For a small island, it has a big history – as well as an exciting future – so the exclusive opportunity to set foot on Drake’s Island as part of the first organised public tour of the iconic landmark for 30 years is set to spark stiff competition!

We are proud to have been chosen as the beneficiary of funds generated by ticket sales for the event, following a recent visit from Drake’s Island owner, Plymouth-based businessman Morgan Phillips, to our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Taking place on Sunday 15 March and Wednesday 13 May, just over 100 places are available for the tour of the iconic landmark on each day. Each ticket sold will go towards helping us reach more people who desperately need the specialist service we provide for them and their loved ones at the most vulnerable of times.

Director of Guardian Industrial UK, Morgan Phillips, who bought Drake’s Island last year and plans to restore it for the people of Plymouth and tourists, said: “St Luke’s touches the lives of so many in our city and its surrounding areas, including the families of some of my staff, so I was already aware of the very high quality of the care it provides.

“But when I was invited to the hospice building, where they look after patients with the most complex conditions, I saw for myself the unwavering dedication of the team and their kindness and sensitivity, which really make a difference at such a difficult time.”

Such is the interest that surrounds both the history and the future of Drake’s Island that we are anticipating a high demand for the limited spaces available on the tour.

During it’s fascinating history, the Island – which was born out of the sea 400 million years ago – has been a place of pilgrimage, a refuge, a fort, a prison and an observatory, while local people of a certain age are most likely to remember it as an adventure centre in the 1960s and 70s.

With the site being out of bounds to the general public since 1989, it is a place many long to visit so they can discover its secrets and learn about its past. Those lucky enough to snap up one of the places to visit the historic location will get the opportunity to do just that as they get the lowdown from the Island’s Warden, avid historian Bob King, who will lead the tour.

Bob said: “The best part of my job is researching the history of the Island and sharing it with as many people as possible. Although the fortifications and how they have been used and defended Plymouth over the centuries is fascinating, what brings the history alive are the personal stories of the people on the Island.

“I am really excited to have the chance to take people in Drake’s footsteps and help them discover the Island and its past.”

Among the tales about the Island are those of the garrison being involved in brandy smuggling, Queen Victoria sketching the landmark while her boat was at anchor in Plymouth Sound, and the Devonport High schoolboys who ‘invaded’ in 1957 and claimed the Island for Plymouth. They were arrested by the guard, given breakfast and then taken back to Plymouth for a lesson of double maths!

We are organising the Open Island event as an offshoot of our popular Open Gardens scheme, which sees big-hearted owners of beautiful gardens across Devon and Cornwall open their gates and welcome visitors in aid of our charity throughout spring and summer.

Wayne Marshall, Community Fundraiser and Open Gardens Co-ordinator at St Luke’s, said: “Drake’s Island is an important part of Plymouth’s heritage that has been out of reach to the public for a long time. It’s heart-warming that the strong reputation of our charity has resulted in St Luke’s being selected to offer people this fantastic opportunity to step onto such an historic jewel on the cusp of its exciting regeneration.”

Tickets for the guided tour are £35 (+booking fee) per person, which includes boat transfer. They’re available from 26 February 2020 at 9am at www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/opengardens. Full terms and conditions are available on the website.