Plymouth's history is dominated by the sea. The first recorded cargo left in 1211, and by the late 16th century it was the port of choice for explorers and adventurers. It has waved off Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, the fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada, the pilgrims who founded America, Charles Darwin, Captain Cook and countless boats carrying emigrants to Australia and New Zealand.

During WWII Plymouth suffered horrendously at the hands of the German Luftwaffe – more than 1000 civilians died in the Blitz, which reduced the city centre to rubble. The 21st century has brought regeneration to waterfront areas, the £200-million Drake Circus shopping centre, and a growing university, bringing with it a burst of new buildings and 30,000 students to the heart of town.