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Dartmouth is a town steeped in maritime history, from the castle at the mouth of the river that has stood for over 600 years to the cobbled quayside at Bayards Cove where the Mayflower was made ship-shape before its voyage from Plymouth to America in the 1600s, up to the imposing Britannia Royal Naval College overlooking the town, defending the nation's seas since the early 1900s.
Dartmouth's renowned variety of shops and restaurants are on your doorstep, including breakfast and brunch hotspot Café Alf Resco - a hit with locals and visitors alike. At Bayards Cove, see where final repairs were made to the Mayflower before she set sail from Plymouth and onto America. On the riverside, you're spoilt for choice for seafood dining and drinks while you watch the boats drift along the river. There are also fast, frequent ferries, leisurely boat rides, and not forgetting the steam train from Kingswear and its romantic route along the valley shoreline and onto Totnes and Torbay.
Vibrant cafés and delis, cosy inns, and sublime seafood - all within walking distance - including TV chef Mitch Tonks' go-to restaurants, ‘The Seahorse’ and ‘Rockfish’. Local favourites include Kendrick’s and Taylor's in the town centre, as well as hearty pub meals at The Floating Bridge and historic The Dartmouth Arms. The Sportsman’s Arms, as you head out of town, is a favourite for a Sunday carvery. The surrounding villages also have culinary gems, such as the Laughing Monk in Strete, and Radius 7 in Stoke Fleming.
Individual and independent; quaint meets quality - browsing Dartmouth’s locally run stores is a treat. From bespoke jewellery to designer fashion, eye-catching artworks and stylish boutiques. Venture into Foss Street and lose yourself in its variety - you’re bound to come away with a memento of your stay.
Towns to explore
The eclectic market town of Totnes is 14 miles from Dartmouth. Reach it by road or river to enjoy its broad mix of shops and restaurants (especially for some tasty, inventive, vegetarian and vegan cuisine). From Totnes, the English Riviera is easily accessible (including the steam train to Paignton). Torbay offers golden beaches, exhilarating sea sports, and quaint fishing port tranquillity. Head inland to Buckfastleigh to get hands-on learning about the animals at Pennywell Farm. Cute and colourful, Buckfast Butterflies and otter sanctuary is a must-see. And there’s another picturesque steam railway.
Further afield, the picturesque resort town of Salcombe is 20 miles away - its golden beaches and clear waters make for perfect lazy days, and are superb for sailing.
Local places of interest
The striking Dartmouth Castle sits at the mouth of the river. Learn how Dartmouth's first coastal line of defence kept the port safe from enemy ships and pirates.
The grand former holiday estate of the world's greatest crime writer - Agatha Christie - is open during the summer months. Explore the resplendent gardens and the magnificent house. Reach it by ferry or steam train from Dartmouth.
Tours and tastings of the award-winning Sharpham Wines and cheeses make for a mouth-watering excursion - now newly relocated to their Sandridge Barton vineyard - but be sure to book in advance.
The Woodlands Family Theme Park, just outside Dartmouth, is Devon's largest theme park, with rides, slides, as well as indoor and outdoor play. It's a year-round family favourite.
If you're tempted to learn sailing, Marshalls Sailing School in Dittisham offers sailing and stand-up paddle boarding lessons to people of all levels in a quiet part of the river just upstream from Dartmouth.
Beaches and Walks
There are superb beaches close to hand. Blackpool Sands is a 10-minute drive from Dartmouth. This Blue Flag award-winning sand and shingle beach is great for swimming. There's also a café, shop, as well as canoe and paddleboard hire. Slapton Sands (5 miles from Dartmouth) stretches out across three miles of shoreline, helpfully laid out with three car parks and WC facilities. Behind Slapton Sands, you can also take a tranquil walk through Slapton Ley.
For a more-adventurous ramble, the Dart Valley Trail is a 10-mile circular walk up and down the Dart, with crossings at Dittisham and Dartmouth. And one of the world’s longest and most-popular trails - the South West Coast Path - can be picked up by Dartmouth Castle with a choice of wonderful walks along this great stretch of coastline.