Set around a great natural harbour where the rivers Plym and Tamar meet, Plymouth is the largest city in the county of Devon. The river Tamar to the west forms a boundary between Devon and Cornwall, while the Tamar valley is designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. On its doorstep are beautiful river creeks and estuaries, undulating green hills and spectacular coast and countryside. Its outstanding location has ensured its place in seafaring history with the city at the cutting edge of maritime exploration through the centuries. Plymouth Hoe provides the setting for that famed game of bowls played by Sir Francis Drake before he set sail in 1588 to confront the Spanish Armada. From the Barbican, cradle of Britain's maritime history, the Pilgrim Fathers set sail on the Mayflower in 1620 to settle the New World. Today, Plymouth maintains its strong links with the sea, operating the largest naval base in Western Europe at Devonport, which also provides important dockyard and shipbuilding facilities for the Royal Navy.
Due to its strategic location, Plymouth suffered great destruction during the Blitz of World War 11, which gave rise to a huge programme of rebuilding and reconstruction. Nowadays, this University City has grown to some 250,000, offering a lively and vibrant environment with a large, modern pedestrianized shopping district at its heart. The Pavilions entertainment complex provides a range of activities from ice skating to swimming to live music events. Regular exhibitions are held at the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, while the Theatre Royal is the showcase for all the latest and most popular plays. From May to September the city hosts its own Summer Festival of cultural events, with many being shown on Plymouth's Big Screen. The waterfront at Sutton Harbour is home to the National Marine Aquarium, amongst the largest in the UK, and is also an important venue for an endless choice of water sports. The city can also lay claim to host what is arguably the world's most exciting sailing race, the America's Cup. (September 2011). The "Flavourfest", an annual Food Festival, celebrates Plymouth's culinary heritage, and promotes an excellent choice of dining options from traditional pubs and bistros to fine cuisine restaurants, with many of the most popular eateries located on the waterfront around the Barbican.