Steeped in maritime history, Dartmouth lies at the mouth of the majestic River Dart. This bustling waterfront town is overlooked by the famous and somewhat imposing Britannia Royal Naval College, just one hint at the town’s historic and strategic importance. Look around and you’ll notice old fortifications on both sides of the river. Bayards Cove Fort, dating from Tudor times is easy to access just a short stroll from the shops, or you can take the passenger ferry up to Dartmouth Castle, which has guarded the narrow entrance to the port for over 600 years, and then walk along the stunning South West Coast Path towards Stoke Fleming and Strete.
Central to Dartmouth is the “boat float”. From here, take time to explore the picturesque network of streets and alleys with their abundance of independent shops, cafés and restaurants. For art lovers, there are numerous galleries and you may even spot the famous artist, Simon Drew, at work. For a hearty brunch, see if you can squeeze onto a shared table in the bustling Café Alf Resco or for a more continental feel, sample the delights of Saveurs French bakery.
Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a total novice, a simple must for every visitor is to take to the water. Sailing, kayaking or hopping on a passenger ferry to nearby Totnes, Dittisham or Greenway (once a home of Agatha Christie) will allow you to enjoy this truly idyllic stretch of river. Keep an eye out for wildlife on the way as you may be lucky enough to be accompanied by a friendly seal!
If you’re looking for a day out on the beach, drive along the truly breathtaking coast road to nearby Blackpool Sands (no dogs in high season) and on to Torcross at Slapton Sands, a three and a half mile stretch of beach with a neighbouring freshwater nature reserve, Slapton Ley, which is a haven for bird watchers.
From Dartmouth, you can cross the water to neighbouring Kingswear to walk the Dart Valley Trail towards Greenway, catch the steam railway or take the higher car ferry across for a family day out at Paignton Zoo or Torquay's Living Coasts.
Dartmouth itself literally heaves at the seams during Dartmouth Regatta in late August, but there is also plenty to keep you entertained throughout the rest of the year. And if you prefer simple pleasures, the embankment provides the perfect spot for crabbing. All you need is a bucket, line, net and some bait and it won’t be long before you hear squeals of delight from the whole family!
Picturesque Dartmouth is the ideal holiday cottage location for couples or families looking to enjoy all this lovely coastal town has to offer as soon as they walk out their front door.
Dartmouth Castle has guarded the narrow entrance to the Dartmouth Harbour for over 600 years and today is an interesting and enjoyable attraction for all ages. Thanks to English Heritage’s restoration and careful upkeep, visitors can enjoy the wonderful position with breathtaking views across the estuary whilst learning the fascinating history of this fortress built to protect the harbour from invaders.
There’s plenty to do inside the castle with grisly tales and interactive displays, and if the weather is fine you can take a river boat trip from the town quay up to the castle which makes a nice day out. After you have explored the castle you can visit the Castle tearooms for light lunches, cream teas or a glass of wine in the sunshine.
The Grill Room in Dartmouth’s iconic waterfront hotel is a great spot for lunch, dinner or a traditional cream tea with huge bay windows overlooking the water. In addition there are two downstairs bars serving local ales along with bar meals and snacks.
The Royal Castle Hotel 11 The Quay, Dartmouth TQ6 9PS (T: 01803 833033)
A traditional French patisserie and café serving breakfast, lunch and early dinner. As well as beautifully created French cakes and pastries, a range of fresh bread, sandwiches, pizzas and light meals are available daily, either to eat in or take away.
Saveurs 3 Victoria Road, Dartmouth TQ6 9RT (T: 01803 835852)
A pretty little bistro serving a Mediterranean menu with Polish influences using local seafood and meat as well as tasty vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options. Live music on Friday and Saturday nights adds to the relaxed atmosphere.
Anzac Street Bistro Anzac Street, Dartmouth TQ6 9DL (T: 01803 835515)
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This is our favourite restaurant in Dartmouth. It's a little gem. Food is superb and the atmosphere always good. The host Simon and hostess Aga are good fun and always bring warmth and charm to the place. To visit Dartmouth and not eat at the Anzac is a crime.
Between Dartmouth and Slapton, Blackpool Sands is a beautiful shingle bay on the South West Coast Path, surrounded by evergreens and pine trees. It really is a treasure of a beach to visit while you’re in the area. Award-winning, the privately owned, blue flag beach boasts a sense of being in the Mediterranean on a good day in the summer, although a good jumper never goes amiss in this part of the world! You will no doubt not be surprised to hear that it is in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, however it also boasts ample facilities and things to do. There are showers, toilets and disabled facilities, as well as paddle board, kayak and wetsuit hire available for those wishing to earn their visit to The Venus Beach Café, where light bites and refreshments are served. The Venus Shop also sells all the bits and pieces you might want for fun and games on the beach if you have forgotten them or are in need of extra buckets and spades. The water at Blackpool Sands is known for being clean and clear and tested by the Environment Agency, and lifeguards are on hand in the summer (July to September) so there’s every reason to pop in for a dip. However, dogs are not allowed on the beach in the high season (12th March to 30th October) so keep the walking for the cooler months. There is parking available at the beach with seasonal charges, and you can find out more information on those from the Blackpool Sands information line on 01803 771800. This beach is easy to get to and quite literally fun and games for the whole family, as well as a beautiful place to visit at any time of the year to take in the view!
A long stretch of beach with spectacular views of the sea stretching into the distance, Slapton Sands is in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and for good reason. Adjacent to Slapton Ley, a freshwater lake that’s home to an abundance of wildlife and one of the many reasons people come to visit the area, the beach has a history of welcoming families in the summer for long days in the sunshine, building sandcastles, surfing, windsurfing and kayaking. It’s amazing to believe that this peaceful corner of South Devon has its place in military history as in 1943 the beach was taken over by allied forces to use as a rehearsal area for the D-Day landings. However, live ammunition and poor visibility ended in the deaths of more than 700 servicemen, so today there is a stone monument in place for Operation Tiger, as it was called, as well as a Sherman Tank at nearby Torcross. On a more current note, there is a beachside café at Slapton Sands for teas, coffees and other light bites, and there are also toilets nearby. The beach has disabled access, and also allows dogs throughout the year, so it really is fun for everyone and very easy to get to. There is parking nearby and in the summer months from May to September there is lifeguard cover. Last, but not least, a small collection of pubs reside in Torcross for those who are feeling peckish after a long day in the fresh air, or if you have been for a nice walk along the sand!
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A bit of a walk down from the car park but so worth it, arguably the best beach in the South Hams