Walk - Dartmouth Castle & Gallants Bower

Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2022. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.

Route Description

  1. From Coronation Park, near the Higher Ferry on the North Embankment, turn right to head downstream.

Coronation Park was created in 1937 when land was reclaimed to build the North Embankment. Until that time, this area - known as Coombe Mud - was lined with shipyards. A warehouse, reclaimed at the same time, can still be seen on Mayor's Avenue, complete with hooks for unloading cargoes.

  1. Reaching the end of Coronation Park, carry on along the North Embankment, past the Boat Float.

The North and South Embankments were created in 1885, to provide a harbour that could accommodate ships at low water. Mayor's Avenue was cut off from the river as a result, and there was an outcry among shipbuilders who had businesses there. New Quay was also cut off, but it was given access to the water by means of a passage under the embankment, which created the Boat Float.

  1. Continue ahead along the South Embankment, and at the end turn right through Cole's Court.

The earliest ferry across the river - a rowing boat - was replaced in 1834 by the horse ferry, which could hold two horses and carts, operating from the same part of Dartmouth as the Lower Ferry does today.

  1. Turn left down Lower Street to carry on alongside the river to Bayard's Cove Fort.

On your left, as you turn onto Lower Street, Agincourt House was built in the fourteenth century. The castle and quay at Bayard's Cove were built in the sixteenth century, and they have been used as a location for many films. The 'Onedin Line' TV series was filmed here.

In the last decade of the twelfth century, the English fleet left from here for the crusades. After this, there was a lot of military transport between here and France, until Aquitaine was lost in 1453. In 1347 Dartmouth supplied 760 men and 30 ships to the siege of Calais, making it the third largest contributing port in the country. It was also the fourth richest port in Devon at that time. This was partly due to frequent raids on French ships and ports, led by John Hawley, who had been the town's mayor 14 times. (Hawley was the inspiration for Chaucer's 'Shipman' in the Canterbury Tales - a bawdy tale of a rich merchant, his dizzy wife and a double-crossing monk). The raids were generally with the king's consent, but Edward III began to worry about the possibility of French retaliation, and in 1374 he ordered Hawley to build a castle at the mouth of the river. The French attack did indeed attack before Hawley had complied; so the mayor had a 'fortalice' built between 1388 and 1400, and he strung a chain across the river between here and Godmerock (see the Kingswear & Brownstone Battery Walk).

In 1588 Dartmouth sent twelve ships to join the fight against the Spanish Armada (see the Hope Cove, Bolt Tail & Bolberry Down Walk). The following century, in August 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers put in here on their way to New England.

  1. Taking the steps up from the old castle, turn left onto Southtown and follow the South West Coast Path, taking the path to Gallants Bower at Warfleet Road.

Gallants Bower was built during the English Civil War, between 1643 and 1645, to defend Dartmouth and its castle from attack by the Roundheads. At the same time, a second fort was built across the river, at Mount Ridley. The Royalists surrendered Gallant's Bower in January 1646 after it was besieged by Cromwell's men.

  1. Follow the footpath through the woods from Gallants Bower until you reach Castle Road. Turn left here to follow the road to Dartmouth Castle.

The fifteenth-century Dartmouth Castle is just one of four forts built on the site to defend the river. Above the castle car park, the curtain wall and tower are all that remains of the fourteenth-century fort built by John Hawley. There is a gun shelter from the Second World War immediately below the car park, to the south. To the east is a coastal defence battery, built in the nineteenth century, while above it is a Napoleonic lookout known as St Lawrence's Tower. Incorporated into the complex is St Petrox Church, built on the site of a ninth-century monk's cell in 894.

  1. Leaving the castle, carry on along the river past One Gun Point to Warfleet Cove.

Warfleet was originally a separate parish, and it was an important centre of industry and shipping. Its name comes from the Saxon 'Welflut', meaning 'well by the stream'.

From the thirteenth century until 1453, when the English were thrown out of France, Dartmouth was involved in the French wine trade, especially Bordeaux wines. Another part of John Hawley's wealth came from importing wine. In the sixteenth century, Dartmouth's merchants turned to cod fishing in Newfoundland. They sailed home via Europe, their holds loaded with cod, stopping off in Spain, Portugal and Italy - all Catholic countries, whose religion required them to eat fish on Fridays. The cod was exchanged for wine, oranges and dried fruit, which they then brought home to Dartmouth.

There are several lime kilns around the cove. Limestone and coal were brought here in sailing barges and burnt in the kilns to produce lime, which was used as a fertiliser. There was a paper mill here, built in 1819, with the largest waterwheel west of Bristol. It made high-quality paper, which was used for printing Dartmouth bank notes. Later it was used as a flour mill and then a brewery. After the Second World War, it produced detergent and then pottery. It employed more than 200 people in the 1950s and 60s, and its wares included the famous 'gurgling fish jugs'.

  1. At Warfleet Cove you are returned to the road. From here retrace your steps to Coronation Park.

Nearby refreshments

Dartmouth and Dartmouth Castle

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