Dartmouth is saturated in history. This mile-and-a-bit walk introduces some of its treasures and whets the appetite for more exploration.
Start: Mayors Avenue Car Park, TQ69NF. Leave the car park by the TIC and Newcomen Engine House, turning right along Mayor’s Avenue. As the road bends right cross over and walk ahead along narrow Zion Place. Turn left at the T-junction and soon the road widens. Go left along attractive Foss Street, heading towards the church. Browse your way along; the celebrated Simon Drew gallery is here. At the end of Foss Street go left at a small crossroads along Duke Street, passing the remarkable Butterwalk on your left. These former merchants’ houses date from the 17th century and were built on land reclaimed from the river.
At the end of Duke Street cross the road into Royal Avenue Gardens. Take time to stroll around. Return to the bandstand and leave the gardens on the opposite side to where you entered; the River Dart is across the road. Turn right, passing the Boat Float on your right – picturesque when the tide is in. Continue to the corner where the spectacular façade of 19th century York House looks down at you. By the river is Station Restaurant, built in the 1860s when there were plans to bring the railway over the river by bridge. Opponents of the idea won the day and the trains never arrived.
From York House walk along The Quay, Boat Float to your right. At the end turn left into Fairfax Place, admiring the lovely, 17th century, half timbered building on the comer. Look up above its ground floor level – there are some amazing angles! The adjacent former merchant’s house bears coats of arms of local notables between 1349 and 1775. Continue down Fairfax Place, passing more architectural treats. Just before its end look right up narrow Horn Hill. Remember this spot – you’ll be back here later.
At the end of Fairfax Place keep ahead at the road junction then fork left down Lower Street. Ignore any turnings off and you arrive at atmospheric Bayards Cove which was a location for The Onedin Line. The Mayflower and the Speedwell moored here in 1620 before setting off with the Pilgrim Fathers for America. Enjoy the view downriver to Dartmouth Castle as you stroll along the cobbles beside the water. When you reach the Tudor artillery fort pass under the arch, feeling the weight of centuries over your head.
Bear right across the courtyard, heading for the last-but-one arch in the far wall. Duck beneath and climb the steps beyond. At the top emerge onto Newcomen Road and turn right, enjoying fabulous views to Dartmouth Naval College. On your left are seaside-coloured houses and the grand building of former St Barnabas Church. Walk down Newcomen Road passing St John the Baptist Catholic Church. When the road forks keep right along Newcomen Road; a blue plaque indicates the once-site of the Guildhall. At the junction with Lower Street and Fairfax Place keep ahead, retracing your steps to Hom Hill. Turn left up here and pause at the top. The Cherub Inn dates from around 1380.
Turn right along Higher Street to reach Smith Street. Turn left, walking up Smith Street for about 50m, then descend steps on the right -but first spot the notice at the top: catch anyone wheeling a barrow you could earn five shillings. At the bottom turn right passing Town Cottage, once part of Dartmouth’s Jail. Lovely St Saviour’s Church awaits. Emerge from the church porch and turn left. Follow the churchyard wall and enter a passage between it and the Seven Stars, said to be Dartmouth’s oldest pub. This leads back to Fairfax Place. Turn left to reach The Quay and Boat Float, continuing past Royal Avenue Gardens to arrive at the car park from whence you started.