There are an abundance of things to do in Dartmouth with something to entertain everyone regardless of whether you’re...
The phrase ‘step back in time’ is often used to entice holidaymakers to reminisce about a gentler, more peaceful and leisurely age, especially when it is said in relation to the traditional charms of Devon. But a trip to Dartmouth Castle reveals a darkness to the past when the town’s folk had every reason to be fearful over the envious eyes and sharpened blades that lurked beyond the horizon.
Prominently standing the green hills of Dartmouth, looking out over the English Channel, Dartmouth Castle has been guarding the River Dart for well over 600 years. Set in one of the most picturesque sites in South Devon, a visit to this medieval castle will transport you back through time. Here is our handy guide for everything you need to know about Dartmouth Castle.
Looking for something specific? Use our quick links below or read on for our comprehensive guide to Dartmouth Castle
1. Introduction to Dartmouth Castle
2. How to get to Dartmouth Castle
3. Dartmouth Castle admission prices
4. Opening times
5. Is Dartmouth Castle dog-friendly?
6. History of Dartmouth Castle
7. Things to see and do at Dartmouth Castle
8. Beaches near Dartmouth Castle
9. Coastal walks from Dartmouth Castle
10. Events on at Dartmouth Castle
11. What’s on in Dartmouth?
12. Staying in Dartmouth
Since the 14th century, Dartmouth Castle has guarded the entrance of the River Dart, which has always been the heart of the busy, vibrant port of Dartmouth. With construction starting in 1388 and continuing throughout its colourful history, Dartmouth Castle was the first UK castle to mount ship sinking cannon.
With sweeping views of the estuary and out to sea, a visit to this indomitable fortress and historical gem is a great family day out, no matter the weather.
Dartmouth Castle is easy to reach either by car, on foot or even a ferry. There is usually enough parking (mostly on the road) but arriving early during the summer is advised.
Sat nav users, use the postcode TQ6 0JN.
There is a pay and display car park located 12 metres from the entrance which tends to fill up quickly. Prices start at £0.50 for 30 minutes and up to £3.00 for 3 hours, which is the maximum time you can park. You can either pay by phone or in cash. Parking charges are applicable all week between 08:00 am – 18:00 pm, thereafter is free.
There is some free and unrestricted parking on both Castle Lower and Castle Higher road. These spaces are roadside, so allow plenty of room for vehicles to pass.
Coming from Dartmouth, you can follow the route as per the map above. The walk is just over one mile from the town centre, through Bayards Cove and at the end of Castle lower road.
Being a gateway to the South West Coast Path, Dartmouth Castle makes an excellent destination for walkers. Make the most of your trip to the castle by walking from Blackpool Sands (4 miles) or Stoke Fleming (3-4 miles), and follow the coastal path towards the castle where you can enjoy some amazing coastal views.
There is also a car park at Little Dartmouth, run by the National Trust (£2 all day), which is a good place to start for a slightly shorter walk.
If you don’t fancy the ten to fifteen minute walk from Dartmouth town centre, why not take the passenger ferry from the South Embankment? Weather permitting, you can enjoy this beautiful voyage every day between Easter and the end of October.
The trip passes the unique Lower Ferry which runs between Dartmouth and Kingswear. This last remaining tug and float ferry in England passes the ancient Bayards Cove, with its cobbled quay, fort and riverside cottages which were once warehouses and boat building yards.
Trips take around ten minutes either way, which is great for kids and anyone on a tight schedule. With boats running continuously during running hours, there is no fussing with timetables – just go and come back when you like. The first boat leaves from the Dartmouth South Embankment at 10:00 am and the last boat coming back from Dartmouth Castle leaves at 17:00 pm (one hour earlier after 1st October).
The ferry costs £2.50 each way (£1.50 for the under 14’s) and you can even bring your dog for free.
Please be aware that due to the landing at Dartmouth Castle being so close to the open sea and various weather conditions, they occasionally have to suspend the service. Check the Dartmouth Ferry website for updates and contact information.
At the time of writing, admission for adults is priced at £7.90, £4.70 for children and £7.10 concessions (these prices include Gift Aid). A family ticket, for two adults and up to three children, costs £20.50, again with Gift Aid included.
An English Heritage membership gives you unlimited access to not only Dartmouth Castle, but a variety of other castles and gardens, historic houses and abbeys, and kids go free.
Between 25th March and 30th September, Dartmouth Castle is open from 10: 00 am to 18:00 pm, Monday to Sunday. For times outside of this period, please consult the castle’s website.
Yes, dogs are welcome on leads.
Set along the spectacular River Dart is this iconic ancient fortress. Dartmouth Castle’s history began in 1388 when John Hawley, the Mayor of Dartmouth, initiated work on the town’s new complex of defences.
Around a century later the iconic gun tower was added. It is said by English Heritage to be ‘the very first fortification in Britain purpose-built to mount “ship-sinking” heavy cannon.’
A tour of this splendid historic building is hugely evocative of a time when the merchants of Dartmouth had to take serious measures to keep their wares, wealth and even lives safe. These measures stretched even as far as building a giant iron chain which ran between Dartmouth and Kingswear Castle, creating a physical barrier to keep back invaders.
A 250-meter iron chain spanned across the to the River Dart to protect it from incoming warships. This ingenious feat of engineering was used to stop ships mid-river and thus making them easy targets for the castle to attack. Visit the Gun Tower to watch a video of how it worked and to see where the chain used to be.
Designed to house the ship sinking guns to fire across the narrowest part of the river, the Gun Tower was one of the first custom built coastal artillery forts in Britain. Take a look at the displays of weaponry used to defend the castle and the armour to protect the soldiers. Best of all is the open roof platform at four storeys high, which has the most incredible views out to sea.
You’ll find the two open-air gun platforms on either side of the gun tower. You are truly able to get a sense of what it was like for the soldiers in the gun battery thanks to the sounds and light installation.
Be sure to visit the Dartmouth Castle shop to buy gifts and memorabilia to remember your visit. You can also buy a copy of the Dartmouth Castle guidebook which gives a detailed summary of the history of the castle, with all sorts of interesting facts.
No visit to Dartmouth Castle would be complete without a delicious South Devon cream tea enjoyed looking out over the scenic River Dart. The Castle Tea Rooms serves delicious, freshly prepared breakfasts, snacks and light meals during the day, and during the summer it opens as a tapas restaurant in the evenings.
There are several outdoor tables at the Castle Tea Rooms, so you can continue to enjoy the fantastic views while you take the weight off your feet. The café is located outside of the Dartmouth Castle grounds, so you do not need to purchase a ticket in order to use it. Take a look at all their scrummy treats fresh from the oven on their facebook page.
Castle Cove, located adjacent to the castle entrance, is the perfect wild swimming spot. Take a picnic and relax with a book after visiting this slice of paradise overlooking the Dart. Read our blog on wild swimming in South Devon for more fantastic spots to explore and take a refreshing dip!
Sugary Cove is another popular swimming spot at the mouth of the River Dart. It is a secluded, quiet beach of shingle and rocks – a perfect place to watch the boats go by. This dog-friendly beach is a quiet little haven, but please be aware that it is completely cut off at high water, so take care to note the tide table before you visit and leave the beach in plenty of time.
Less than a ten to fifteen minute drive from Dartmouth Castle will take you to the exquisite Blackpool Sands. This golden crescent slice of heaven is not only regarded for its excellent facilities, but for it’s a safe environment, proving a popular beach for families.
Along the sweeping three mile span of the Start Bay coastline is the ever popular Slapton Sands. Not only is this beach a favourite for swimmers, anglers and water sport enthusiasts, but it’s also a key destination for walkers, history buffs and wildlife enthusiasts. You’ll find it easy to find a quiet spot along the vast shore, or if you prefer to relax closer to Torcorss then you’ll find fantastic places to get something to eat and drink.
The castle lies on one of the most incredible coastlines, which forms part of the South West Coast Path. You can take your pick of coastal and woodland walks around the castle where you can spot an abundance of wildlife and birds. There are plenty of walks in and around the area too.
Why not take a ferry over from Dartmouth to the beautiful village of Kingswear and follow the trail down to Dittisham via Greenway. Admire the meandering river, estuary and coastal views across the countryside all which make up the route along the Dart valley.
The walk from Dartmouth to Blackpool Sands boasts one of the most spectacular views across Start Bay. Boasting a seemingly endless vista that includes the beautiful Slapton Sands, it is well worth the journey.
Click here to discover our guide to the best walks in South Devon.
Dartmouth Castle hosts a number of fantastic events throughout the year.
Dartmouth Shakespeare week is the cultural highlight of the event calendar in Dartmouth and South Devon. For many years, the Inn Theatre Company has presented Dartmouth Shakespeare week in the open air at the beautiful Dartmouth Castle. Read our blog on Dartmouth Shakespeare week for a look at the previous productions performed by this talented group.
From treasure hunts to pirate tales, there is always loads on for the kids at Dartmouth Castle. Keep an eye on the English Heritage website to find out details of the latest events.
No matter what time of year, this vibrant seaside town is guaranteed to delight. The list of things to do in Dartmouth is endless. There are incredible places to eat, loads of shopping, food fairs and festivals. Delve into our blogs on what’s on in Dartmouth and things to do in Dartmouth for more details.
Why not stay at one of our luxury Dart Marina apartments, ideally positioned for exploring all Dartmouth has to offer? Alternatively, Hillfield Village is located on the outskirts of Dartmouth; an ideal destination for families with a tennis court, play area and acres of open space to enjoy.