Dartmouth Castle

Dartmouth Castle

Erected in 1388 as a response to the threat of French invasion during the Hundred Years War, Dartmouth Castle was the first purpose-built coastal artillery fort in Britain. Strengthened and adapted over the centuries, its superb vantage point on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea offered a vital defensive post for hundreds of years. 

Constructed in the late 14th century under the watchful eye of John Hawley, the privateering Mayor of Dartmouth, Dartmouth Castle was subject to constant change and expansion. Enjoying an incredible position on the outer reaches of the Dart Estuary, its original purpose was to defend the thriving port town of Dartmouth against French raids and in the 15th century was strengthened with a gun tower. Housing enormously heavy cannons capable of sinking ships, it became a formidable presence guarding the harbour and waterways, vital for trade. 

With gunpowder becoming more and more widely used throughout the 15th century and both French and English ships regularly under siege across the English Channel, Dartmouth Castle’s role became ever more important. As well as its cannons, the castle was also fitted with a winch that was used to pull a huge iron chain taught across the river, preventing access to marauding ships. Coupled with a defensive tower on the opposite bank at Godmerock, the waterways were at least for a while protected from unrest. 

Set to see action again during the Civil War between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians and then again much later during both the World Wars, Dartmouth Castle played its final military role in the 1940s. Installed with two quick-firing guns with a range of up to 3 miles, it once again protected Dartmouth’s harbour which was by now a haven for merchant convoys and Royal Navy fleet. Operating until 1943 when artillery was shifted to Brownstone Battery, Dartmouth Castle has played a central role in the survival of Dartmouth and ensuring its position as one of Devon’s most successful harbour towns. 

These days, there is lots to see and do at Dartmouth Castle, not least taking in the jaw-dropping views of the town and sea. A particularly memorable way to arrive, you can take a boat trip from the town quay to the castle, relishing views of the estuary before being dropped off just a minute’s walk from the castle doors. Make time to see the gun tower, the cannons and the ground floor where the engineering miracle that was the 250-meter harbour chain was housed, before stopping off at the riverside tearoom for a mouth-watering cream tea.

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Dartmouth here

Dartmouth Castle, Castle Road, Dartmouth TQ6 0JN | 01803 834 445 


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