Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Mayflower steps - Plymouth

by Jenna Dawlish

This is a short "tourist guide" to the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth, Devon most famous for being the place where the Mayflower set sail in 1620 (below). I thought those Americans who read this blog may like to see the place where the Mayflower set sail.

The steps are marked by the stone archway with a platform over the sea. There are British and American flags flying either side of the arch.

Plymouth has been an important port since tudor times, and is also famous as the place where Sir Francis Drake sailed from many times. It's also where the "Tolpuddle Martyrs" arrived back from their imprisonment in Australia in 1838 - their crime - being in a Trade Union. (The Tolpuddle Martyrs are famous in England as being trade union hero's though in fact they were not executed, and therefore not really martyrs, just transported to Australia).

The Mayflower steps have a fantastic view out to sea, with a lovely plaque curved in the arch of the monument rail that reads:

As one small candle may light a thousand,
So the light here kindled hath shone to many yea,
In some sorte to our whole nation.

In my last visit to Plymouth I recorded a short video with my iPhone showing the panoramic view near the steps. The exact place where the Mayflower steps are about 35 seconds in, look for the white flag poles with the UK and US flags. It was quite windy that day (as you will hear!).

Plymouth today is one of two large cities in Devon. It is a bustling place with tourist attractions, museums and historic buildings and well worth a visit if you are in the UK. Many Americans come to Plymouth each year to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Late edit: I've posted twice about my favourite show Horrible Histories, there is a new series out this week in the UK. By co-incidence one of the new songs is about the Mayflower and the pilgrim fathers:

Jenna Dawlish

Jenna Dawlish is the author of two Victorian Novels: Love Engineered and Sprig of Thyme.


  1. Thanks for that--I know about Plymouth Rock (of course) but didn't know there were Mayflower steps at the other end.

    Plymouth is one of the top places I would like to visit on my next trip to the UK, if only to retrace Fanny Price's steps.

  2. One of the saddest things about Plymouth--and other coastal towns and cities--is that much of the historic stuff just isn't there anymore. It's mostly 'new' build (1960s or later) because the Germans bombed all the ports during WW2 and nearly flattened them. It's amazing that the Mayflower steps survived at all, really.

  3. The rock on the other side is just a small rock. I remember as a kid on a school field trip (I grew up close to there) and seeing it thinking, "That's it?". I suppose if it wasn't for them, I would not be here today.

  4. Hi everyone, thanks for your comments.

    Jen - I was hoping someone would post about Plymouth Rock. I'm very interested in what is at the "other end" of the famous Mayflower journey. I guess a rock is a rock, and to be honest, the Mayflower steps are just steps, but it's the place in history that is amazing.

    MM Bennetts - yes there was so much lost during WW2 - it's such a shame. Much of Exeter (near where I live was bombed. Hitler picked it out especially because it was a beautiful city, and of course, Plymouth got it's fair share of bombs as you say.

    Jane - you are very welcome in Devon!


  5. I've posted twice about Horrible Histories - there is a new series out this week in the UK and by co-incidence they have a new song about the Mayflower: