Plymouth - Part Three

A true monument to Plymouth's nautical roots. The walls of the Citadel have intimidated foreign fleets, and helped protect the city since the 17th Century.

Plymouth Citadel: Plymouth CitadelWith its imposing 70 foot high walls, the Royal Citadel dominates the eastern end of Plymouth Hoe and hints at the key role the city has played in England's naval history. 

For over 100 years the Citadel was the most important English defence against attack from the sea and it remains one of Europe's finest 17th Century fortifications. You will get to see its seaward side towards the end of this walk.

The Citadel was built on the orders of King Charles II in 1665 as a defence against a threatened Dutch invasion and has been in continuous use ever since.

Believing the Navy 'vital to the safety, honour and welfare of the realm', the King was determined to protect Plymouth's military and commercial harbour.

Keen to safeguard his own interests, Charles II knew his fortress would also serve to intimidate rebellious locals who had staunchly supported Cromwell and the Parliamentarian cause during the Civil War.

With some of its guns pointed at the town rather than out to sea, locals had every reason to feel intimidated!

Most of the stone used to built the Citadel was taken from a quarry at the opposite end of The Hoe - an area now known as West Hoe Park.

The Citadel has been regularly strengthened over the years, particularly during the 1750s when it was equipped with 113 guns. Within its ramparts is a spacious parade ground, barracks for over 300 men and a collection of historic guns.

It even included a small harbour, now the site of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, where small ships could be loaded under cover of the guns of the lower fort.

Plymouth Citadel: Plymouth CitadelThe fortress you see today was built on the site of the earlier Plymouth Fort, originally constructed a the request of Sir Francis Drake two years after a threatened invasion by the Spanish Armada.

In recent years the Citadel has been home to 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery - a specialist Army unit which operates in support Plymouth based Royal Marine commandos.

The Regiment forms part of 3 Commando Brigade, a light amphibious infantry brigade that specialises in mountain and cold weather warfare. It is equally at home in the extreme temperatures of the desert or jungle.

In April 1982 the Regiment joined the British Task Force which subsequently recaptured the Falkland Islands and more recently commandos from the Citadel fought in Basra during the 2003 Iraq War.

With the Citadel wall on your left, keep walking until you reach the impressive Baroque main gate - guarded today by armed sentries.

Look up as you walk round the wall, and you might see soldiers walking the battlements, as they have for over 300 years.

High above the central arch of the main gate you can see Charles II's coat of arms. You can also pick out a niche containing three cannonballs - which was intended to contain a statue of the King, but no-one's too sure whether the statue ever existed.

Pre-booked but infrequent  guided tours of the Citadel are available between March - September.

To reach the next point of interest cross over HOE ROAD and take the steps ahead of you onto the raised path. From here bear to the left and head towards the Boer War Memorial. Carry on past the memorial and take the path on your right into HOE PARK.

Head through to the park towards the Naval War Memorial - you can spot it easily by the green ball balanced on the top.

Those with buggies or wheelchairs should carry on along Hoe Road for a few hundred yards until you reach a ramp on your right leading up to The Hoe.