Thursday, June 26, 2014

Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts

If you're visiting Plymouth and want to take in all of the town's historic sites, you make sure you climb Burial Hill and take in the history and the sites of this historic cemetery.

If you are visiting the Plymouth, Massachusetts area, one place you should not miss is Burial Hill. This hill, located above the downtown area is home to the graves of Plymouth's first residents the Pilgrims, along with other notable residents. The hill also provides a nice view of the village below and Plymouth Harbor beyond. On a clear day you can get quite the view of the surrounding village and the ocean.

Getting There

Burial Hill is easy to access. The cemetery is part of the Pilgrim Trail which travels throughout Plymouth (including stops at Plymouth Rock, Pilgrim Memorial State Park, Mayflower II and the Brewster Gardens), is accessible from the First Parish Church and from side side streets on the northern side of the hill. Parking can be a bit difficult in general in Plymouth so it's probably just best to walk to the Hill from wherever you can find a parking spot.

Some of the access walks are a bit steeper than others. The one that travels up from the Grist Mill area has a pretty decent slope and then some stairs and the one from the First Parish Church comes up several flights of stairs. I would think that in general, the site isn't all that handicapped friendly since even the paved walkways that avoid the stairs can have quite the slope.

The cemetery is open from dusk to dawn.

What to expect

The hill is a do-it-yourself kind of destination. There are a few interpretive signs around the site and on specific graves but in general, this is the kind of place you just wander around and find interesting things.

You'll see plenty of graves of all ages since people had been buried on the hill from the time of the Pilgrims right through the 1950s. The hill was also the site of the first fort and meeting house in Plymouth.

Expect to spend about an hour wandering through the graves. You'll find tombstones from all different eras and it's interesting to see how the gravestones have changed throughout the years.

The view from the hill is also nice. From the top you look down on the main downtown area of Plymouth and out to the harbor and ocean beyond. On a clear day you can see well to the south and north too. It is hard to get a good picture though as there are trees that seem to be strategically placed to prevent you from getting a good shot of Plymouth or the harbor.

We didn't have one, but there are guidebooks for the Pilgrim Trail and for Plymouth in general that will give you more information on Burial Hill than you'll get from the grave markers and informational signs. I would think this would make the site a little more interesting since while I enjoyed it, I would have liked to get more information while I was there. So since our visit, I've gone and read a few write-ups on the Hill and knowing what I know now, I think it would be interesting to visit again, just so I can pick up on some details I might have missed without that information.


Burial Hill, like many graveyards is supposedly haunted, though in our explorations, we never ran across anything out of the ordinary. There are ghosts tour run that go throughout Plymouth at night and these tours include a stop in the cemetery. I'd imagine that being there in the dark would probably be a lot more creepy than wandering around during the day.

Final Thoughts

Burial Hill was actually one of my more favorite places to explore in Plymouth. It's removed from the hustle and bustle of the rest of town and besides offering a nice view, the cemetery was an interesting window into the history of Plymouth. Not only that, but it would have been kind of cool to see a ghost!

I'd suggest if you're visiting Plymouth and want to take in all of the town's historic sites, you make sure you climb Burial Hill and take it in.

More Plymouth, Massachusetts attractions and sites of interest

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