Devon actually does concentrate on fairly cities however from its fortress to its attractive riverfront, I’m at all times significantly tempted to go again to Dartmouth with children.
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With its lengthy historical past and laid-back vacation vibe, I’ve visited in wonderful summer season sunshine and autumn drizzle, and every time come away decided to spend longer.
And with so many issues to do in Dartmouth with children, it’s the proper spot for a household vacation as properly – listed here are my prime 16 concepts to start out you off.
Go to Dartmouth Fortress with children
Whereas it’s straightforward to whereas away a day (and extra) in Dartmouth, one place you shouldn’t miss is a go to to Dartmouth Fortress with children.
Set on the mouth of the River Dart, elements of the fortress date again to the 14th century and it noticed motion through the English Civil Warfare, plus there are additionally later nineteenth century additions – it was nonetheless used to defend the coast in Victorian occasions, in addition to defending Britannia Naval Faculty through the First World Warfare.
And whilst you shouldn’t anticipate knights, turrets and medieval splendour right here, there are some enjoyable issues to do with children at Dartmouth fortress as properly.
There’s a path for teenagers to comply with with varied completely different quizzes and bits of trivia, in addition to the possibility to design your individual fortress.
Preserve a watch out for the mice alongside the best way too: some are on show, others take a bit extra searching out. And if I’m sincere, there was a lot else to have a look at that we didn’t even spot all of them, as we stored getting distracted.
Earlier than you even set foot inside, you’ll spot the primary of the cannon – what’s now the store was a Second World Warfare gun home.
And it’s a theme which continues as you discover via the Victorian fortress and head on into the older medieval part.
The primary defences date again to 1388, constructed by privateer and Mayor of Dartmouth John Hawley – an inspiration for the Shipman in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – whereas the fifteenth century gun tower is considered the primary purpose-built fortification for heavy cannon that will sink ships.
That wasn’t the one defence: a heavy chain stretched throughout the estuary, which may very well be used to dam enemy ships from invading.
And if you head down into the passageways – you’ll want the torch in your cellphone to light up these dim tunnels – the rooms had been used to retailer gunpowder and explosive shells through the years.
Alongside the best way, there’s a sound and light-weight present designed to offer you an thought of what it should have been like when the cannon had been firing – and simply how many individuals had been wanted to function one.
One of many highlights of the primary a part of the fortress was a mannequin displaying what the fortress appeared like at completely different factors in historical past: no odd mannequin although, you flip a deal with on this interactive creation to make towers rise and fall and fortifications abruptly erupt.
There are extra shows and interactive enjoyable over within the older part of the fortress too – together with extra cannon and early weapons.
However much more enjoyable is the gathering of steel helmets which you’ll be able to attempt on, in a wide range of shapes, and nearly all lots heavier than I might think about carrying for quite a lot of minutes.
And to complete the tour of the fortress, you may head as much as the roof of the tower, together with the guard-room on the highest level, to absorb some superb views again alongside the river in the direction of Dartmouth.
In case you’re fortunate, you would possibly even spot a couple of seals within the water; you’re assured to spy a couple of boats zooming by and Kingswear Fortress (an artillery tower now reworked into a singular place to remain by the Landmark Belief) on the banks reverse.
Do look inside St Petrox church as properly whilst you’re on the fortress, with brass grave inscriptions courting again to the seventeenth century inside and its slanting sloping weathered graveyard outdoors.
We spent round an hour right here earlier than heading again to Dartmouth alongside the coast path, however there are extra woodland walks across the fortress, in addition to the possibility to purchase a cream tea.
Open 12 months spherical however at weekends solely through the winter months. Click on right here for opening occasions and tickets: free for English Heritage members.
There may be parking by the fortress but it surely’s very restricted however except you’re planning to get there early, it’s finest to take the ferry from Dartmouth (this additionally will get busy, particularly in peak season) or stroll from the city, which takes round 20 minutes.
Take a ship tour
We ticked off our style of being out on the water by taking the ferry out to Dartmouth Fortress, however you’re spoiled for alternative relating to different boat excursions in Dartmouth with children.
There’s a round boat journey which takes you alongside the river out to Kingswear and Dartmouth castles, in addition to to Greenway and Dittisham – tickets out there from the kiosks by the city pontoon.
The Kingswear Fortress paddlesteamer, which usually runs this journey through the summer season months, is just not working in 2022.
Or take the longer cruise in the direction of Totnes: 90 minutes every method, it’s a beautiful various to driving, in the event you’d prefer to spend a day exploring Totnes.
In case you’re planning to go to Greenway (scroll down for particulars), there’s a ferry which runs from Dartmouth to Agatha Christie’s former house. The identical firm operates the ferry to fairly Dittisham, round half-hour away by water.
Verify out my assessment of a keep at Dittisham Hideaway in one of many luxurious treehouses
Or enterprise additional afield with a ferry to Brixham, or choose up the steam practice to Paignton after hopping on the ferry throughout to Kingswear – there’s additionally a mixed steam and cruise ticket to incorporate the round harbour tour, or the spherical robin choice, which incorporates ferry, practice, cruise and bus!
Dartmouth Steam Railway
The classic trains of the Dartmouth Steam railway run between Paignton and Kingswear for a somewhat completely different approach to get to the seaside, travelling alongside the English Riviera Geopark coast line, and through fairly stations together with Goodrington, Churston and Greenway Halt (for Agatha Christie’s vacation house).
In addition to absorbing the coast and countryside, there’s a free foot passenger ferry included along with your practice ticket to sail over from fairly Dartmouth, plus the spherical journey choices which embrace an open-topped bus, or with an additional round cruise on the River Dart.
If the climate isn’t being sort, the steam practice is a enjoyable choice on a wet day in Devon with children as properly.
Take a stroll
With tiny twisting alleys, and a historical past of pirates and explorers, there’s a lot to find on a wander via Dartmouth, from the 14th century Cherub Inn (with its gold cherub) to Bayard’s Cove, the place the Mayflower anchored earlier than its journey to the New World.
There’s been a settlement right here since 4000BCE, though it was solely after the Viking raids led to Norman occasions that the primary beginnings of the city started to be established.
You may comply with this Dartmouth city path, designed as a part of the Mayflower 400 celebrations or be part of a guided historical past tour. This Dartmouth Treasure Path can be a great way to maintain children entertained alongside the best way.
Scroll down for extra Dartmouth walks with children, together with routes alongside the South West Coast Path.
This little museum is a enjoyable approach to study extra about Dartmouth’s historical past. Positioned on the historic Butterwalk, it’s set inside a terrace of retailers’ homes courting again to round 1640, which as soon as sheltered Charles II when a storm pressured his fleet ashore.
Targeted in town’s maritime historical past, there’s every thing from ships in bottles and background on the Mayflower to reveals on Dartmouth’s contribution to D-Day through the Second World Warfare, in addition to profiles of notable native inhabitants.
There’s loads of probability for teenagers to get fingers on as properly, trying in drawers under shows, peeking via microscopes, answering questions – and you’ll even put them within the shares!
Royal Avenue Gardens
In case you’re into vegetation, the gardens (which sit between the Mayor’s Avenue automotive park and the River Dart) are house to a herb backyard, rose backyard, Antipodean backyard and Mediterranean backyard, amongst others, together with the grand Victorian fountain.
For many guests, it’s a peaceable shady spot to loosen up – though you can too discover little markets going down, whereas the bandstand is normally the main focus of the city’s festivals.
There are additionally public bogs right here, though there’s a small cost to make use of them (20p piece or contactless cost accepted)
Hit the seaside
You do have to go away Dartmouth itself if you would like a little bit of seaside time, however there are some pretty stretches of coast inside straightforward attain of the city together with Blackpool Sands, certainly one of my favorite seashores in Devon with children.
It’s additionally an important base to discover the South Hams – house to some extra attractive seashores, together with Salcombe, Bantham Seaside and Bigbury on Sea to say only a few.
Preserve the children entertained on the seaside with this enjoyable South Hams colouring ebook from the Devon With Children assortment – there’s additionally a Dartmouth colouring ebook for if you’re again within the city.
Wander the coast path
Linking Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset, there’s loads of alternative alongside the South West Coast Path for walks with children.
If your loved ones doesn’t fancy trekking for miles, the part between Dartmouth Fortress and Dartmouth itself is a straightforward stroll, and makes a pleasant various to taking the ferry each methods.
Alternatively, if you would like an extended hike, there are a number of family-friendly choices from Dartmouth: take a look at the South West Coast Path web site for routes, or do that round stroll from Little Dartmouth to Dartmouth Fortress.
Woodlands Household Journey Park, Dartmouth
With a string of animals, play areas and family-friendly rides, Woodlands Household Journey Park is ideal for youthful youngsters in Devon, in addition to extra adventurous enjoyable for older siblings – and round a 10-minute drive from Dartmouth.
You’ll discover occasions working all year long, alongside the string of themed zones with completely different rides and different actions, from fairytale forests to sea monsters and the water coasters of Cyclone Canyon, plus a toddler zone.
Meet falcons – with flying shows for a lot of the 12 months – and the inhabitants of the zoo farm, together with meerkats, rabbits and guinea pigs, an cattle.
It’s an important choice in the event you’re in search of concepts for a wet day in Devon with children too: head contained in the reptile home and massive animal barn, earlier than hitting the 25 indoor slides (and 32 extra open air by the way) or the ball pit.
Have some fish and chips
Is it actually a correct day by the coast in the event you don’t have fish and chips? Rockfish is at all times certainly one of my favourites to go to each time we’re in Devon and there’s not one, however two branches in Dartmouth.
The principle restaurant is on the waterfront, together with some pretty outside tables looking to the River Dart, that are excellent on a summer season’s day.
In case you’re in search of a faster and barely cheaper choice, there’s additionally a takeaway on Decrease Avenue, near the Decrease Ferry – take your fish and chips across the nook to Bayard’s Cove, the place there are some public benches overlooking the river.
Nicely value getting there early in the summertime (or ship an advance occasion to snap up some seats!) There’s a pub close by the place you may get drinks to sip alongside along with your fish and chips.
Get pleasure from an ice cream
You’ll be spoiled for alternative relating to getting an ice cream in Dartmouth on a sunny day – however head to The Good Intent on Decrease Avenue (simply alongside from the Rockfish takeaway) to find the flavours of the Dartmouth Ice Cream firm.
I couldn’t resist a stem ginger one, whereas my daughter couldn’t resolve between raspberry and mint choc chip, so to her delight was supplied a half and half cone with a little bit of each. Delish.
There’s additionally a department on Duke Avenue between April and October, and you can too discover them by Avenue Gardens through the summer season months and busy intervals.
Day journeys from Dartmouth with children
In case you’re staying in or close to Dartmouth with children, it additionally makes an important base to discover additional – I’ve picked out a few of my prime day journeys inside round a 30-minute drive.
However in the event you’re ready to drive a bit additional, take a look at my final information to Devon for households, together with solutions round Totnes and Paignton, in addition to issues to do in Torquay and Teignmouth & Shaldon.
Whereas Agatha Christie’s vacation house isn’t in Dartmouth itself, it’s a straightforward day trip in the event you’re staying in (or close to) the city.
The Nationwide Belief web site nonetheless seems a lot because it did when she stayed there – there’s a path for teenagers to comply with round the home, which will get dressed up for Christmas, in addition to a altering show within the Cupboard of Curiosities.
In case you’re arriving to Greenway by automotive, it’s important to ebook a parking house upfront: there’s additionally a ferry service from Dartmouth which takes round an hour (or an open boat from Dittisham), then a steep 10-15 minute stroll from the jetty.
One other contender for the title of prettiest place in Devon, it’s straightforward to whereas away a day exploring the twisting little streets and harbour, the place you may go crabbing.
Don’t miss a go to to the Golden Hind: the duplicate of Sir Francis Drake’s well-known ship has a lot for historical past followers, together with an audio tour, but additionally heaps to convey it alive for teenagers, together with trails and an opportunity to show the wheel.
Try our assessment of a go to to the Golden Hind with a toddler (to not be confused with the Golden Hinde in London)
There’s additionally avenue artwork, extra boat excursions to discover the coast, and simply outdoors city, you would go for a swim in Shoalstone sea pool, or rockpooling on Shoalstone seaside.
Berry Head Nature Reserve
This attractive clifftop reserve on the southern half of Tor Bar is among the gateways to the English Riviera world geopark, with some fabulous views out to the ocean on a sunny day.
When you’re at Berry Head Nature Reserve, you can too discover the fortifications from the Napoleonic Warfare, gaze out to attempt to spot seals and sharks within the waves, or enterprise onto one of many strolling trails.
Try our assessment of a day at Berry Head Nature Reserve
Coleton Fishacre, Kingswear
Getting into this artwork deco home (constructed by the D’Oyly Carte household of West Finish theatre fame) is great at any time of 12 months, particularly the wonderful gardens.
In case you’re visiting Devon through the run-up to Christmas, Coleton Fishacre is much more particular.
The home is embellished for a Nineteen Twenties Christmas, with conventional video games and dressing up (plus the Coleton Aglow illuminations: should be booked upfront) – there are spotter trails to comply with inside the home year-round as properly.
South Devon Railway, Buckfastleigh to Totnes
In case you can’t get sufficient steam railways, head to Totnes, round half-hour from Dartmouth the place you may choose up the South Devon Railway.
This route takes you between Totnes and Buckfastleigh, with seven miles of railway working alongside the River Dart valley, so you may take pleasure in a number of the countryside with none effort as your steam practice puffs and chuffs alongside.
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