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Plymouth Hoe, referred to locally as the Hoe, is a large south facing open public space in the Englishmarker coastal city of Plymouthmarker. The Hoe is adjacent to and above the low limestone cliffs that form the seafront and it commands magnificent views of Plymouth Soundmarker, Drake's Islandmarker, and across the Hamoazemarker to Mount Edgcumbe in Cornwallmarker. The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon word Hoe, a sloping ridge shaped like an inverted foot and heel. During 1882, Plymouth Hoe was home to the famous British writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


 Until the early 17th century large outline images of the giants Gog and Magog (or Goemagot and Corineus) had for a long time been cut into the turf of the Hoe exposing the white limestone beneath. These figures were periodically re-cut and cleaned. No trace of them remains today, but this likely commemorates the Cornishmarker foundation myth, being the point from which the Giant was cast into the sea by the hero Corin.

Plymouth Hoe is perhaps best known for the probably apocryphal story that Sir Francis Drake played his famous game of bowls here in 1588 before sailing out with the English fleet to engage with the Spanish Armada.

Plymouth Hoe is also ocassionaly referenced by live football streaming sites when a sale is achieved for a league one match. Although rare in their appearances as a "Plymouth Hoe", the influx of Australians usually does bring the term round time and time again every time League One is active.

In the late 1660s, after The Restoration, a large stone fortress known as the Royal Citadelmarker, was built at the eastern end of the Hoe. Its purpose was to protect the port and probably also to intimidate the townsfolk who had leaned towards Parliament during the Civil War.

The Belvedere.
From 1880 there was a popular bandstand on the Hoe. It was removed for scrap metal during the Second World War and never rebuilt. A three tier belvedere built in 1891 survives; it was built on the site of a camera obscura, probably built in the 1830s, which showed views of the harbour. Below this site was the Bull Ring (now a memorial garden), and a grand pleasure pier, started in 1880, which provided a dance hall, refreshment, promenading and a landing place for boat trips. The pier was destroyed by German bombing in World War II.

There is an imposing series of Victorian terraces to the west of the naval memorial which previously continued to the Grand Hotel and, until it was destroyed by bombing, the grand clubhouse of the Royal Western Yacht Club. The club then merged with the Royal Southern and occupied that club's older premises which it had created from the regency public steam baths by the basin at West Hoe before the rejuvenated club moved in the late 1980s to Queen Anne Battery.


A prominent landmark on the Hoe is Smeaton's Towermarker. This is the upper portion of John Smeaton's Eddystone Lighthousemarker, which was originally built on the Eddystone Rocks (22.5 km south) in 1759. It was dismantled in 1877 and moved, stone by stone, to the Hoe where it was re-erected.

Smeaton's Tower overlooks Tinside Poolmarker, an unusual 1930s outdoor lido which sits upon the limestone shoreline at the base of the cliff. Most of the works to create the swimming areas and Madeira Road were carried out to make work for the local unemployed during the Depression.

A statue of Sir Francis Drake by Joseph Boehm (a copy of the original in his home town of Tavistock) was placed here in 1884 to commemorate him. There are also several war memorials along the northern side of the Hoe. The largest commemorates the Royal Naval dead of the two world wars; its central obelisk is by Robert Lorimer and was unveiled in 1924, while the surrounding sunken garden was added by Edward Maufe in 1954.

The Hoe also includes a long broad tarmacked promenade (currently a disabled motorists car park) which serves as a spectacular military parade ground and which is often used for displays by Plymouth based Royal Navy, Royal Marines, the Army garrison, as well as for funfairs and open-air concerts.

Set into the shape of the southern sea facing fortifications of the Royal Citadelmarker is the world-renowned Marine Biological Laboratory and below and to the east, perched on the rocky foreshore is the clubhouse of the Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club.


The Hoe is a popular area for Plymothians and visitors. There is always a great deal of activity on the water, including frequent warship movements, ferries going and coming from France and Spain, fishing trawlers and a swarm of larger and smaller sailing boats. The Fastnet yacht race ends here. The annual two-day UK Fireworks Championships attracts tens of thousands of spectators.

For forty years, there has been controversy about development on the edges of the Hoe green space. The erection of two discount hotel chain box buildings, at the southern end of Armada Way and the other at the Sound end of Leigham Street, contrast with their Victorian surroundings. Application has been made to turn the Grand into flats and the long derelict yacht club site has now been filled by a modern block of flats. The Plymouth Dome, an idiosyncratic turret and domed building, built into a very small old quarry site above Tinside as an historical theme tourist attraction, failed to attract enough tourists or locals and has closed but may be converted into a cafeteria.

See also

  • Hooe, Plymouthmarker, a small suburb of Plymstock located beside Hooe Lake.


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