THE GRAND OLD DUKE
A SYMBOL OF VICTORIAN GOTHIC ELEGANCE
A REMARKABLE LEGACY
PLYMOUTH’S MOST INTRIGUING HISTORIC HOTEL
CHARACTER AND CHARM
DOWN TO THE LAST DETAIL
STUNNING COASTAL LOCATION
PLYMOUTH, DEVON & CORNWALL AT YOUR FEET
AN ICON OF BRITAIN’S OCEAN CITY
WELCOME TO PLYMOUTH’S FIRST LUXURY HOTEL
Walter Combstock and Jonathan Morcom talk about what the Duke means to them on the 15th anniversary of their ownership of the hotel.
A glimpse of the style and service that await you at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel, one of Plymouth’s most unique and distinctive settings.
FIRST-CLASS SERVICE FOR OVER 150 YEARS
The Duke of Cornwall Hotel is a defining figure in Plymouth’s past and its present. A landmark hotel built in 1863, the Duke has endured at the heart of this maritime city for over a century and a half since. Surviving two World Wars and radical changes in its surrounding environment, the hotel stands as a strong and steadfast connection to days gone by. Its splendid Victorian gothic architecture drew admiration then – and makes even more of a statement in the contemporary cityscape.
Under the previous ownership of directors Walter Combstock and Jonathan Morcom, the Duke of Cornwall Hotel has retained its charm while presenting new appeal for guests today. In their dedication to this beloved building, the pair brought its historical features back to life while introducing sympathetic modernisations and enhancements. The Duke is today owned by Bespoke Hotels and is proud to maintain its tradition of delivering comfort, style and exceptional first-class service to every guest welcomed through its doors.
STAY, MEET, CELEBRATE, EAT
A VENUE FOR EVERY OCCASION
The Duke of Cornwall Hotel is the perfect place to stay in Plymouth. The hotel’s 72 uniquely decorated bedrooms include single, double and twin rooms, so there’s an option to suit every need. Plus, the hotel’s Superior and Luxury ranges – which include sensational four-poster suites – offer extra space and features for special occasions or indulgent treats. Whether you’re visiting Plymouth for business or pleasure, or attending a special event, a night at the Duke is always an experience to enjoy.
But providing top-notch accommodation is only one string to the Duke’s bow. The hotel is also one of the region’s finest venues for wedding ceremonies and celebrations. It was named as a finalist in the prestigious South West Weddings Awards in 2019. Plus, its beautiful restaurant is one of Plymouth’s best fine dining eateries, with two AA Rosettes to its credit. The Duke is an award-winning venue for hosting business meetings and conferences too. And offerings such as Tea at the Top – an exclusive champagne afternoon tea – and special seasonal events, make the hotel a much-loved local institution.
A FASCINATING HISTORY
THE HOTEL WITH A STORY TO TELL
A BEACON OF STYLE THROUGH THE DECADES
When you walk through the Duke’s revolving doors, you step back in time. Dating from 1863, the Duke of Cornwall offers a wealth of historic features. Poet Sir John Betjeman described it as “one of the nation’s finest examples of Victorian architecture” – and it’s not hard to see why. Its imposing gothic building style, grand rooms and hallways, stunning Grade II listed staircase, and ornate interior details, make the hotel a gem in Plymouth’s crown. Thanks to the loving preservation and refurbishment of the Duke over recent years, this splendour can still be enjoyed today.
The Duke of Cornwall Hotel was created to serve a growing demand for luxury accommodation in the golden age of steam. It welcomed a busy flow of passengers arriving by rail at the adjacent Millbay station and from ocean liners at Millbay Docks. The Duke, then Plymouth’s tallest building, became a beacon of sophistication in the city and has attracted an array of illustrious guests ever since.
One notable resident was the celebrated explorer Ernest Shackleton. He and his party stayed at the Duke on their last night before setting out on their infamous Antarctic expedition. The hotel has also welcomed legendary showbiz names through its doors, including Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. Notable figures from the world of politics, such as Alan Clarke and Dame Janet Fookes, have been among the guests here too.
The Duke continues to be the go-to venue for high-profile personalities today. Michael Portillo, visited the hotel recently to feature it in his BBC series ‘Great British Railway Journeys’. He interviewed local Titanic enthusiast Nigel Voisey about the hotel’s part in the story of the infamous cruise liner. After the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the returning crew survivors arrived at Plymouth. Twenty of the ship’s stewardesses spent their first night back at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel. Nigel Voisey has staged a number of Titanic exhibitions in the Duke’s Ballroom to mark this local connection.
In 2015, Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell used the hotel as a meeting place during the filming of the TV show ‘Long Lost Family’. And writer Will Self published his thoughts on a night spent at the hotel recently, declaring: “My only desire was that I could stay longer. Much longer.” And with Plymouth Pavilions a few steps from our door, the hotel makes a popular stopping point for a variety of visiting VIPs from the realm of entertainment.
THE DUKE’S PAST IN PRINT
In 2013, the Duke of Cornwall Hotel celebrated 150 years since its opening. The hotel’s directors during this time (Dec 2001 – Jul 2019) Jonathan Morcom and Walter Combstock co-wrote a special book to commemorate this special anniversary. This 56-page volume is filled with fascinating detail and archive photos exhibiting the colourful history of the Duke. It charts the hotel’s journey from initial construction to its standing as an iconic city landmark, with stories about some of the notable names who have graced its entrance hall. You can also learn more about how the building has been restored to its former glory following years of neglect.
If you’re interested in delving deeper into the story of this unique hotel and in the radical changes which Plymouth and its people have seen over the decades, Duke of Cornwall Hotel Plymouth 150 Years is an engaging read. You can buy the book for £9.95 online by clicking here, from the hotel’s reception or by emailing us or calling us on 01752 275850.
AT THE HEART OF BRITAIN’S OCEAN CITY
EXPLORE PLYMOUTH AND BEYOND
FROM CITY TO COUNTRYSIDE, MOOR TO SEA
The Duke of Cornwall Hotel is ideally positioned on the fringe of Plymouth’s vibrant city centre. Here, you’ll find a comprehensive selection of big brand and independent shops, cinemas, eateries and nightlife. Just across the road from the hotel is Plymouth Pavilions, one of the South West’s leading entertainment venues, which attracts world-class music artists and comedians. A short walk away, you’ll find Theatre Royal Plymouth, which stages top West End productions.
The hotel is also just a stroll from Plymouth Hoe. This famous promenade offers sensational ocean views across Plymouth Sound, one of the world’s finest natural harbours. The Hoe is also home to Tinside Lido. This outdoor seawater swimming pool, which celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2015, projects spectacularly over the sea. Built in 1935, Tinside is Grade II listed and represents one of Britain’s finest pieces of surviving Art Deco architecture. The Hoe is also where you’ll find the interactive ‘Beatle bums’ artwork. This copper sculpture invites you to recreate the iconic photo of the Fab Four sitting to enjoy the view over Plymouth Sound on a sunny day in 1967.
Wander around the waterfront to reach Sutton Harbour and the Barbican. Here, you’ll find the Mayflower Steps, the renowned site from which the Pilgrim Fathers set sail to settle in America in 1620. This centuries-old area features a fantastic array of independent shops, restaurants and traditional pubs – and boasts the highest concentration of cobbled streets anywhere in Britain. You’ll also find the National Marine Aquarium here. This attraction hosts the UK’s deepest tank and counts sharks and seahorses among its array of ocean life. Another gem hosted on Plymouth’s Barbican is the Black Friars distillery. This is England’s oldest working gin distillery and home to one of the city’s best-loved exports, Plymouth Gin, which you can sample on a visitor tour.
Another must-visit Plymouth spot is the Royal William Yard, found a short distance from the hotel. This unique site lays claim to the biggest collection of Grade I listed military buildings in Europe. These handsome stone buildings by the sea have now been re-imagined as upmarket restaurants, bars and art galleries. The yard also stages regular public events, including outdoor cinema and theatre shows.
Plymouth is the UK’s greenest city, with an amazing 40 percent of its footprint being green space. Central Park, on the edge of the city centre, is undergoing a multi-million-pound refurbishment, introducing innovative public sports and leisure facilities in this prime spot. Its play park offers plenty of fun for the children, and the park’s expansive paths and meadows are ideal for a stroll, a run or a leisurely picnic. A little farther out, you can visit Saltram Park and Mount Edgcumbe. These public parks feature abundant open grounds, stunning views and magnificent historic manor houses.
Beyond the city lie some of the UK’s most picturesque rural spots. Dartmoor, a short drive from Plymouth, is a breathtakingly rugged wilderness area known for its towering tors and resident wild ponies. For wonderful views and sea air, explore some of the 630-mile walking route of the South West Coast Path.
Plymouth, and the Devon and Cornwall region beyond, offer exceptional opportunities for leisure activities, entertainment, fun and outdoor adventure. The Duke of Cornwall Hotel makes the ideal base from which to discover it all for yourself.
HELPING BUILD A CITY FOR THE FUTURE
SUPPORTING PLYMOUTH'S EXCITING TRANSFORMATION
MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR MAYFLOWER 400
In 2020, Plymouth will host a series of major events to commemorate 400 years since the Mayflower ship departed England for the New World. And the Duke of Cornwall Hotel is at the forefront of the city’s preparations for what will be a high-profile occasion.
The Mayflower famously set sail from Plymouth in 1620, carrying the Pilgrim Fathers to create a colony in North America. This voyage has formed a central part of the history of modern America, its story ingrained in the country’s cultural heritage and inspiring the tradition of Thanksgiving.
The 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers’ journey will shine a spotlight on Plymouth. To mark the significance of this moment, former Duke of Cornwall Hotel director Jon Morcom initiated the campaign ‘Make a Difference for Mayflower 400’, teaming up with other key players in the city. The project is managed by Improving Lives Plymouth and is a collaboration involving Plymouth City Council, the City Centre Company, Plymouth Waterfront Partnership and an army of local businesses investing their time to give the city a lift in time for the commemorations. As part of this, Improving Lives Plymouth is inviting local people to train as ‘Mayflower Makers’, ambassadors to share the story and promote Plymouth’s upcoming events. Visit their website for information on how you can get involved.
BIG CHANGES FOR BRITAIN’S OCEAN CITY
An inspiring programme of projects and events are in prospect for Plymouth around the focal point of Mayflower 400. At the centre of this will be the opening of The Box in 2020. This new cutting-edge museum will deliver an immersive and innovative visitor experience. Its attractions will include exhibitions by reputable artists, fascinating historical artefacts and exciting live performances. Two of Plymouth’s most important historic buildings, the Merchant’s House and the Elizabethan House are also undergoing renovation in time for the commemorations.
While these projects help Plymouth to exhibit its rich past, a thoroughly twenty-first-century development is also about to excite the city in the shape of the £40 million Drake Circus Leisure complex. This will bring a state-of-the-art 12-screen cinema and a variety of new restaurants to the very centre of Plymouth.
Also in 2020, Plymouth will be the location for the start of the world famous Transat race. This is the first and oldest single-handed transatlantic sailing contest. The hosting of the race in Plymouth is perfectly timed to echo the journey undertaken by the Pilgrims four centuries before.
With the world’s eyes on Plymouth for Mayflower 400, exciting times lie ahead. As well as a being a moment to reflect on the significance of this extraordinary city, it’s a wonderful opportunity to attract investment and a spur to further enrich Plymouth’s fantastic public spaces. We’re delighted for the Duke to be closely involved in driving the positive transformations which are in motion. And we look forward to playing a part in giving a well-deserved boost to Britain’s Ocean City.
At the Duke of Cornwall Hotel, we are conscious of our responsibilities to our local community and keen to make a positive change where we can. This ethos has motivated us to help improve a local children’s play park. We took charge of refurbishing items at West Hoe Park, a public recreation park a short distance from the hotel.
Starting in 2015, we pledged our time to renovate the park’s popular train and boat attractions. We were delighted to see these pieces of equipment brought up to scratch for the young children who love to visit this busy city park. We’ve committed to returning to maintain this equipment with a fresh coat of paint each year.
This project inspired the Make a Difference for Mayflower 400 campaign. We wanted to continue with more community projects, but saw that Mayflower 400 presented an opportunity to do something on a much bigger scale that would create a legacy for the city.
We have been excited about joining forces with other businesses to invest in the public realm and give the city a makeover in time for 2020. As part of the project, we’re also keen to make sure the Duke is looking her best for the commemorations. We have refurbished the entrance canopy and our iconic tower. Now, we’re about to start painting the hotel railings to make sure the hotel shines whilst Plymouth is in the international spotlight. We look forward to continuing to make further investment in the hotel and in the city we’re lucky to call home over the coming months.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Find answers to the questions most often asked about the Duke of Cornwall Hotel’s services. There’s general information about using the hotel, plus specific details about accommodation, weddings, corporate events and private functions.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
We are grateful to the talented photographers responsible for crafting the beautiful images on this page. These include those we have worked with directly to capture the hotel’s internal spaces and exterior. But we also extend thanks to those who have allowed us to use historical images of the Duke, and the shots which showcase the beautiful city and region which surrounds us.