Bayard’s Cove Fort

About this route

Dartmouth, and the Dart Estuary, has long been an important coastal port and as such has been variously afforded a range of defences. Dartmouth and Kingswear Castles, as well as Gomerock Tower, provided substantial protection for the mouth of the river for over 600 years. Bayard’s Cove Fort, also known as Bearscore or Bearscave was the ‘last line’ of defence, built in Tudor times and completed by 1537, by the people of Dartmouth to house heavy artillery. It is small, only about 10 metres across internally, but was protected with thick walls that originally had a parapet from which musketeers could fire. It had lower gunports which enabled heavy guns to be fired against enemy vessels at water level. In 1575, the fort was leased by the town to Thomas Carne, a shipwright, subject to it being returned to the town authorities if necessary for the defence of the town.  During the 1598 Spanish invasion scare, the town authorities took over control of the fort in accordance with the agreement.  Bayard’s Cove Fort figured in the English Civil War (1642–1646), when Dartmouth was captured and held by Royalists who had built new gun forts on the hills surrounding the town.  In 1646 the Parliamentarian New Model Army took Dartmouth during a night-time attack, and it is said that Bayard’s Cove then housed five iron guns which protected the river. After the Civil War it is thought that the fort was used for storage and in the 18th century fell into disrepair as Dartmouth’s prosperity declined. The opening of the Royal Naval College in 1863, and the growth of tourism, afforded much-needed uplift to the town’s economy and Bayard’s Cove Fort was restored. In 1940 it served temporarily as a machine gun emplacement but since then has served as a visitor attraction. It has been in the care of English Heritage since 1984.


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Getting Around

On foot: Bayard’s Cove Fort can be reached on foot by walking along the B3205 to the southern side of town. The site is a short way downstream of the Kingswear passenger ferry landing.

By bus, train and boat: Dartmouth is served by regular buses from Totnes and Kingsbridge Paignton and Brixham (utilising the passenger ferry from Kingswear), by steam railway from Paignton. Timetables available at Travel Devon and Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company.

By road: There are numerous pay and display car parks in Dartmouth town centre. Free limited parking is available on the road above the fort.

Dartmouth has all the facilities expected of a picturesque coastal town.

Interesting information

Information on opening times, access and facilities is available on the English Heritage website.