Self-catering is a matter of personal choice, but it is a form of holiday that my wife and I have enjoyed for many years. The South West of England is well known for its scenery, places to enjoy and things to do. However, it was only latterly that we 'discovered' the wonderful town of Dartmouth almost by accident when returning to Plymouth. Finding our route over the Dart lower estuary we crossed the river on what can best be described as a small tug and a floating bridge. (We could have crossed using the 'Upper Ferry', which draws itself along cable, and links the banks at the northern end of Dartmouth.)
On arrival we immediately knew that Dartmouth was somewhere that we had to spend more time and so the very next year we booked a holiday in June. Long days and balmy evenings followed. Dazzling lights on the water reveal the late running ferries and the silhouettes of moored craft.
There can be few more fascinating and beautiful locations. The estuary enters from the sea and runs past an historic castle and defences that lead to a beautiful harbour festooned with bustling activity. Numerous ferries, small and large work boats, naval vessels and fishing boats, not to mention a myriad of private pleasure craft, all ply the waters.
Take the small boat from Dartmouth town quay to the Castle and enjoy tea and cake looking out to sea; the views are to die for. Alternatively, sit and admire the view from the town quay.
In the summer the sun kisses Kingswear and its multi coloured hillside houses on the opposite bank; one could almost imagine being somewhere Mediterranean! There's so much to see including youngsters who pull crabs from the lofty harbour walls without a worry that they might fall in!
Dartmouth is a town full of history and the Britannia Naval College sits imposingly at the top of a great hill maintaining a watch over the town. The college is often open to visitors, allowing the inquisitive to see where our Naval Officers are trained, including a number from the Royal Family. The naval training boats that carry Cadets up and down the estuary are always of interest.
While you're there consider leaving your car and exploring the river by a River Link to Totnes; the skipper has an amusing commentary and his cap awaits by the gangway on departure for appreciation to be shown! This trip was a favourite with us; there's an abundance of birdlife including cormorants and an impressive heronry, and the town itself is a fascinating place to visit before taking a meal on the waterfront.
Alternatively, explore on foot; there are numerous gorgeous walks to choose from along the estuary or along the cliff tops. Take the steam train to Paignton (a winner for adults and children alike) or choose a multi-trip with a 'round robin' ticket. There are great views by all modes.
Our top tip is to visit Agatha Christie's old house, Greenways, (recently renovated), but go early unless you don't mind a queue. Such a visit can be rounded off with a trip to the other side of the river for a super pub lunch.
Within Dartmouth, there are many varied and interesting shops with a great selection of places to eat and drink suiting all tastes; the harbourside Royal Castle Hotel and the informal Station Restaurant were among our favourites. You can eat (and drink!) somewhere different every day!
We never tire of Dartmouth, and enhance our pleasure staying at top quality properties; this is where Blue Chip Holidays excels (the best we have found). We stayed in a Dart Marina-side property that has every facility you could want. It's almost new and most importantly gives parking space, which is at a premium in Dartmouth.
Our children are grown up now but whether you are with friends, family or, like us, are a retired couple, Dartmouth and its surrounds will suit all.
If you like the idea of waking up to a view of the sun on the water (we usually do despite the West Country having its damp moments) or of a visiting Cruise Liner moored outside your window; or if you'd simply like to watch the day go by with a G&T outside on the veranda before dinner or a 'quick one' at the nearby Dart Marina Hotel, Dartmouth is the place for you. Our only question is why did it take us so long to find this wonderful place?
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