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Getting To Know Dartmouth – Cruise Port Guide
Dartmouth is a beautiful town located within the county of Devon and its unspoilt beauty draws in thousands of visitors every year. As you may well be one of them at some point, we hope our Dartmouth cruise port guide offers everything you need to know and more about what to do during your visit here.
Sitting on the banks of the postcard-perfect River Dart, the town of Dartmouth proudly sits within the South Devon Area of Natural Beauty and its history can be traced all the way back to as early as 1086, when the Domesday Book lists Dunestal as the only settlement in the area which now makes up the parish of Dartmouth. The surrounding countryside is actually listed for ‘Outstanding Natural Beauty’ and it is not hard to see why when you experience the rugged coastlines, wooded valleys and stunning beaches of offer.
It may be a relatively small town, but it is bursting at the seams with things for you to see and do. There are ancient narrow streets boasting local delicacies such as cream and fudge, and an abundance of restaurants and cafes serving delicious fresh seafood. Throughout the year there are various festivals, events and markets to enjoy, including the annual Dartmouth Food Festival and the Dartmouth Royal Regatta.
If it’s history you’re looking for, then Dartmouth Castle (one of the most incredible fortresses in England) is your journey back through 600 years of ancient history. There’s also Bayards Cover Fort which is just a short journey from Dartmouth Castle. It was Bayards Cover from which the Mayflower set sail for the New World in 1620.
Being a seaside town, there’s also an abundance of outdoor activities to partake in, including kayaking, paddle boarding, crabbing or a visit to Slapton Ley Nature Reserve. All of these incredible attractions make Dartmouth the ideal cruise port to visit at any time of the year.
Special offers can be found on the Discover Dartmouth website and Dartmouth is best explored on foot. Small vessels can sail up the river and into the heart of town, but larger vessels will be anchored offshore and guests tendered. There are usually local residents from the visitors’ centre on hand to help with ideas, getting around and maps.
Dartmouth is often considered a ‘foodie’ destination and has two restaurants listed in the renowned Michelin Guide. The Angel, offering ‘modern British’ and locally sourced cuisine and The Seahorse, offering ‘seafood-orientated menus’ that have a ‘Mediterranean bias’. Both are situated close to the Estuary, hence offering wonderful views as well as highly-rated cuisine.
Key Highlights of Dartmouth
- Dartmouth Castle
- St Petrox Church
- Dartmouth Steam Railway
- Bayards Cove Fort
- National Trust Greenway House & Gardens (Home of Agatha Christie)
- Dartmouth Museum
- Britannia Royal Naval College
Regular Cruise Line Visitors
- Hapag Lloyd
- Tradewind Voyages
- Sea Cloud Cruises
Dartmouth is photogenic. Incredibly so. Images online showcase brightly coloured homes and glimpses of the sea where it meets the river Dart. With its green hills and historic architecture, it’s all a little bit perfect. And guess what – it really is.
When I first set eyes on the town on a beautiful summer’s day, I was merely passing through the area on one of the town’s ferries. But that sight stuck in my mind and many years later, having searched for a new life, it was that image that settled it for us. We were moving here.
What I’ve learned in the intervening years, is that Dartmouth ( and its sister across the water, Kingswear) is more than just a pretty face. It’s a town that is filled with possibilities for the traveller, the day tripper and of course, the cruise guest. Think ‘ vibrant’ ‘diverse’ ‘friendly’ and just a little bit magical. Something for everyone? Absolutely!
Life naturally centres around the beautiful river Dart, designated an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If your ship is small enough to anchor mid river, you’ll take a 2 minute tender ride into town. Slightly larger ships may anchor at the mouth of the river, in which case the sight of rather lovely homes and the ancient Dartmouth Castle, make the 10 minute tender transfer feel like an excursion in its own right.
Ferries ply back and forth across the river ( why build a bridge when you can take a boat?) so cars and people have three options for crossing between the town and the village of Kingswear. The navigable river is 13 miles long as it winds its way up to the town of Totnes. Hop on a riverboat at your tender landing jetty and take a 90 minute trip, listening to the often amusing commentary of our hoary old sailors, whilst drifting past vineyards, villages and Agatha Christie’s home at Greenway. You could easily see a seal or two as well. On the subject of transportation, you may have the opportunity to board a steam train and take a 30 minute river and seaside journey. Or stay local and buy a ticket for a trip on the Kingswear Castle – the last remaining operational coal-fired paddle steamer in the UK, built in 1924. An unique way to ply the river and see the sights.
The name Dartmouth is always associated with officer training establishment, The Britannia Royal Naval College. You may even take a tour (depending on your arrival day) but if not, she still forms a magnificent backdrop to the town’s landscape. Or, if you feel like staying closer to your own ship, just wander our historic town and look at the magnificent old buildings, excellent shops and galleries. Stop off for a Devonshire tea or lunch at one of our varied cafes and award winning restaurants. You can choose between Michelin stars or good old fish and chips too. How about dangling your legs over the embankment whilst watching the crabbing lines which occupy holidaying families most days? Watch the yachts, the kayaks, the paddle boards.
Locals love to see cruise ships here, so they’ll be keen to ask questions about yours. Don’t forget to take that photo of your ship, moored in the picturesque river or if you’re anchored out at sea, take a 20 minute easy walk to the castle, from where you can grab a few shots, whilst enjoying an al fresco cuppa at the Castle Tea Rooms.
And a final word of advice, make sure those camera batteries are charged. You’ll be needing them…