  • Combine with Plymouth Port of Departure Walk to explore the historic Barbican & Hoe
  • Combine with a guided visit to the Royal William Yard, once Royal Navy victualling yard now centre for culture and relaxation where stunning buildings house a range of restaurants, shops and galleries
Contact Viv to enquire

Devon’s D-Day Shoreline – Operation Tiger

Enjoy breathtaking views on this leisurely guided walk wandering through a natural landscape with a special wartime history in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Slapton Sands and Slapton Ley.

Visit Torcross, village, the ShermanTank, memorial to lives lost during ‘Operation Tiger’, when US troops were preparing for the D-Day landings. Scrunch along the shingle beach at Slapton Sands to enjoy extensive views across Lyme Bay and wander through Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve surrounding the largest natural freshwater lake in South West England. Choose to partake of a local ice cream, drink or local fish ‘n’ chips at the C14th Start Bay Inn, known for its seafood.

Contact Viv to enquire

Moderate walking fitness. Easy level walking on paved areas, beach and unsurfaced tracks. Sensible walking shoes, clothing suitable for weather conditions.

guided walks in devon with viv robinson registered blue badge tour guide

Walk in wonderful natural landscapes that have extra special history.

Visit Torcross, a small South Devon village which has struggled against the ravages of the sea for many centuries and find an American Sherman Tank, rescued from the sea, memorial to a major disaster that caused many American troops to lose their lives when ‘Operation Tiger’, an exercise carried out in preparation for the D-Day landings, was intercepted by the enemy. Hundreds of US military are commemorated on plaques nearby.

Scrunch along the shingle beach at Slapton Sands, similar to Utah Beach, Normandy where the Americans were to land in June 1944, and enjoy the salty air whilst taking in extensive views across Lyme Bay. Locals evacuated from the area in 1943, so military exercises could proceed with upmost secrecy, are acknowledged in the Memorial Park where we share poignant stories. At Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve, part of the Wild Planet Trust, surrounding the largest natural freshwater lake in South West England, wildfowl and birds frequent the reedbeds and marshes. When returning along the South West Coast Path to Torcross look out for rare and important flowers and stop on the shore at the far end of the Ley near the C14th Start Bay Inn, If peckish here you can relax, savour a local ice cream, drink or even fish ‘n’ chips at the pub or one of the small cafes!

Contact Viv to enquire

The Highlights:

  • A 2½ hour guided walk led by a Blue Badge Guide Walk along Slapton Sands beach to the Memorial Park where locals evacuated from their homes in wartime are acknowledged on an impressive monument
  • View the Sherman Tank, memorial to US soldiers who lost their lives during ‘Operation Tiger’
  • Walk in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve Visit Torcross village challenged by its location next to a changing coast
  • Use of personal radio receiver connected to Tour Guide wireless audio transmission system for improved audibility and social distancing on walk
  • Optional Extra – Fish ‘n chips at C14th Inn known for its local fish and seafood recipes
  • Accompanied by Blue Badge Guide with Covid safe measures in place

Full Day Tour Options

  • Combine with ‘Historic Dartmouth Charming River Port’ walk as part of a Full Day experience – with optional extras
Contact Viv to enquire

Dartmouth – Charming Historic River Port

A memorable and scenic walk around the lovely town and port of Dartmouth uncovering stories of discovery and exploration, seaborne raids, traders and great endeavour. from the time of the Crusades and Geoffrey Chaucer to famous Tudor explorers, New World settlers and the WW2 story of D-Day, in 1944. Explore the old town’s narrow streets and stone stairs, its wharfs, castles and wonderful views across the Dart estuary and out to sea.

Contact Viv to enquire

Moderate walking fitness. Some steep slopes and steps around the town. Sensible walking shoes, clothing suitable for weather conditions.

guided walks in dartmouth, devon with viv robinson registered blue badge tour guide

Dartmouth is one of the loveliest of England’s historic ports with fascinating stories to tell. Its position on the south coast explains its importance to global exploration, trade and as a vital naval base in times of war.

Explore Elizabethan streets to find the Buttermarket, St Saviour’s Church, and the narrow packhorse route, only inland access to the port for many centuries. Investigate twisting streets above the town centre and stop at the Boat Float on the water’s edge to reflect on how the town was steadily reclaimed from the River Dart estuary. Find Bayard’s Cove, the original wharf, when walking towards Dartmouth Castle guarding the narrow harbour entrance.

Since 1863 Dartmouth has been home to the Britannia Royal Naval College founded to train young officers for service at sea. This and Dartmouth’s strategic position meant it became a military target in WW2. The College became the US Naval Advanced Amphibious Base in the run up to D-Day and 4000 US servicemen lived here, most being sent to Utah beach in June 1944.

Saunter around the galleries and shops or refresh with a coffee in a local cafe when wandering through Old Dartmouth before choosing to explore further, relax in the Royal Avenue Gardens or ‘watch the world go by’ whilst resting alongside the waterfront.

Contact Viv to enquire

The Highlights:

  • A 2½ hour guided walk led by a Blue Badge Guide
  • A guided walk to explore Dartmouth, a jewel of a coastal town. Meander through historic streets, passing artisan eateries, local art and craft shops and vintage markets whilst hearing of Dartmouth’s worldwide connections and maritime stories
  • Walk towards Dartmouth Castle, a medieval fortification guarding the harbour entrance. Imagine French warships trying to attack Dartmouth during the Hundred Years War, the Pilgrim Fathers heading westwards towards the Atlantic and the anticipation felt by D-Day troops destined for the Normandy Beaches
  • Time to wander Dartmouth at your leisure and perhaps visit a C14th pub, or a cafe of your choice for lunch
  • Use of personal radio receiver connected to Tour Guide wireless audio transmission system for improved audibility and social distancing on walk
  • Accompanied by Blue Badge Guide with Covid safe measures in place

Full Day Tour Options

  • Combine the walk with a river boat trip along the Dart Estuary to absorb the atmosphere of Dartmouth’s busy river scene. and admire Agatha Christie’s summer residence at Greenway
  • Combine with a visit to Torcross and Slapton Sands for a full day tour where you can enjoy the ‘D-Day Shoreline and ‘Operation Tiger’ leisurely walk with time to relax on the shores of Lyme Bay with Optional extras
  • Combine this walk with a guided visit to Dartmouth Castle or the Britannia Royal Naval College Britain’s elite naval officer training college set in an awe-inspiring building where Princess Elizabeth, met her future husband Prince Philip. An inclusive guided tour tells of the rigorous training for service at sea around the Globe
Contact Viv to enquire

Ilfracombe – Commerce, Pleasure and Piracy in a Seaside Haven

Enjoy a walk in the seaside port of Ilfracombe on Devon’s rocky North Coast: hidden coves and hideaways, seaside architecture, quirky holiday culture and stories of mariners, pirates, explorers, wartime heroes and pleasure-seeking visitors make this a fascinating corner of Devon.

Contact Viv to enquire

Moderate walking fitness. Narrow pavements, uneven surfaces and some steps may make this a challenging walk where personal mobility needs to be considered – please contact your guide for more information. Clothing suitable for weather conditions.

guided walks in ilfracombe, devon with viv robinson registered blue badge tour guide

Ilfracombe, on Devon’s remote Atlantic coast, has long been a safe haven for seafarers and fishermen. In the16th century the port became an important base for ships trading with the Americas and Africa and a refuge from the pirates who once plagued the Bristol Channel.

Walk on the harbour side discovering stories of endeavour, enterprise and tragedy where now fishing boats share the waterfront with works of art, cafes and small shops set against a backdrop of rocky coves and steep Victorian terraces.

By the late 1700s graceful houses and public buildings began to spread along the cliffs as wealthy Georgians came to bathe and socialize. Explore the town and discover tunnels cut through the cliffs so Victorians could reach tidal bathing pools. Uncover accounts of remarkable people; writers, explorers and even the Kaiser who came to this fashionable resort.

In WW2 Ilfracombe became a refuge for evacuees escaping the bombing of England’s industrial cities and Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi controlled Europe. The coast around the town was soon heavily defended against a German invasion and life under wartime restrictions became increasingly harsh. In 1943, a friendly invasion of American servicemen, here to train for D-Day, brought a cultural revolution that left a lasting and poignant impact on local lives.

This leisurely walking tour of this intriguing town will leave you with stories to ponder and memories to savour and, hopefully, a wish to return.

Contact Viv to enquire

The Highlights:

  • A 2½ hour guided walk led by a Blue Badge Guide
  • Walk exploring Ilfracombe’s historic port and Victorian seaside resort on the spectacular north Devon coast
  • Uncover Ilfracombe’s stories of exploration, endeavour and achievement and rich cultural legacy left by many visitors and occupants
  • Use of personal radio receiver connected to Tour Guide wireless audio transmission system for improved audibility and social distancing on walk
  • Optional extras – Walk under the cliff to Tunnels Beaches; unique Victorian bathing pool complex, or enjoy an ice cream or afternoon tea on the harbour side
  • Accompanied by Blue Badge Guide with Covid safe measures in place

Full Day Tour Options

  • Combine with a guided walk on the sand dunes at Braunton Burrows, UNESCO designated Biosphere reserve. Explore the role Devon played in the defence of the realm through the darkest days of WW2 and the preparations for D-Day. Great technological advances such as radar, electronic warfare, P.L.U.T.O. and the ‘Great Panjandrum’ were tested on the coast. Seas were patrolled for enemy submarines and Allied troops trained on the sandy beaches for the Normandy Landings.
Contact Viv to enquire

Exeter – Castle and Cathedral City

This walk takes you through lesser-known corners of Exeter to discover its rich history, quirky corners and events that encouraged Exeter to develop into the small vibrant city we know today. During the Middle Ages growth of the woollen trade and cloth industry made Exeter a wealthy religious, commercial, and administrative centre for the region. Cloth was loaded onto ships at Exeter Quay for export and business thrived until the Industrial Revolution when the rise of Northern mills led to the decline of Exeter’s woollen trade. The hidden gem of Rougemont Gardens surrounding Rougemont Castle, which was built into the Roman city walls by the Normans, provide contrast to the medieval streets and buildings.

Contact Viv to enquire

Moderate walking fitness. Narrow pavements, uneven surfaces and some steps may make this a challenging walk where personal mobility needs to be considered. Clothing suitable for weather conditions.

guided walks in exeter, devon with viv robinson registered blue badge tour guide

Not to be missed is the magnificent Cathedral with Norman towers and longest continuous medieval stone vaulted nave in the world. The city suffered heavy bombardment during the Baedecker raids of WW II as it lay within reach of the Luftwaffe’s bases in France. Redeveloped Princesshay, home to the modern shopping centre, surrounds the cathedral close and within it the Historic remains of St Catherine’s Almshouses can still be found. A mix of modern art, eclectic shops, historic buildings and unusual characters make Exeter one of the most vibrant, attractive and historically interesting cities in the South West.

Contact Viv to enquire

The Highlights:

  • A 2½ hour guided walk led by a Blue Badge Guide
  • Walk exploring Exeter’s Cathedral close, Roman walls, Norman castle and city centre redeveloped after being bombed in WWII
  • Use of personal radio receiver connected to Tour Guide wireless audio transmission system for improved audibility and social distancing on walk
  • Optional extra – Devon Cream Tea
  • Accompanied by Blue Badge Guide with Covid safe measures in place