20-21 August: The River Dart

Monday: We left Brixham about 10am and sailed gently at 2 knots for half an hour until we came up to Berry Head.  After hearing Dominic complaining about there only being westerly winds since we started this sailing, now I get to hear “it’s a southerly, where’s the westerly wind?” ha ha!  We admired the gannets, flying effortlessly just above the water at tremendous speed, before diving in for a fish.  Breathtaking!  I’m still waiting for that seal though, and the dolphins.

We arrived at the mouth of the river Dart with Kingswear Castle on the right and Dartmouth Castle on the left.  Once upon a time there was a huge chain on the seabed between the two, that could be lifted should enemy ships approach.

Approaching Dartmouth

We motored up through this idyllic looking town, colourful houses on both sides, with two car ferries serving the community, a steam train and a huge variety of pleasure boats for us tourists.  Meanwhile the naval college sits majestically up on the hill, overlooking it all.

The steam train on its way to Kingswear

We headed for Dittisham, a little up river, and found the perfect buoy that could take our size and depth, situated just by Greenway, which used to be Agatha Christie’s summer residence.  We had our lunch while admiring the sheer beauty of the river and its banks, and the houses around us.


As we were getting short of petrol, we got into the RIB and motored down to Dartmouth and the mid-river fuel barge.  No one seemed to be there, so Dominic called on the VHF, and suddenly we saw a man on the barge wake up – midday snooze!   Since we were in Dartmouth it seemed rude not to visit and we found the town quay where there was a perfect space for us to park up.  We walked along the quay for a bit, had a drink at the Dartmouth Arms, then strolled towards the castle.  We saw this steep and very narrow road called Above Town, which we just had to walk up.  And off this road was this pathway up into the woods, which we just had to take.  A very steep climb led to the Diamond Jubilee Way, which of course we had to walk along.  So we continued climbing, feeling sure we would get our reward, and we did.  What a view!

Click here for a panoramic video

Half way up the hill – view over Dartmouth
Amazing views from up top on the Diamond Jubilee Way

The walk back down was a lot easier, and after getting supplies from the Co-op we headed back to our river retreat.   We had been forewarned by the harbour master that we may have to share our buoy so had put up plenty of fenders before we left.   And yes, on our return we found we had new neighbours, a Rustler 44 had rafted up to us with a couple who had just returned from nine weeks in France.

Tuesday:  This morning we visited Greenway, which was a 2-minute dinghy ride across the river!  Greenway was Agatha Christie’s summer residence, which she and her husband owned for over 20 years.  A lovely family home, in an idyllic setting on the river Dart.  The house is full of everyday family items, but also copies of her books in many rooms, and an enormous amount of things collected from all over the world.  Her husband, Max Mallowan was a world renowned archaeologist, specialising in ancient Middle Eastern history.  Agatha accompanied him on many digs, and their summer home is full of artefacts from these excavations.  We were treated to a recording of Agatha Christie telling us how she writes her books, which was lovely to hear.  The house sits right by the river Dart, surrounded by lush woodland and gardens, tennis courts, and not forgetting the boat house, which was the setting for Dead Man’s Folly.  We had our picnic sitting in the sunshine on the croquet lawn – perfection!

Greenway, Agatha Christie’s family summer paradise on the river Dart
Display of first editions and Dead Man’s Folly covers, filmed at Greenways
Her murder mysteries were all over the house
The mahogany toilet seat; her one luxury she brought on excavations
Buddha, excavated by Max Mallowan
Collections all over the house, things, lots of things
Picnic on Agatha Christie’s croquet lawn

We briefly went back to the boat, and then set off for our afternoon adventure.  We had decided we wanted to really enjoy this gorgeous river, so dingied up to Totnes.  It took 1hr 15 minutes each way, it’s quite a journey.  The river starts off quite wide, but narrows the further up you go.  Along the way we saw swans with their cygnets, cormorants, gulls, terns, geese and ducks.  We went along the enormous Sharpham Estate, with its vineyards.

Lush riverbanks
Vineyards on the Sharpham Estate

Other boats of various sizes went our way as well, one of them a rather large riverboat from Dartmouth.  The river is tidal, so bigger boats can only go up on high tide.

The Dart Explorer going to Totnes on the high tide
Approaching Totnes

When we got to Totnes we strolled around in the town for a bit.  We’ve been before, but not arriving via the river; this afternoon was more about the journey rather than the goal.  We got some dairy free fudge, and vegan ice cream.  Tasty!  We also looked up Dominic’s brother’s house; nice to see where they will be living one day.

We popped in to the Ferry Boat Inn when we got back to Dittisham, enjoying a glass of wine in the warm sunshine, watching children and dogs very happily playing in the water.

View from the Ferry Boat Inn


4 thoughts on “20-21 August: The River Dart

  1. We’ve enjoyed Dartmouth too. Great to see that you still have good weather. We are sitting out some rain and strong winds in Campbeltown and getting entertained by the harbour seals. Brigitte


    1. Dartmouth was lovely! Sorry to hear you’ve got bad weather. But I am still jealous of all your wildlife sightings! We were reading through your blogs from Cornwall tonight. We’re almost there! but got to go home for a week now.


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