Dartington, in South Devon, is a vibrant village that really packs a punch with regard to its worldwide fame,...
Kingswear’s rows of brightly-coloured houses on the steep northern bank of the River Dart are both charming and instantly recognisable. 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 Kingswear from the village itself, it’s well worth taking the ferry hop across to Dartmouth, partly to look around and partly to appreciate Kingswear’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 are two car parks in Kingswear itself. Or alternatively, if you’re visiting Kingswear from the English Riviera, why not take a bus to Kingswear? Or if you’re visiting from Salcombe, we recommend parking in Dartmouth and hopping aboard the passenger ferry, 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 6.15/6.20 pm until 7/7.10 pm daily.
Dartmouth 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 £6.70 for a single journey with considerable discounts if you buy a booklet of tickets. For passengers, the fee is just 70 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, passengers will 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, Dartmouth 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 £6 (£10 return) and passengers at £1.50 each way (£1 for kids, free for toddlers).
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.
Take a read of our blog 4 must-see National Trust houses in South Devon to find out more about Greenway Estate.
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 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.
Kingswear Coffee Co. is located close to the lower ferry. Serving locally sourced products, you can enjoy a range of sweet treats and savoury snacks made from Devon’s delicious goods before hoping on the ferry to Dartmouth.
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. Ideally, there is also a post office which is located in the heart of Kingswear, close to the lower ferry point.
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.
For more historic monuments to make part of your trip, read our blog 3 must-visit castles in South Devon.
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!
Find out more about this walk here, or for further trails, click here to download our South Devon Walking Guide.
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.
The Cottage (sleeps 4) is situated on the banks of the River Dart in Kingswear, a fantastic location for exploring the water, and visiting nearby chocolate box towns and villages. Perfect for sailing enthusiasts, the property is located adjacent to the Royal Dart Yacht Club, and guests can enjoy temporary membership to the yacht club facilities, including a lounge bar, restaurant, waterside terrace and more.
If you’re looking for a large holiday cottage with breathtaking river views then Moorings is your perfect property. Start the day on the balcony and marvel at the stunning River Dart that’s positively brimming with wildlife (including seals!) – inspiring you to go and explore South Devon’s beautiful sights. After venturing on idyllic trails, learning to sail or kayak, and even riding on a steam train along the waterfront, enjoy retreating to your holiday home to sit back and relax in the spacious lounge. Perfect for family holidays, you’ll be sure to have a wonderful holiday in Kingswear.
Emily’s is a lovely holiday property benefitting from scenic views of the Waterhead Creek and glimpses of the River Dart. Offering open-plan living, a private terrace and electric fire, this cosy apartment is ideal for summer stays and winter retreats.
To book your next break in wonderful South Devon, browse our full selection of holiday cottages in Kingswear.