Dartmouth Castle

About this route

Dartmouth Castle has played a strategic role in protecting the mouth of the Dart Estuary for more than 600 years and the remains surviving today show well the development of coastal defences during that time.  The earliest parts of the castle date to the late 14th century when a ‘fortalice’, an enclosure castle with ring-towers and a curtain wall, was built.  Its construction was instigated by John Hawley, one of Dartmouth’s most prominent historical figures who was fourteen times its Mayor and twice its MP.  Hawley came to run one of the largest fleets of merchant ships along the south coast and became a successful privateer during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).

In the 15th century a gun tower, the first artillery tower of its type, was built to protect a chain boom that stretched across the estuary to Gomerock Tower.  The chains could be raised to prevent passage up river to Dartmouth.  The chain tower was adapted to house cannon and musketeers in the late 1500s and additional gun batteries were also constructed at this time.  Had the fleet of the Spanish Armada reached shore in 1588 Dartmouth Castle would have been in the front-line of England’s defences.

From the 17th century until 1941, Dartmouth Castle continued to provide defence for the estuary.  Its gun batteries were remodelled and modified, firstly in the English Civil War (1642-1651) and then in the 1690s.


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Getting Around

By foot: Dartmouth Castle can be reached on foot by walking south of the town along the B3205, then turning left along Castle Road.

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

By road: Dartmouth Castle lies on the Dart estuary to the south of Dartmouth.  It is signed off the A3122 from Totnes at the B3205.  There is a small pay and display car park outside the entrance to the castle and there is free parking along the access road.

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.

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