We drove from Yorkshire to Devon in one day. (Note: do not do that. It is terrible.) Whilst our guest house was in the cheery seaside town of Torquay, our main destination for the evening was Dartmouth, as we were tempted there by the reviews for one particular restaurant. (More on that later.) It ended up being one of my favourite meals of the trip.
Photographs of Dartmouth often feature a panoramic view of the colourful town from the water, nestled along the bank of the River Dart. Home to the famous Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta, it follows that the town has a strong, intimate connection to the water. Her seafaring roots stretch far back into the past; Dartmouth was a hub of privateering (state-sanctioned piracy) in the medieval period, and today it is the home of Britannia Royal Naval College.
The best way to get to Dartmouth? By ferry. There is a bridge that spans the River Dart, but driving to and across it is a bother. Much easier to do the easy drive to Kingswear, directly across the river from Dartmouth, and catch one of the three convenient ferries that shuttle tourists back and forth on an almost-continuous schedule. Two of these ferries can also transport your vehicle (although there’s little need for a day trip); see Discover Dartmouth for more information and timetables.
Luckily for us, we were headed into Dartmouth as the day was winding down, meaning we were the only ones on the fifteen-minute passenger ferry ride across the water. It was that magical hour in summer evenings when long beams of sunlight stretch out from the horizon and everything looks golden. It set the perfect tone for a relaxing, tranquil evening by the river.
Prior to dinner, we had a poke around the quaint little streets of Dartmouth despite most of the shops being closed already. There are a number of architecturally intriguing buildings, ranging in date from the 13th to the 17th centuries. The Butterwalk, a mid 17th century structure, is one of these, instantly recognisable with its haphazard exterior supported on pillars. Even the Crew Clothing store sports an historic façade!
We stopped for a half at The Cherub Inn, a cask ale pub and also the oldest building in Dartmouth. (Although a pub has only occupied the space since the 1970s, the structure itself dates from 1380.) It’s full of character both inside and out; see if you can spot the golden cherub hanging from the wonky corner of the building!
As for that dinner I alluded to earlier? Rockfish. Incredibly local, fresh, and simple. They serve seafood the way I love, relying on the quality of the ingredients rather than dressing them up with things that detract from the flavour of the produce itself. (You won’t find anything drenched in a honey-Sriracha glaze here.) If fish broiled with a lemon butter sauce or fried in a delicate, airy batter is your thing, Rockfish will not disappoint. The staff are incredibly helpful and can describe in detail the different fish on the menu, the catch of the day, and the chef-recommended way to order it (chargrilled, fried, or plancha). The sides are flavourful without distracting from the main; wash the meal down with a glass of Seafood Coast ale or Sea Cider, and you won’t even feel like you need dessert.