Home of the Britannia Royal Naval College since the mid-1800’s, Dartmouth has a resident population of circa 6,000 and, due to its location at the mouth of the picturesque River Dart, it is one of the foremost holiday and sailing destinations in the South West.
History of Dartmouth in Brief ...
Dartmouth’s importance as a deep water sailing port stretches as far back as 1147 and 1190 when it was used as a launch point for the crusades. Started in 1388 by 14-times mayor John Hawley to guard the entrance to the port, Dartmouth Castle has withstood the ravages of time and is now open to the public under English Heritage. In 1620, the Mayflower stopped alongside the cobbled quay before setting sail across the Atlantic with the Pilgrim Fathers to discover America.
Dartmouth through the ages is still very much in evidence from its Butterwalk dating from 1635, the Royal Castle Hotel commenced four years later, to the many narrow streets revealing quaint fisherman’s cottages and merchants houses dating from the 14th century Agincourt House to the modern day.
In recent times, Dartmouth was pivotal in preparations for the Normandy Landings towards the end of World War II and for the last 150 years the Britannia Royal Naval College has been the prime location for naval officer training in the country.
It's a Fact !
Thomas Newcomen, the inventor of the first successful steam-powered pumping engine, was born in Dartmouth in 1663, and an 18th century working example is on display in the town.
Flora Thompson, author of the books forming Lark Rise to Candleford, spent her latter years in the town and is buried in Longcross Cemetery.
Geoffrey Chaucer visited the town in 1373 and, subsequently, a ‘schipman’ from Dartmouth (believed to have been modelled on John Hawley above) featured as one of his pilgrims.
Explore Dartmouth in South Devon
Whilst it may sound like a bit of a cliché, there really is something for everyone in and around such a multi-faceted town as Dartmouth.
Boating has to be top of the list, and there is no shortage of opportunities to take to the water even without a boat of your own. You can hire kayaks, canoes, dinghies or motor boats from the quayside or you can jump on board a ferry or cruise to take you across the river to Kingswear, around the coast to Brixham or Torquay, or up river to Greenway, Dittisham or Totnes. Naturalists will be thrilled by the abundance of wildlife to be seen, from occasional seals, dolphins and porpoises, to little egrets and peregrine falcons. For those who like a bit of variety, a Round Robin excursion will even link you with Totnes, Paignton, Kingswear and back to Dartmouth again by river, bus and steam train.
History lovers will enjoy visiting the local museum depicting Dartmouth’s history through the ages, Dartmouth Castle (English Heritage), Greenway, crime writer Agatha Christie’s riverside home, and Coleton Fishacre, linked to the D’Oyly Carte family.
Walkers are spoilt for choice by access to the South West Coast Path and Dart Valley Trail. Literature and arts lovers are also well catered for by the variety of themed events staged throughout the year (see below), and by the numerous galleries, independent shops and boutiques within the town.
With an emphasis on locally caught seafood and fresh produce, Dartmouth’s top notch bistros, hotels and restaurants cater to all tastes and will keep visitors and locals alike coming back for more. The renowned food festival in October is not to be missed.