What better way to spend a sunny Sunday morning than a stroll through one of the country’s most beautiful and historic harbour towns?
We’re fortunate to have Dartmouth on our doorstep, particularly when the travel section of a national newspaper was recently offering a five-night stay in the town at a cool £2,600 per person!
It cost me a mere £11.50 for the return fare on the higher ferry to get there recently and the town, was already buzzing in the early morning autumn sunshine.
A steady procession of yachts was heading downstream from the marina, spare seats along the embankment were at a premium and the queue for breakfast at the legendary Cafe Alf Resco was already backed up into Lower Street.
I began the walk from Coronation Park, opposite the higher ferry landing, and followed the north embankment through Royal Avenue Gardens to the boat float, created in the late 19th century when the embankments were built to provide a low water harbour for vessels on the river.
No railway ever reached Dartmouth but the town’s railway station, now a restaurant on the riverbank here, served as a booking office for passengers from Kingswear Station on the opposite side of the Dart from1864 until it's closure in1972.
In 1951, Christopher Robin Milne and his wife Lesley chose one of the fine buildings alongside the boat float in Spithead to open the Harbour Bookshop, running it until their retirement in he 1980s.
Milne shared a love-hate relationship with his fictional namesake and suffered relentless bullying at school as the result of his father’s books, eventually giving away the original stuffed animals which inspired the Pooh characters.
They can now be found far from the 100-Acre Wood in New York’s Public Library!
The Harbour Bookshop lives on - in Kingsbridge.
As you continue along South Embankment note The Angel Restaurant, formerly The Carved Angel under the stewardship of Joyce Molyneux, who became one of the first women in the UK to win a Michelin star.
She retired in 2000 and, in 2018, Elly Wentworth, a Masterchef: The Professionals finalist took over as head chef.
The Angel has plenty of competition these days with seafood chef Mitch Tonks’ highly acclaimed Seahorse Restaurant nearby as well as a wing of his Rockfish chain in the same spectacular riverside setting.
Continuing past the lower ferry landing turn left down Lower Street into Bayard’s Cove which has featured as a film location many times as well as in The Onedin Line TV series.
The Pilgrim Fathers paused here en-route from Southampton to the New World and a commemorative stone, unveiled in the 1950s, marks the departure of Mayflower and Speedwell on August 20, 1620.
Five centuries earlier the English fleet also chose this as a departure point to fight the crusades!
The fort itself, built in the early part of the 16th century, was intended as a last line of defence against enemy ships that had eluded the guns from Dartmouth and Kingswear castles and housed 11 heavy guns facing across river and downstream.
Originally there was a staircase to the rampart walk used by archers and hand gunners.
From the old castle, climb the steps and turn left onto Southtown where we make our way to the second stage of our walk to Dartmouth Castle itself, which will be featured in next week’s Torbay Weekly.
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