Winding for 47 miles from the rolling hills of Dartmoor and ending in Dartmouth, the River Dart is a must-visit destination for visitors who want to explore Devon’s rich bounty of natural beauty, on-the-water adventures, historic landmarks and unique wildlife.
The river starts as two separate rivers, the East Dart and the West Dart which come together at Dartmeet. It flows southwards past Buckfast and Buckfastleigh, through Staverton and around Dartington on the outskirts of Totnes.
Between Totnes and Dartmouth, the River Dart offers copious activities, attractions, accommodation and eateries. Below we’ve highlighted our top places to eat, stay and play along this beautiful stretch of water.
Totnes is a wonderful town which makes a great base for your River Dart exploration towards Dartmouth. It’s a bustling town with a thriving market, a great independent shopping and café scene and boasts an impressive motte and bailey castle.
If you’re looking for a self-catered accommodation in Totnes, we’d recommend taking a look at our wonderful agencies who offer a wide variety of abodes, from cosy, humble cottages to large, luxurious riverside homes. Take a look at Classic Cottages, Your Devon Escape or Toad Hall Cottages to find your dream retreat. If you own a boat, you could also take advantage of mooring on the Totnes Visitor Berth for direct access to all that the river has to offer.
Activity-wise, Totnes has a lot to offer. Totnes Castle towers high above the town at the top of the high-street and provides glorious panoramic views of the River Dart and across to Dartmoor. Built over 900 years ago during the Norman Conquest, it’s now owned by English Heritage so you can enjoy an intimate experience inside the castle. As well as this, you can walk around the outside walls to view the beautiful flora that surrounds it, and it makes a great place for a family picnic in the warmer months! Another highlight of Totnes is Dartington Hall, just outside the town. Walk here via the River Dart and explore the historic and enchanting estate. The surrounding gardens and woodlands provide a tranquil escape with meandering paths and picturesque ponds. Visit at the right time and you’ll able be able to take part in their numerous events, from film screenings to workshops and seminars.
Ashprington and Tuckenhay
A walk south of Totnes along the River Dart you’ll come across Ashprington, a quaint village and parish, which encompasses Sharpham, Tuckenhay, Bow and Painsford. In many ways, it’s your typical English village, boasting a pub, a hotel and plenty of surrounding countryside, but it’s also home to Sharpham Cheese, a wonderful, artisanal cheese-maker, and Sharpham House, a Georgian house owned by Sharpham Trust making this area particularly distinctive.
Tuckenhay is nestled on the Bow Creek, an estuary which flows into the Dart. It’s a pretty little hamlet which once was a paper mill village, making it exceptionally characterful. This mill has now been converted into lodging but still offers a glimpse into its industrial past.
If you want accommodation close to Totnes, but away from the hustle and bustle of the vibrant town, this area is ideal. Check out Dart Valley Cottages who have a wide selection of rented accommodation along the Dart. And if you want a village retreat with your four-legged friend, check out Dog Friendly Cottages!
Staying in this area you’ll find there’s an abundance of footpaths and trails to explore. Take the Dart Valley Trail, a long-distance route which follows the river from Totnes to Dartmouth along the western side of the river. If you bring your bike you can also cycle this route or come equipped with your paddleboard along to explore it from the water.
Much like Ashprington, Stoke Gabriel is also a village and a Parish, however it sits on the other side of the river, and includes the villages of Aish, Sandridge and Waddeton. It’s a popular tourist destination for nature lovers in the South Hams due to its riverside location and luscious surrounding countryside; a haven for wildlife.
Stoke Gabriel truly is a place to take a step back from stresses of everyday life and appreciate the little things. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay which allows you to break away from your daily routine, check out Holidaycottages.co.uk.
One highlight of the village is its mill pond which feeds into the tidal estuary, it’s a great spot for crabbing, fishing, feeding the ducks, and makes a great entry point for exploring the river via kayak or paddleboard.
Interestingly, because of its location, Stoke Gabriel is a great spot for grape-growing. Situated in a sheltered valley at Lower Well Farm on the banks of the river, Sandridge Barton have taken advantage of this environment to develop a beautiful vineyard to create equally as beautiful wines. With a visitor centre and shop on-site, they offer guided and self-guided tours and tastings, which we’d recommend to anyone visiting any part of the River Dart. They also have an excellent restaurant, Circa, uniquely located in an old stone milking parlour, and offer eco-conscious dining with fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Venturing back over to the opposite side of the Dart, Dittisham is perhaps one of the most attractive villages you might come across in the region. This riverside settlement is the perfect place for a relaxing break and being just two miles upstream of Dartmouth, it’s a great base if you want to venture into the town, taking just 30 minutes via the ferry.
For a small village, there’s plenty of great things to do. For outdoor enthusiasts, walks are ample here. Hike along the river towards the Raleigh Estate and Old Mill Creek on the way to Dartmouth. Alternatively, hire a motorboat, kayak or SUP from the pontoon to explore the river’s picturesque creeks and hidden beaches. One of the focal points of Dittisham is its bright pink waterside pub, which many locals enjoy a pint or two in. It’s a great spot for adults to enjoy a drink in the sun whilst their little ones partake in a spot of crabbing off the pontoon. There’s also a great recreational ground call The Ham, a large green space situated by the river, surrounded by trees and a great playpark for children. It also makes the perfect place for a picnic or family BBQ.
Accommodation in Dittisham is abundant. Opt for a unique family-sized treehouse or a romantic shepherd hut stay with Dittisham Hideaway. Equally, you can find a stunning spacious adobe, or charming cottage for two with Coast & Country Cottages or Helpful Holidays.
Hop on the ferry Greenway Ferry from Dittisham and you’ll find yourself in Galmpton, home to the Greenway Estate which was once owned by a world-famous author. This wonderful village that sits on the Dart is uniquely part of two Devon boroughs – South Hams and Torbay.
The area has a long and interesting history; the ancient manor of Galmpton was first recorded in the Domesday Book as ‘Galmentona’, with the name deriving from the Saxon ‘Gafolsman’, meaning a community of rent-paying peasants. After the Norman Conquest, Ralph de Feugeres became Lord of the Manor of Galmpton and it remained a manorial holding well into the Victorian era. Built in 1861, running through the village and along the creek is the historic Dartmouth and Torbay Railway line, but more on this later!
One of the highlights of Galmpton is Greenway House, which was once owned by Agatha Christie as a holiday home. Now the site is a visitor attraction, owned by the National Trust, with many of its original features remaining, allowing you to imagine how Agatha and her family would spend their summers relaxing by the river, playing croquet in the gardens or imagining her next book in the library. A visit to Greenway isn’t complete without seeing the Boathouse, the scene of the crime in ‘Dead Man’s Folly’!
If Galmpton seems like your type of destination, opt for a stay with River Dart Hideaway who offer well-appointed accommodation with spectacular riverside views. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer the perfect space to watch the sunrise and set over the river and its convenient location is perfect for further exploration of the River Dart and the English Riviera coastline.
Situated just 5-miles from Galmpton is Kingswear, a village and parish on the eastern bank of the River Dart estuary and opposite Dartmouth. Kingswear is a characterful village with some of the best views of the River Dart and Dartmouth. The village is home to Kingswear Castle, an old artillery fort which previously offered protection, alongside Dartmouth Castle, to the harbour.
Noted as being the railhead for Dartmouth, Kingswear is home to the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company station, whereby the Dartmouth and Torbay Railway line extends to, and became part of the Great Western Railway in 1876. These days the line is used as an attraction, transporting visitors to and from Paignton on a heritage steam railway along the River Dart.
There are an abundance of great walks in Kingswear. Take the South West Cost Path to Brownstone Battery, which passes the iconic Daymark, a navigational point which can be seen from across Start Bay. Or visit Coleton Fishacre, a beautiful Arts and Craft-style house, once owned by the D’Oyly family in the 1920s. From here you can walk along the coast path back to Kingswear or to Mansands beach, a lovely secluded cove between Kingswear and Brixham.
Luxury Coastal have some fantastic properties in Kingswear and Dartmouth if you’re looking for an opulent abode with unbeatable views of Dartmouth and just a stone’s throw from the river. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit more rural and off the beaten track, Nethway Farm Holiday Cottages offer five self-catered cottages, converted from old farm buildings. With an indoor pool, games room, animal feeding and over 35 acres to explore, it’s great for a family getaway.
And finally, we get to Dartmouth! Set on the western bank on the River Dart estuary and facing out to sea, Dartmouth is a maritime town with a long and fascinating history, in which you can find out more about here, but it’s key features are certainly the area’s natural beauty and exciting attractions.
For those with a penchant for history, pay a visit to Dartmouth Castle, an impressive fortress, built over 600 years ago to guard the Dart Estuary. The seaside castle has plenty for explorers – young and old, such as an atmospheric Gun Tower, winding passages and a climb to the top of the battlements. En-route to the castle, why not stop at Bayards Cove Fort, which was the second line of defence for the harbour and contains the heavy cannons once used to guard the waters in Tudor times.
For lovers of the water, take to the river via kayak with Sea Kayak Devon who are based in Coronation Park, and offer guided trips and expeditions of the surrounding water; allowing you to explore secret coves and get up close to some amazing wildlife. For the landlubbers, explore the town via the Dartmouth Town Trail, take a stroll down to the beaches of Castle Cove and Sugary Cove, or enjoy some retail therapy along the high street and Old Market Square – top tip, stop at Jenny Koo’s in the market for some great Asian-inspired food!
As you’d expect, accommodation in Dartmouth is bountiful, whether you’re looking for a romantic retreat for two, a dog friendly getaway or somewhere big for the whole family to stay in. Ways Away Holiday are a family-run business who specialise in accommodation specifically in Dartmouth, all with dedicated parking spaces which can be hard to come by in the town during peak times! Meanwhile Marsdens Devon Cottages and Sykes Holiday Cottages both have a large portfolio of abodes across Devon and the South West. If you want a quaint B&B, check out Capritia Guest House, a family run guesthouse, just a three minute walk to the waterfront and town centre.
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to breakfast, lunch and dinner in Dartmouth with a fantastic array of cafés, restaurants and pubs. If you want fine dining, head to The Angel – Taste of Devon, a fab Michelin Guide restaurant in the heart of the town. For something a bit more relaxed, but still high-end, the Embankment Bistro and Kendricks are great choices with excellent seafood on offer. If traditional pub-grub is more your vibe, there’s plenty of great pubs in the town, such as the Dartmouth Arms and Bayards Cove Inn. When it comes to cafés, Café Alf Resco is pretty renowned for its breakfasts, meanwhile Bespoke serve great local coffee and some tasty sweet treats.
And there we have it, a complete round up of all the top places to stay, eat and play along the River Dart! For more information about discovering the Dart click here. And, don’t forget to check out our fantastic map below!