September 19th is celebrated world wide as ‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day’. Yes, really. And well, Devon has its fair share of pirate stories, so we thought we’d share the best places for you to find out more about Devon’s history with pirates, that way you can have an authentic experience when taking part in International Talk Like a Pirate Day this year.
We can’t start talking about the history of pirates without telling you to visit Plymouth. The Maritime Museum will tell you the lowdown when it comes to Devon’s naval history and give you a little taster of what it was like living in a port city when the threat of piracy was real. For around three centuries, Devon was regularly targeted by the fearsome Barbary Pirates and Plymouth bore the brunt of this. The summer months in Plymouth also host the yearly Pirate Weekend. The event is a two day long party complete with a parade, stilt walkers and even actual pirate ships! It is said that one of the world’s richest pirates, Black Sam, was born in Dartmoor and moved to Plymouth where after falling out of favour with the navy, sailed alongside Blackbird before becoming captain of his own ships. Unlike many of the pirates of his era, he was said to be a Robin Hood style character, often returning his captured ships and cargo if they didn’t suit his needs.
It didn’t all take place in Plymouth though, tales of smugglers and pirates can be found all over the county. In North Devon, there is a maritime museum in Appledore where there are whole exhibits dedicated to the pirates that came through the county and their history. You’d be surprised how many of the legendary names you’ll recognise!
While these days it is more often thought of as being a popular holiday resort, the English Riviera was at one time known for its links to the history of Britain’s pirates. Ness Cove Beach is a small, hidden spot in Shaldon and is only accessible via a smuggler’s tunnel which is hidden behind Shaldon Zoo. It descends right through the rock face and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported to the set of a movie. Ness Cove Beach is one of Devon’s most picturesque spots and was the ideal place for pirates and other smugglers to keep their activities secret.
Just along the coast in Brixham one of the highlights of their event’s calendar is their annual Pirate Festival. This is a festival that encourages growing up and looking at the more fun aspects of being a pirate – it’s also a fun way to learn more about the region’s history, so make a note to visit for the next one!