I wrote of Dartmouth, England once before (http://stroudallover.blogspot.de/2013/09/dartmouth-pilgrims-castles-and-war.html), but there’s far more to say…and being loquacious, which, of course means dashingly handsome and charmingly conversant…I’m going to thrill you even more with things to do and places to see.
Dartmouth rests on the south coast of England and will forever be literally and historically connected to the adventures and perils of the sea. Allow me to do some first class name dropping: Second and Third Crusades. Henry Hudson. Drake. Raleigh. The Pilgrim Fathers. Pirates. Privateers. Britannia Royal Naval College. D-Day.
I'll whet your appetite with a few more:
In 1853, Britannia Royal Naval College became the first formal schooling for Midshipmen.
|Looking down on the Castle, the church of St Petrox, and the River Dart|
A castle guards the entrance to the Dart River and has since the 14th Century, although the Normans may have built fortifications after they won the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
And, if you think Dartmouth’s history ends there, you’re wrong. The American Army took over the Britannia Royal Naval College and did much of the planning for the D-Day Invasion there. At one time nearly 500 American ships and landing craft sat anchored in Dartmouth Harbor.
Agatha Christie's home and flowing garden, Greenway, is nearby. Take a ferry across the bay and a steam train to get there.
History permeates the air, but always the traveler’s eyes are almost hypnotically drawn to the magnificent bay, dotted with boats, ships, and ferries. Dartmouth is still a working fishing village. The fish are fresh, and plentiful. Youngsters kneel along the stone embankment, dropping their lines and laughingly pull out crab after crab.
The natives are friendly. We stopped and asked some kids to see their catch. Got an earful. Asked questions of neighboring tables in the restaurants and pubs. Found out even more.
Speaking of restaurants, feel like fish and chips? One of the best in all of England is Rockfish, only a short stroll to the riverfront. Need a beer or six? Historic pubs abound, the earliest dating from 1380. Check The Cherub.
Then, there’s the Dartmouth Museum, where the town entertained Charles II in 1671, in what is now known as the King’s Room.
What about the town itself, the ins and outs, the streets and backways? Cobblestone lanes, and narrow alleys, most dating from Elizabethan and even medieval times, tangle though this picturesque ville.
|One of the many shopping streets...early morning.|
|Another cheery pub!|
The Royal Castle Hotel dates from 1639 and where it sits marked the water’s edge prior to the 19th Century land reclamation. Grab a pint in The Galleon Bar.
|On the Waterfront!|
The waterfront now makes for a splendid walk that leads you down to Bayard’s Cove, the only cove at the time and the spot where the Speedwell and Mayflower anchored for repairs. In short, Dartmouth stepped right out of your dreams about what England should look like.
Rather than give away all of Dartmouth’s secrets in one gulp, in the weeks to come, I’ll blog more about a whole host of reasons why this very special (and semi-isolated) part of England should be a star on your trip-list.
How in the world do you get there? I can tell you how we did it. Airplane. Underground. Train. Bus. Sounds more difficult than it is. First stop is a London airport. Ours was Heathrow. Next a short ride on the London tube to Paddington station. Next a 3 ½ hour British Rail ride to Totnes, followed by a 45 minute bus trip to Dartmouth.
You have to hand it to the British. Transportation connections are wonderful and very comfortable. After all, Dartmouth is a tourist destination. The first time we came was on a cruise ship. It was summer and the streets bulged with visitors from the far corners. April was much more gentle. Never did we suffer through long lines or the inconvenience of packed restaurants, and the weather was cool, but sunny.
In fact, our four days overflowed with dreamy strolls, interesting visits, chats with locals, and deep breaths of sea air. Well, of course, there was also the occasional pub…but then what is England without a pub or two and what better place to down a pint than Dartmouth?
Before you go, visit the Dartmouth Information Center site. Many of the tours are only one or two days a week. These folks are extremely helpful with scheduling visits and tours. http://www.discoverdartmouth.com. For a real treat, have them set you up for a walking tour, hosted by John Putt, known by the locals as Putty. It takes about an hour and a half and you won't want to miss a second!
Coming up: I'll show you the best places to eat and drink and stay and visit in Dartmouth!!!
|Dartmouth by night|