Mysterious Drake’s island where Elizabethan explorer set sail to explore the world will get its first visitors in 30 years before former naval fortress is transformed into a luxury holiday resort
- Drake’s Island, 600 yards off the coast of Plymouth, has lain derelict for 30 years
- But after it was purchased by Plymouth businessman boat trips were announced
- Three boatloads of guests will land on its shores on Sunday this week
A mysterious island that an Elizabethan explorer set sail from to explore the world is to receive its first visitors in 30 years.
Drake’s Island, off the coast of Plymouth, has been out of bounds since an adventure park in its former naval fortress bolted its doors.
But now, after it was put on sale for £6million, three boatloads of guests will set sail for the strip of land on Sunday to explore its ancient fortifications and tunnels used to store ammunition before it is converted into a luxury holiday resort.
The proceeds from the exclusive trips, which were so popular a second had to be set up in May, will go to St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth.
Drake’s Island off the coast of Plymouth will get its first visitors on Sunday for 30 years
The island has been closed off to the public since its adventure play area closed down
The strip of land is 600yards off the coast of Plymouth (pictured is its location above)
The six-acre island just 600 yards from the mainland got its name from Sir Francis Drake, who set sail from there in 1577 to circumnavigate the world.
Since then, it has been used as a religious centre and, during the reign of Charles II, even became a prison.
As Plymouth grew the island was turned over to military use to defend the port – and had cannons installed.
It was used by the army right up until the second world war, when it was a minefield control post and was laden with explosives – which would detonate if a land invasion was attempted.
It then became Drake’s adventure centre which closed in 1989. Six years later it was sold to Dan McCauley, who purchased the land for £384,000.
The island was named for Elizabethan explorer Sir Francis Drake who set sail from there
It has also been used as a fortress and was laden with explosives in the Second World War
It also has planning permission for the main island to be converted into a luxury hotel
The island then remained off-limits until it was bought by developers – for an undisclosed sum – along with planning permission for a Caribbean-style resort.
St Luke’s hospice’s head of marketing Robert Maltby, who has been on the island, told the Guardian: ‘I was taken aback by how good a condition many of the buildings are in.
‘Some are overgrown with brambles but the brickwork has somehow stayed looking pristine.’
Planning permission, approved in 2017, says the man islands accommodation will be formed by linking its Grade II-listed Island House, Barracks Block and Ablutions building, to give a total of 25 double and twin bedrooms. New buildings also had permission granted for a bar, reception and restaurant – and a spa.
The new owner, Plymouth businessman Morgan Phillips, says on his website he plans to build following these plans and add a heritage centre so the island can be opened to locals once again.
A beach clean has already taken place and the island has entered a partnership with the National Marine Park.
A favourite of Queen Elizabeth I who became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe
Sir Francis Drake was an English admiral who circumnavigated the globe – and is recognised as the most renowned seaman of the Elizabethan Age.
Drake joined one of the first English slaving voyages as part of a fleet led by his cousin John Hawkins in 1567, bringing African slaves to work in the ‘New World’.
All but two ships of the expedition were lost when the fleet was attacked by the Spanish – who thus became a lifelong enemy for Drake.
Sir Francis Drake was an English sailor who circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580
In 1572, the seaman commanded two vessels in a marauding expedition against Spanish ports in the Caribbean. He captured the port of Nombre de Dios on the Isthmus of Panama, and returned to England with a cargo of Spanish treasure.
Following the success of the raid, Drake was secretly commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I to set off from what is now known as Drake’s Island on an expedition against the Spanish colonies in 1577.
Drake reached the Pacific Ocean in October 1578 with only one of his five boats, the Pelican, remaining. He was the first Englishman to navigate the Straits of Magellan.
The seaman used plans created by Sir Richard Grenville, an English sailor who died at the Battle of Flores in 1591, in his expedition.
He travelled up the length of the South American coast, plundering Spanish ports, and hoping to find a route to the Atlantic Ocean.
Drake navigated further up the west coast of America than any European before him, landing on the coast of California in June 1579.
He then turned south in July 1579 and beginning a voyage across the Pacific with his lone ship, now renamed the Golden Hind.
A few months later, he reached Moluccas, a group of islands in the western Pacific, in eastern modern-day Indonesia.
On 26 September, the Golden Hind sailed back into Plymouth with Drake and his 59 remaining crew aboard, along with a rich cargo of spices and captured Spanish treasures.
The sailor was hailed as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth, and he was knighted aboard his ship in April 1581.