Ahoy me boys! It's Devon boy heaven down Plymouth way says OutUK's man-overboard
Plymouth reeks of seamen. In 1588, Sir Francis Drake allegedly downed his bowls
on The Hoe - there is still a well-kept green on the very spot - before boarding
The Revenge to rout the Armada. Shortly afterwards, in 1620, The Pilgrim Fathers
- en route from Southampton - struck out in The Mayflower from the harbour steps,
to subjugate the New World with their Puritanical strain that still holds sway.
And there must have been immeasurable frigging up rigging, humping down holds and
orgies at inns over the centuries - involving cute young cabin boys, randy pirates
and manly mariners. All drunk as hell and miles from home: bless their naughty nauticals!
Perhaps Plymouth's modern day gay yarn - a somewhat short tale to be true - in part
reflects an eroding of this historic city's links with the sea. What's more,
Bristol - which frankly is almost in Wales - has shamelessly usurped Plymouth's
rightful "capital of the South West" mantle. And nearby Torquay and Exeter have
much in their own right to lure lush local lads astray.
FIRST PORT OF CALL
Yet all is not sunk. The ways have not entirely grown dark to a gay local or wayfaring
queer. There are still beacons shining out like harbour lights, near the Hoe and
down by the old harbour. A good first port is a couple of traditional gay pubs
in West Hoe: The Clarence Hotel can't in fact accommodate at all but does offer a
gay-friendly haunt that truly pulls in a mixed crowd, and it's nice and close to
the deceptively butch-sounding Mechanics Arms a few short streets away.
Next berth? Bob down to the cobbled Barbican district just above the quaint
harbour - about a ten minute stroll. Avert your gaze as you drift past the newly
abandoned ship that was the Old Friary pub - locals seem unsure as to whether it's
scuttled for good or about to miraculously rise from the waves. A few doors yonder
you'll hit against a most provocatively named pub: The Swallow. Gay-run, it wears
its heart on its sleeve - even nailed to the door - is the city's queer lifeblood
and is packed to the aft come weekends. Open all day, its kitchen hatches also
serve up tasty homo-lashings for daytime hungers.
Now that sizeable Legends (a.k.a. 'Leg Ends') around the corner seems to have also
recently pulled the plug after a dramatic descent into the abyss, Zero's is the only
show in town once The Swallow has flown and cleared its throat. Back up Clarence way
and open most nights, Zero's basement - a labyrinth of sofas, bars, pool tables and
loos - fills up first and then overflows onto the be-mirrored ground floor dancing
space. On really busy nights and holidays a floor aloft also opens.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Apart from snacks at The Swallow, there are no gay eateries as such but you're
unlikely to have problems at the numerous trendy cafés around The Barbican and
harbour. There's no gay sauna either, but ample opportunities to shiver your timbers
with some outdoor cruising in the pathways and gardens along the promenade and
front - as ever, take care.
In Other Words is an 'alternative' book shop just north of the railway station,
which sells gay books and mags, along with unusual cards, lamps and magical crystal
things. And Moorings Guest House back at West Hoe offers an overtly gay-friendly
dock, mere minutes from bars and yards from sea.
Plymouth is about three and a half
hours away from London Paddington by
First Great Western
THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Clarence Hotel (31 Clarence Place, Stonehouse; T: 01752 603827)
In Other Words (64 Mutley Plain; T: 01752 663 889; Website)
Mechanics Arms (31 Stonehouse Street; T: 01752 660 716)
Moorings Guest House (4 Garden Crescent; T: 01752 250 128)
The Swallow (59 Breton Side; T: 01752 251760)
Zero's (24 Lockyer Street; T: 01752 662346)