Standing proudly in “Britain’s Ocean City”, with views over Millbay and the city of Plymouth, the Duke of Cornwall was built in 1863 as Plymouth’s first luxury hotel. The Duke has a fascinating history, which, combined with its Victorian splendor make for a unique and intriguing place to spend a night or more, with easy access to all of Plymouth’s scenery and attractions and surrounding parts of Devon and Cornwall.
The building is an iconic landmark in the city, and in the heyday of Millbay port, many famous guests (Charlie Chaplin to name but one) stayed at the Duke before embarking on their ocean voyages. Over a hundred years ago, pioneering explorer Ernest Shackleton and his party overnighted before leaving for their Antarctic expedition.
The area around the hotel began a process of rebuilding starting in the 1950s, and with the demolition of Millbay Station in the mid-1970s, such modern attractions as the Theatre Royal, and Plymouth Pavilions were built. Cross Channel ferry service by Brittany Ferries from Millbay port has once again provided the hotel with a maritime link, since ferry passengers often choose to stay a night or two before or after their crossing.
Ideally placed in the city, the Royal William Yard, city center businesses and shopping, Hoe Park, and the Barbican are all within easy reach, making the Duke a perfect location for leisure or business visitors.
A management buyout some fifteen years ago was the catalyst for the most recent changes at the hotel, which has undergone a major refurbishment in recent years, carefully done to ensure the property lost none of its character or charm. Seventy two en-suite rooms feature individual design, with unique wallpaper, furniture and fittings, meaning no two rooms are the same. While each room is different, they all feature the same high standard of comfort and elegance, discreetly blended with modern technology such as Wi-Fi and flat screens. Standard single or double rooms provide a great place to sleep, while superior and luxury rooms offer even more space, some with separate lounge areas, or four poster beds.
Certain rooms are themed, and I enjoyed a comfortable night in the Shackleton Room, dedicated to the memory of the explorer who stayed at the hotel on the night of 7th August, 1914, before his ship “Endurance” set sail for its Antarctic expedition. Benefiting from a double bedroom and separate lounge, the Shackleton Room features pictures from the expedition, and a book collection for those keen to learn more about this pioneer explorer.
Although located in the middle of the city, the hotel has the air of a relaxed country house, with its ornate plaster, wood paneling, and imposing central staircase. The lounge and bar offer an open fire in winter, and plenty of chesterfield armchairs tempting you to relax and unwind. The restaurant is an opulent Victorian design, in which to enjoy the excellent quality meals created by the Duke’s chefs.
For one of Plymouth’s most unique experiences, why not book “Tea at the Top”? Settled into the iconic tower with panoramic views over the historic city and countryside beyond, you will enjoy the exclusivity of a luxurious 2 hour afternoon tea served to you by your own private butler. Tuck into your freshly prepared sandwiches, cakes & cream tea, whilst chatting with your chosen partner and enjoying the amazing visual splendors that surround you. Binoculars are provided to ensure you miss nothing while enjoying the expansive 360 degree views.
For larger gatherings, the hotel offers a flexible choice of ballrooms, meeting rooms, and smaller areas, which can be booked for parties, dances, presentations, meetings, and corporate events.
Hotel directors Jonathan Morcom and Walter Combstock (who between them have an impressive 75 years of experience at the Duke) and their team are devoted to the property, and will ensure that whether you visit for a meal, a night, a week, or an event, your every need will be taken care of, and you will leave feeling relaxed, refreshed, and ready to face the world once again. If you’re looking for a modern chain hotel experience, the Duke won’t be for you. For a stay in a unique hotel with some Victorian splendor thrown in however, it’s the best option in town by far.
If you go:
The Duke of Cornwall Hotel
Millbay Road, Plymouth,
Devon PL1 3LG, England.
Phone: + 44 (0) 1752 275 850
Stewart Mandy was a guest of The Duke of Cornwall
Article written: April 2016