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Jan 6, 2023 | Dartmouth, Walks

Dartmouth Town Trail

1.6mile (2.5km)

Start at Dartmouth Higher Ferry – TQ6 9PQ

Finish at Dartmouth Higher Ferry

Fancy a stroll around the historic town of Dartmouth? Step back in time on this relaxing circular walk which explores Dartmouth’s heritage. Children will love this Dartmouth town trail stroll which showcases a swashbuckling town of days gone by. Discover top historical sites dating back to 4000 BC and learn about the smuggling pirates, merchants, Pilgrim Fathers and the importance the town played in the lives of Royalty. A great walk for all the family which forms part of the South West Coast Path. 

The route

  • Starting at the Dartmouth Higher Ferry walk along the waterfront on the north embankment
  • Keep going until you reach the end of Coronation Park. Turn right and keep walking to the Ship in Dock Inn on the corner.

Coronation Park was created in 1937 from land filled in to build the North Embankment. Previously known as Coombe Mud where there were shipyards. A warehouse with hooks for unloading cargoes can still be seen on Mayor’s Avenue, which was reclaimed at the same time.

There was a Lifeboat Station at Dartmouth from 1878 until 1896 and during that time they only launched 3 times and only assisted 1 vessel so the service was withdrawn in 1896. The Dart lifeboat station in Coronation Park was re-established in 2007 and was completed at a cost of £175,000. The D Class inshore lifeboat serves the Dart river as far as Totnes and the surrounding coastline from Start Point to Berry Head.

  • Take a left turn and walk along Clarence Street following the steps on the left to walk along King’s Quay. The turn right onto Mayor’s Avenue.

Clarence Street was a favourite place for sea captains to live because it was close to the docks. The original shoreline of the Hardness ridge was along Undercliff, to your right as you walk along King’s Quay.

  • Walk along Mayor’s Avenue, passing the Tourist Information Centre and onto the Quay.

Visit the Newcomen Engine House which celebrates the first steam engine which was used to pump out mines. The Engine was designed in 1712 by Dartmouth ironmonger Thomas Newcomen.

The Quay was reclaimed between 1588 and 1640 for ships returning from the fishing grounds in Newfoundland. Dartmouth was the departure port for the explorer’s Sir Humphrey Gilbert and John Davis between 1578 and 1605. After Gilbert colonised Newfoundland, the town became heavily involved in developing the fisheries there. A fleet of up to 150 vessels sailed to the fishing grounds at the start of each season, the catch would be salted and dried on Newfoundland beaches before bringing it back to Europe where it was traded for wines and other luxuries.

Sir Walter Raleigh and fellow Elizabethan sailors landed treasure in Dartmouth which was captured from Spanish ships in the English Channel. After Dartmouth ships helped defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588, the captured galleon Madre de Dios was brought here with all her spoils. Between 1670 and 1680, the area of the Royal Avenue Gardens was reclaimed to provide mooring space for all this activity and during the following two centuries, it was in fact an island linked by a bridge to the New Quay.

  • Follow the Quay and turn left after the Boat Float to join the South Embankment where you’ll turn right.

The Quay is lined with houses, many of which date back to the seventeenth century. On Duke Street to the right is the noteworthy Butterwalk which was built in 1635. 

The North and South Embankments were created in 1835 when the town was in need of a harbour which could take ships even at low tide but this faced strong protest from shipbuilders with businesses along Mayor’s Avenue, consequently it was cut off from river. New Quay was also cut off but was given river access via a passage under the embankment, creating the Boat Float.

  •  Keep walking along the Embankment and turn right at the end, through Cole’s Court.

The earliest row boat ferry operated across the River Dart until 1834 whe it was replaced by the horse ferry, which had just enough room for two horses and carts. This operated on the same site as the Lower Ferry does today. Check out the fourteenth century Agincourt House just to the left, as you turn right onto Lower Street.

  • Take a left turn into Lower Street and follow the road down beside the river to Bayard’s Cove Fort.

The quay and castle at Bayard’s Cove date back to the sixteenth century and have featured as the location for many films and the TV series the ‘Onedin Line’ . In 1620 The Pilgrim Fathers stopped  enroute from Southampton to the New World. Wind back five centuries to when the English fleet set sail for the crusades. In the fourteenth century, Dartmouth was the fourth richest port in Devon. In 1347 it supplied 760 men and 30 ships to the siege of Calais, making it the third-largest contributing port in the country.

Dartmouth Mayor, John Hawley led a number of raids on French ships and ports, which in turn led to Dartmouth becoming an object of French retaliation. Often these raids were with royal consent, and in 1374 Edward III became so concerned that he ordered Hawley to build a castle at the mouth of the river. After a French attack in 1377, Hawley complied, building a ‘fortalice’ between 1388 and 1400, later stringing a chain between here and Godmerock, across the river. There was a lot of military transport between Dartmouth and France until the loss of Aquitaine in 1453.

  • From the old castle take the steps up onto Southtown, turn right and continue along Newcomen Road and turn left onto Higher Street. Follow the road, then turn left onto Smith Street.

Built circa 1380, The Cherub Inn, a former merchant’s house, is believed to be Dartmouth’s oldest building.

  • After just a few steps, bear left onto Anzac Street and continue walking past St Saviour’s Church and continue on along Foss Street.

St Saviour’s Church was built in 1335 and consecrated in 1372  its monuments include John Hawley’s tomb and a medieval ironwork door decorated with two Plantagenet leopards, thought to be from the original building.

There is also evidence of land reclamation in this area which began in the thirteenth century when the tidal inlet between the two fishing hamlets was dammed to make a mill pool where the  tide was used to drive two water wheels. Foss Street marks the site of the dam. During the nineteenth century the mill pool was filled and the Market Square and New Road (now Victoria Road) were built. This was the first road for wheeled vehicles, and prior to this pack horses were used to carry goods inland. Browns Hill (below) was the main packhorse route out of town.

Off to your left as you walk along Foss Street is the Victorian Pannier Market, this charming market square was part of the extensive town improvements which came about following the filling-in of the mill pool.

  • Cross The Square at the end of Foss Street and walk up Browns Hill. Turn left on the steps, bear right to come out on Clarence Hill. Turn right and walk down to Clarence Street when you’ll turn left after Coronation Park and back to the Higher Ferry to complete the Dartmouth town trail.

Dartmouth Park and Ride

Dartmouth Park and Ride runs from the car park on the edge of the town on the A3122) near Lidl supermarket) and drops off on the embankment in the town centre. (Seasonal – operates  Easter and the end of October.)

Parking in Dartmouth

Town centre parking is available at Mayor’s Avenue (TQ6 9NF). Tends to get very busy during peak holiday times and has a maximum of 4 hours during the summer. There is no restriction during the winter months.

Dartmouth Town Trail map

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