Dartmouth is a town steeped in history and charm. With its medieval streets, historic buildings and maritime heritage, Dartmouth offers a rich tapestry of historical sites and stories waiting to be explored.
Dartmouth dates back as far as 1147 and over the centuries has managed to retain many of its original features – though now somewhat modified to fit in with modern life. Just wandering through the streets of Dartmouth you will see an eclectic mix of architecture amongst the buildings and streets, many dating back to the 16th century.
To help you make the most of your visit, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 historical places to visit in and around Dartmouth:
Open Daily, 10am – 5pm (check website for details)
Dartmouth Castle, perched at the entrance of the Dart Estuary, is a captivating historical attraction. This 15th-century fortress showcases a blend of medieval architecture and maritime history. Visitors are treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the estuary and its stunning surroundings.
The castle’s rich past as a defence against potential invaders, including pirates and foreign fleets, adds an intriguing layer to its allure. With its well-preserved structure and picturesque location, Dartmouth Castle is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in exploring the unique heritage and history of the Dartmouth area.
Open daily all year-round, during daylight hours.
Bayard’s Cove Fort is a fascinating 16th-century artillery tower located at the mouth of the Dart Estuary. Steeped in history, it served as a crucial defence post during the Elizabethan era, guarding against pirate raids and foreign threats.
This historical gem provides a unique window into Dartmouth’s maritime heritage and the town’s rich history. Visitors can explore its well-preserved ramparts, take in panoramic views of Dartmouth, and immerse themselves in the stories of the past. Bayard’s Cove Fort is a must-visit for history enthusiasts and anyone seeking to delve into Dartmouth’s intriguing history.
St. Saviour’s Church, a captivating attraction, is a magnificent 14th-century structure in the heart of Dartmouth. This historic church stands as a testament to the town’s medieval past, offering a glimpse into its architectural and cultural heritage.
The church features awe-inspiring Gothic architecture, intricate woodwork, and splendid stained-glass windows that showcase centuries of craftsmanship. Visitors can also admire the historical monuments and the serene ambiance that envelopes this sacred space. St. Saviour’s Church is not only a place of worship but a timeless sanctuary where history and spirituality intertwine, inviting exploration and reverence.
Open Daily, 10.30am – 5pm (check website for details)
Just a short ferry ride away from Dartmouth, you can explore Greenway Estate, once the beloved home of the famous crime novelist Agatha Christie.
Greenway House is a captivating historic estate that beckons visitors to step into the world of Christie, the renowned mystery novelist. Set on the banks of the river Dart, this elegant Georgian mansion was Christie’s much-loved holiday home, and it exudes the charm and character that inspired her literary works.
The house is surrounded by lush gardens, and visitors can explore the art-filled interiors, the sprawling grounds, and take in the scenic river views. Greenway offers a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the life and legacy of Agatha Christie while enjoying the picturesque beauty of the South Devon landscape.
Open Daily, 10.30am – 5pm (check website for details)
Coleton Fishacre House and Garden is a delightful National Trust property in nearby Kingswear. This Art Deco-style home, built in the 1920s, combines stunning architectural design with gorgeous gardens.
The house showcases the elegance of the Jazz Age and is filled with art and furniture from the period. The beautifully landscaped gardens offer an enchanting coastal retreat, boasting a range of exotic plants and terraced lawns with sweeping sea views. Visitors can stroll through this horticultural haven, appreciating the striking design and embracing the tranquil atmosphere, making Coleton Fishacre a must-visit attraction for those seeking history, art, and natural beauty.
Tours available, check website for details.
Dartmouth has a deep connection with the Royal Navy, and the Britannia Royal Naval College stands as a testament to this heritage. This esteemed naval college has been the training ground for countless naval officers since 1863.
While guided tours may be limited, visitors can still appreciate the college’s impressive architectural presence from across the river, with its grand Georgian façade and stunning waterfront location. The college stands as a symbol of the town’s close connection with the Royal Navy, making it a notable and respected landmark that represents Dartmouth’s historical significance as a naval hub.
Open Daily, check website for details.
Berry Head Nature Reserve is a coastal gem near to Dartmouth that promises both natural beauty and rich history. Perched on a limestone headland, this reserve offers breathtaking views of the English Riviera and the sea. It is Torbay’s most designated heritage site – being a Special Area of Conservation, National Nature Reserve, Site of Special Scientific Interest and Scheduled Ancient Monument… to name only four!
Its diverse habitats, from rugged cliffs to grassy meadows, support a variety of wildlife, making it a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.
The site also boasts historical significance, with remnants of a Napoleonic fort and a lighthouse dating back to 1906. Whether you’re drawn to nature, history, or simply a stunning vista, Berry Head Nature Reserve has something to offer every visitor.
The Dartmouth Mayflower Heritage Trail offers a captivating journey through time, commemorating the town’s role in the historic Mayflower voyage of 1620.
This self-guided walking tour weaves through Dartmouth’s picturesque streets, where pilgrims prepared for their transatlantic journey to the New World. The trail is adorned with plaques, informative displays, and points of interest, providing a vivid narrative of the pilgrims’ departure, their experiences in Dartmouth, and the roots of the Mayflower story.
This immersive experience allows visitors to connect with history and retrace the footsteps of the pilgrims who set sail for Plymouth, Massachusetts, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts and explorers alike.
For opening and tour dates, check website for details.
Start Point Lighthouse is a maritime gem perched on a dramatic headland overlooking Start Bay. This iconic lighthouse has been guiding vessels along the treacherous South Devon coast since the early 19th century.
The location itself is awe-inspiring, offering unobstructed vistas of the rugged cliffs and the vast sea beyond. Visitors can explore the area’s natural beauty, coastal walks, and take in the breathtaking panoramas. You may even see seals or dolphins out at sea – and a host of sea birds and birds of prey.
Start Point Lighthouse stands as a sentinel of maritime history and a testament to the enduring importance of maritime safety along the stunning, but perilous, South Devon coastline. You can explore this historic Lighthouse as the visitor centre runs Lighthouse tours. Be sure to check their website for details on open dates and tour times.
Slapton Sands is a magnificent stretch of coastline that embodies the natural beauty of South Devon and holds a fascinating backstory. This shingle beach is flanked by an expansive freshwater lake, Slapton Ley, and offers a unique blend of coastal and wetland environments.
The area’s significance extends beyond its picturesque appearance; it served as a crucial training ground for Allied forces during World War II in preparation for the D-Day landings. During the war, the residents of Slapton and nearby villages were evacuated for the areas to be used for a range of training exercises. A Sherman amphibious tank and several plaques stand at Torcross car park as a memorial to the lives lost in WWII “Exercise Tiger,” where German torpedo boats intercepted a convoy of vessels, sunk two tank landing ships and killed 749 American servicemen.
The tranquil setting now attracts birdwatchers and nature lovers, who come to appreciate the diverse birdlife and the stunning scenery. Slapton Sands is a harmonious blend of history, nature, and relaxation, inviting visitors to savour its unique charms.
Dartmouth’s rich history is interwoven with its stunning landscapes and unique architecture. Exploring these top 10 historical places will not only provide you with a glimpse of the past but also a deeper appreciation for the beauty and heritage of the area in and around this charming coastal town. So, whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply seeking a picturesque getaway, Dartmouth offers an abundance of historical gems to discover and enjoy.
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