A perfect day in Dartmouth
A lungful of salty air should help the most hurried visitor ease into the Devon pace of life. Walk to Dartmouth Harbour and look out over postcard-perfect views of the marina and the quaint multi-coloured houses that line the hills of Kingswear. Early birds should head straight to Café Alf Resco – a Dartmouth institution where a charming heated patio is the perfect spot to enjoy the best – and maybe biggest – brunch dishes in town.
It’s not a British seaside holiday without fish and chips, and Rockfish is the leader of the pack. Sit inside the restaurant during bad weather (or when the seagulls are looking particularly hungry), otherwise pop into Rockfish Takeaway down the road and eat by the river with a pint from the nearby Dartmouth Arms. Don’t be surprised if it’s served in a plastic cup – drinks here are best enjoyed on the outside benches that overlook the boats bobbing in the estuary.
The Cherub, housed in a fourteenth-century building with an open fire, gloriously wonky floors and uneven beams, is a good place to start. Visit the more modern Yarn for a small but well-chosen selection of craft beers and American-style comfort food. For cocktails, try Joe’s Bar in the back of popular seafood restaurant The Seahorse. This cosy, grown-up cocktail den has a handsome mid-century fit-out, and serves a mean negroni.
The best way to enjoy Dartmouth is to get out on the water with the local grey seals. Be a captain for the day on your own hire boat, go fishing for mackerel in Brixham or catch the ferry to Greenway, where you can explore Agatha Christie’s holiday home, now owned by the National Trust. You can also ring the old ship bell for the impossibly cute Greenway and Dittisham ferry service (pictured above) which takes visitors across the river to the Anchorstone Café – a seafood-lover’s dream with a menu that changes daily depending on the morning’s catch.
If arts and crafts float your boat, then Foss Street is a must-see. Independent shops and art galleries sell locally made souveniers, such as hand-thrown pottery and one-off jewellery. The artsy street is also home to English illustrator and cartoonist Simon Drew’s gallery. It exhibits a selection of gorgeous British ceramics alongside a range of Drew’s original artwork, prints and cards.
Walks are plentiful in Dartmouth, with coastal paths taking in everything from old forts to beautiful beaches. Start with the short walk to Dartmouth Castle. Follow Castle Road to find the small fortress perched on the mouth of the river alongside one of the most beautifully located churches, St Petrox, believed to date back to 1192. Just a few minutes walk away is Sugary Cove – a tiny shingle beach that’s the perfect spot for a dip, if you’re feeling brave. Warm up at the Dartmouth Castle Tea Rooms with a cream tea and panoramic views across the Dart estuary.
Views don’t get much more stunning than those at Gara Rock. The secluded hotel is perched on the coastline between Dartmouth and Salcombe overlooking a hidden cove. Although open to the public, this little-known beach is generally just visited by the hotel’s residents as few tourists will venture this far. Inside the hotel, you’ll find grand open fires, cosy seating areas with sheepskins and boardgames, a luxe spa and a relaxed dining room where floor-to-ceiling windows allow panoramic views of the bay below. The kitchen celebrates local produce such as Dartmouth kippers and vegetables from its on-site allotment, while bread comes from the magnificent Coombeshead Farm. Saying that, you may not be able to drag yourself away from your room: most offer sea views, some with their own balcony and private access to the National Trust path to the bay. From £175 a night.