A weekend in Dartmouth

A view of Dartmouth from the river, all pastel-coloured houses tumbling down the sheer slope to the waterfront.
The low stone building right on the waterfront is the fortress.

I'm a bit late in posting about it, but I thought I'd share some photos from the weekend in Dartmouth Mr Robot took me on for my birthday at the end of February. (My 49th, in case you're curious.) He'd asked me where I wanted to go, and I said either to see Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole's Georgian gothic house, or the Red House in Bexleyheath, as I've been on a bit of a preraphaelite kick for a while. However, while both would be great options if we'd been staying in London, the rail worker strikes we've been having in the UK ruled that out so he looked for somewhere we could go by car.

We do both support the strikers, I should say – poor pay and working conditions are far more serious problems than inconvenience when planning a leisure trip. 

The Angel pub, a half-timbered building.
The Angel, where we had a good pint. Got to love a pub where the
ladies is 'two floors up, past the suit of armour'.

Anyway, he settled on Dartmouth, which I was not entirely convinced about at the time as it didn't sound like the sort of place I'd enjoy, and I wasn't sure we'd have much to do there. But happily, I was wrong. The town itself is really lovely, with Dartmouth on one side of the estuary and Kingswear on the other, and a little ferry going back and forth between the two for cars and foot passengers. When we went to St Ives I enjoyed it but the fact the entire old town had been turned into short-term holiday lets was painfully apparent; Dartmouth feels like a place where people live and is all the better for it. There are plenty of nice pubs that clearly have their regulars, and the town felt genuinely cared for.

A bedroom in an old inn. The windows are leaded, and the sloping ceiling supported by thick dark beams.
Our room at the Bayard's Cove Inn.

As for things to do, there are a couple of National Trust places on the Kingswear side, the holiday homes of Agatha Christie and the D'Oyly Carte family, and some English Heritage ones on the Dartmouth side. When we went they were on winter hours and only open at weekends, but they're open more frequently now. We didn't make it to either National Trust property, but Bayard's Cove fortress was right near where we were staying (at the Bayard's Cove Inn, which is more a café/restaurant than a pub on the ground floor) so we walked round that one night, and also took a walk up to Dartmouth Castle on the Sunday, my birthday itself. The castle's fairly small, as it was built to defend the estuary from sea raiders and so housed cannons rather than a nobleman, but the walk up was absolutely lovely.

The medieval part of Dartmouth Castle in the sunshine, standing on rocks with the sea crashing below.
The medieval part of the castle, with the end of the church behind it just visible.

On the Saturday we caught the steam train from Kingswear to Paignton. Dartmouth has a Victorian railway station on the waterfront – it's been converted into a rather nice-looking champagne and seafood place – but no trains ever stopped there. Getting rails to Dartmouth was impossible. So the trains only ever stopped at Kingswear, and a ferry would take passengers to their final destination. Again, because we were out of season the service is limited; in summer it's possible to do a round trip involving the steam train, a bus from Paignton to Totnes, and then a cruise back down the river to Dartmouth, but for us it was train only. It was a super journey in a nice old carriage, through the beautiful countryside and beside the sea. Paignton, however, was Not For Us. It was a very traditional seaside town, tourist-geared at the sea-facing side. The ability to find a nice place to stop for a drink is my superpower, but my bardar failed me, and a look at the Cask Marque app revealed the horrifying truth: there are no nice pubs in the main part of Paignton. Killing couple of hours before the steam train left again was hard!

A steam train filling up at a water tower

Saturday wasn't ruined – that night we ate at The Angel, which was Pete's main reason for choosing Dartmouth. He's a big fan of Elly Wentworth on shows like Great British Menu, so we had the tasting menu and wine flight, and it was wonderful. I didn't take any photos because sometimes you've just got to live in the moment! However, you're really spoiled for choice for food in Dartmouth. We ate at Rockfish on the Friday when we arrived, and had Sunday lunch at the Bayard's Cove Inn, and spotted many other places we'd have liked to try. The place was so nice, we'll almost certainly be back to give them a go... and who knows, maybe next time we'll manage the river cruise too.


  1. That sounds like a lovely weekend, Mim! I was in Devon the same weekend and we went to Brixham and Totnes both via Paignton which I didn't like very much either...I have a distant cousin who lives there, too!

    1. Paignton's clearly an acquired taste!

  2. Happy Belated Birthday, Mim! Ah, Dartmouth! I spent many a summer holiday hanging around the harbour as a teenager - Dad had a boat and we always sailed around the South Hams - Salcombe, Kingsbridge and Hope Cove.
    Paignton wasn't for us either although I know plenty of people who love it.
    That hotel room looks very fancy.
    Jon & I went to The Angel 30 years ago and had a cream tea. It's well overdue a visit! xxx

    1. Thank you!

      I think the Angel only does posh meals now... I can't remember seeing anything to do with cream teas. The night we went, there was no a la carte even, it was tasting menu or nothing. That said, the old railway station/champagne bar nearby looks corking.

      I never knew you spent your teens sailing! Dartmouth feels very unspoiled, you'd probably remember most of it.

  3. Oh, that does take me back, Mim. Jos and I visited Dartmouth in the late 90s and absolutely loved it. I'm glad to hear it's kept its authentic nature and hasn't been completely taken over by holiday homes. And yes, you'll have to go back for that river cruise, and for visiting those NT properties! xxx

    1. It's so nice to be somewhere that still feels lived in. And I know there's a certain irony in that given I'm a tourist, but I was at least staying in a place for tourists, not somewhere that could have been a home for people. I'd definitely go back.

  4. It looks lovely, and from the photos appears you got nice weather too.


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