I’m not the first to visit Dartmouth, you know. I’m only following in the footsteps of others, in this case Chaucer, Henry Hudson, the Pilgrim Fathers, Charles II, Flora Thompson and Jonathan Raban, and countless oiks who’ve passed through the dramatic gates of the Royal Naval College which overlooks the town. It’s principally as a port that Dartmouth is known – its strategic importance as a deep-water port was noted by the French who sacked it twice in the Hundred Years War, and for whose benefit the twin castles of Dartmouth and Kingswear were presumably built. Today though, it’s tourists by the million that throng the streets – no rowdy sailors looking for a night out, more nice English families come to gawp at the quaint harbourfront.
It really is quaint though: full of brightly-coloured buildings and the odd Tudor number (see John Burton Race’s restaurant The New Angel for an example), around packed alleys and streets and markets, it’s a really pleasant little town to visit. There’s plenty to see at the castle, and plenty of shops and things in town – a cute walled market, and the odd cobbled street with rows of boutiques, hand made soap shops, expensive kitchenware stockists, etc. There’s pasty shops and cream teas a-plenty, and you can even take the boat up river to Totnes or a steam train to Paignton, should you feel so inclined.
So, a tourist destination par excellence on the English Riviera, in the South Hams area of natural beauty. But not really the spot if you’re looking for a bargain. Aside from the many boutiques and chandleries there’s the National Trust shop and the like (and look out for the discount White Stuff store if you can find it), but only the two charity shops. They’re pretty good mind – Cancer Research has a big shop on Duke Street with some good finds: I’ve found a number of props in here before and I left this time with a nice grandad collared shirt, which is pleasant. Expect plenty of stripy boating-type shirts and slacks.
The other is the Mare & Foal Sanctuary. This is somewhat less ordered, but full of odd things – we spent a happy while browsing the children’s clothes and looking at odd board games and electricals.
That’s it for charity shops, so if you’re thinking of visiting Dartmouth try and work out if you fall more on the charity shop side, or the tourism side. Me, I’m a full-on tourist sometimes, so I like it here.
Find: Dartmouth @ Google Maps
Consume with: The New Angel is the place to go, probably, but there’s some awesome cakes in a window on Duke Street.
Visit: The castle’s pretty good – there’s cannons and arrow slits, which is what you want from a castle.
Overall rating: three little oil bottles