An icy Christmas Day swim has been tradition across the UK for some time now, but in the last...
Kingswear’s rows of brightly-coloured houses on the steep northern bank of the River Dart play a big part in making Dartmouth such a picturesque holiday destination. It’s not hard to see why artists return to this view repeatedly to capture its combination of natural beauty and architectural charm. As well as admiring the village from across the water, it’s well worth taking the ferry hop across from Dartmouth, partly to look around and partly to appreciate Dartmouth’s picture-postcard looks from a new angle.
Most visitors to Kingswear from the South Hams will come via one of the ferries from Dartmouth. Driving from Dartmouth to Kingswear (which would usually involve going to Totnes, picking up the A385 towards Paignton and joining the A379 through Torbay) is a 26-mile drive.
The only car park in Kingswear itself is the Marina car park (TQ6 0AA) but spaces are very limited, and its therefore recommended that visitors make other arrangements during busier periods. This could involve, for example, parking in one of Torbay’s many car parks and taking a bus to Kingswear, or parking in Dartmouth, where there is usually ample space at the park and ride if not in the centre.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing your route over the water to Kingswear from Dartmouth.
Running seven days a week at least every 15 minutes, the Dartmouth-Kingswear passenger ferry costs £1.50 (50p for children), with discounts available for multiple journeys. Being regular and undercover means it’s the most popular option for those not bringing cars.
From Monday to Saturday, the first ferry leaving Dartmouth departs at 7:30 am. Coming from Kingswear, the first ferry departs at 7:40 am, and the final trip of the day takes place at 11.10 pm and 11.15 pm respectively.
On Sunday, the ferry starts later, at 9 am from Dartmouth and 9.10 am from Kingswear.
The crew takes a break from 6.10/6.15 pm until 7/7.10 pm daily.
The Higher Ferry, the larger of the two car ferries, operates by Dart Marina, about half a mile from the centre of Dartmouth. Cars are charged at £5.60 for a single journey with considerable discounts if you buy a booklet of tickets. For passengers, the fee is just 60 pence.
From Monday to Saturday, the service begins at 6.30 am (leaving Dartmouth) and operates continuously until 10.50 pm. For Sundays, bank holidays and other exceptions.
After you arrive at the other side of the river, you’ll need to walk about half a mile to reach the village. This is far from a chore, however, as the scenery is truly magnificent, and if you’re lucky a steam train will come thundering by to complete the scene.
The smaller and more centrally-located of the two services, the Lower Ferry is actually (usually) two ferries working opposite each other. The service runs from 7 am (leaving Kingswear first) until 10.55 pm (leaving Dartmouth last) from Monday to Saturday. On Sundays it starts at 8 am and finishes at the same time as during the week.
Cars are charged at £5 (£8.50 return) and passengers at £1.50 each way (50p for kids).
Kingswear is far more than ‘Dartmouth’s dormitory’, so let’s look at some of the attractions of the village itself.
The Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company operates this wonderfully nostalgic service, which runs from Kingswear to Paignton, taking in some spectacular riverside, coastal and rural scenery. You can also stop off at Greenway Halt and enjoy a short walk down to Greenway Estate to explore the former home of Dame Agatha Christie.
Lots of people opt for the Round Robin, which combines a steam train ride, river cruise and bus journey on a jaunt which takes in Dartmouth, Totnes and Paignton – a great way to get to know this part of Devon.
Tickets for the steam train ride, which include the cost of the passenger ferry from Dartmouth, are priced as follows:
As well as the steam train ride itself, it’s worth taking some time to explore the picturesque Kingswear Station too. There’s a café/gift shop and small museum inside a converted railway carriage, with interesting information, artefacts and images.
Make sure to keep your camera ready as your train pulls off because some of the most memorable views come quickly on the journey.
A cosy pub which has been recently refurbished with a nautical theme, the Steam Packet Inn is a popular haunt amongst Kingswear locals, visitors and also Dartmouth residents. Now well-known as a pizzeria (eat in and takeaway), it offers something a bit different to a typical pub without losing its family-run, community feel. The views are fantastic too.
The Ship Inn, located right next to the church on Higher Street in Kingswear, is similarly traditionally styled, cosy and renowned for its friendly atmosphere and service. There’s lots of fresh, locally-caught fish on the menu along with no shortage of meat and vegetarian options.
Enjoy some special views of the Dart from Sea-Jazy’s Cafe & Restaurant, as you tuck into a snack or meal, or perhaps just a coffee in this laid-back, community-oriented eatery. Homemade cakes, tasty fry-ups and Sunday roasts are all popular options at Sea-Jazy’s, so pop in for a taste of local life next time you’re in the area.
Kingswear Village Stores is a delightfully traditional shop. Baskets of fruit and vegetables create an enticing display from outside, and inside you’ll find an excellent array of carefully chosen products to support locals and visitors alike. It’s also an off-licence, so there’s no need to cross the river for a bottle of wine if you’re planning a cosy night in.
Although it departs from Dartmouth rather than Kingswear, we simply had to include the Kingswear Castle Paddle Steamer in this guide. A regular sight along the Dart, this historic vessel, built in 1924, is the UK’s only coal fired paddle steamer in operation. Why not join a cruise on the Kingswear Castle up the Dart to Totnes, exploring this beautiful stretch of river in style?
The Church of St Thomas of Canterbury occupies a spot on which there has been a church since 1170 AD. It was rebuilt in the 19th century although much of the current tower originates from the 12th century.
Kingswear is in the perfect spot for a range of memorable walks, including the must-try Dart Valley trail. Here’s our guide to the circular walk from Dartmouth/Kingswear to Greenway and Dittisham. The views on this trail are some of the finest you’ll see in our part of the world.
From Kingswear you can also walk to Brixham, a challenging trek of around 11 miles each way. Fortunately, there’s a regular bus service from Brixham to take you back again if the return journey is beyond you!
Kingswear offers easy access to Dartmouth and the South Hams as well as the attractions of Torbay, making it well-linked yet wonderfully peaceful at the same time. For this reason it makes a fantastic holiday destination in itself, as well as being a nice place to visit for a day trip.
Enjoy lovely views of the village, the River Dart and Dartmouth from this two-bedroom penthouse apartment in Kingswear. Just two minutes’ walk from the pubs, shop and ferries, it’s in the perfect spot for a combination of tranquillity and convenience.
If it’s river views and a peaceful location that you’re looking for, how about a holiday in one of our luxurious Dart Marina apartments? Across the water from Kingswear and a 5-10-minute walk along the picturesque harbour to Dartmouth, the location of these stylish contemporary holiday homes is hard to beat.