These complex defenses were started in 1388 by a John Hawley. Dartmouth Castle is considered to be the most beautifully located fortresses in England and for over 600 years they have guarded the entrance to the Dart Estuary and the vibrant port of Dartmouth.
Around 1490 the 'Gun Tower' was added by the townsmen and this is still well-preserved, it is thought to be the first fort in Britain to have a purpose built 'ship-sinking' heavy cannon. During the 16th Century the open air gun platforms were added by Henry VII. More additions were added in the 17th Century to accommodate even later military technology.
Whatever the weather, climb to the top and look across the stunning estuary and imagine how it could be blocked in wartime to incoming ships by lifting a huge and heavy chain!
During the Victorian era the 'Old Battery' was added with guardrooms and a maze of passages which are great to explore. More heavy guns were also added and you can watch film sequences that retell 6 Centuries of history . This castle has seen wars from the Civil right through to the 2nd World War. The 'Old Battery' is the largest part of the castle that still remains and overlooked the D-Day preparations!
- Parking - Limited
- Accessibility - Good
- Toilets - Yes
- Refreshments - Yes
- Dogs - Welcome year round
Sea views, historians.
Surrounding the Castle are gorgeous woodland walks and of course the fabulous coastline with all the exciting and beautiful wildlife and birds you would expect.
Look out for
St Petroc's church, which is immediately adjacent.
Don't forget to admire the Kingswear Castle across the way. This began construction in 1491 and was completed in 1502. They are very similar and ensured that the Dart Estuary had a single defensive plan. They are the first fortifications to be designed specifically for artillery!
Sadly by 1560, Kingswear Castle was redundant, due to the military engineering! There were now guns powerful enough to cover the width of the river from Dartmouth Castle alone and logistically it was difficult to maintain being so exposed to the weather (very early on it was recorded that the iron guns could not be kept there because they rusted so quickly). Brass cannons were simply too expensive and didn't cut the mustard!
By the end of the 16th Century, Kingswear was only manned in emergencies and by 1661 much of it had been destroyed by fire. For the next 130 years it lay as a ruiin until it was rescued in 1855 by a Charles S Hayne, a 22 year old bachelor of some wealth, who turned it into a summer residence. (Apart from a brief moment during the 2nd World War when Marines occupied it) In 1987 it was bought by the Landmark Trust who fully restored it and it is now a glorious holiday let for anyone to enjoy!
It's a fact !
Two 12 pound guns from the 16th Century have been seen on the sea bed below the castle.
John Hawley, Dartmouth castle's first owner (and also the Mayor of Dartmouth) was believed to be the inspiration for the ‘Shipman’ in Chaucer‘s Canterbury tales.