Historical Transport in Dartmouth

Kingswear to Dartmouth Ferries

The earliest mention of a Kingswear ferry dates all the way back to 1365. So for many years, some form of crossing the River Dart between Kingswear and Dartmouth has been in place. By the 1700s a second ferry was in action from Hoodown on the Kingswear side but this was discontinued in 1864 once the railway had opened. Nowadays we have the Lower Ferry, the passenger ferry operated by Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company, as well as the Higher Ferry. The Dartmouth Lower Ferry is now operated and owned by South Hams District Council and the Higher Ferry is run and owned by Dartmouth-Kingswear Floating Bridge Company.

Steam Train

Many who visit Dartmouth may well have enjoyed a trip on the steam railway which operates between Paignton and Kingswear. It is a heritage railway run by Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company and is part of the extremely popular Round Robin trip which allows visitors to enjoy a day out exploring the towns of Paignton, Dartmouth and Totnes. The most well known route for this is to take the steam train from Paignton to Kingswear, the passenger ferry to Dartmouth and then hop aboard another ferry from Dartmouth which takes you to Totnes. The final leg of the journey includes a bus ride from Totnes back to Paignton. The railway line to Kingswear opened up to passengers in 1864 and the ownership has changed throughout the years. In the early 1970s the Paignton to Kingswear line was under threat of closure so Dart Valley Railway acquired this section. They were founded in the 60s to take control of the Totnes to Buckfastleigh railway which is now also a heritage railway run by South Devon Railway. In 1999 Dart Valley Railway were able to acquire ‘The Red Cruisers’ which were known as River Link and by 2010 the companies had merged to create the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company.

Paddle Steamer

The paddle steamer named Kingswear Castle was built in 1924 and has engines dating back to 1904. She is the last remaining coal-fired operational paddle steamer in the United Kingdom. For many years the Kingswear Castle run summer trips on the Thames and River Medway but returned to the River Dart in 2012 and began excursions back here from 2013. Visitors can enjoy a ride on this beautiful steamboat with scheduled services cruising the Dart.

Transport related places to see in Dartmouth

Dartmouth Railway Station

If you’ve visited Dartmouth before you’ve probably noticed the railway station perched on the Embankment in front of the Boat Float. These days the Grade II listed station houses Platform 1, a chic Champagne bar and restaurant, however previously it was a booking office for those wishing to get tickets travelling to or from the train on the Kingswear side accessed via the passenger ferry and even though a railway line never actually reached the site it was still classed as a railway station.

The Mayflower

We can’t talk about historical transport in Dartmouth without mentioning The Mayflower which transported the Pilgrims from the UK to the New World in America. For detailed information about the history of The Mayflower and the story, please take a look at our Mayflower page here. After troubles at sea with the second ship The Speedwell, both vessels were forced to stop in Dartmouth for repairs. It is believed that the two ships moored just off Bayard’s Cove so this area in Dartmouth is of great historical importance. When enjoying a trip to Dartmouth, be sure to look out for the Dartmouth Mayflower Heritage Trail. It gives an idea of how the town was in the 17th century when The Mayflower and Speedwell came to visit and consists of three sections, all offering a little more insight into Dartmouth at that time. You can find out more about the Dartmouth Mayflower Heritage Trail here.

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