Dart Ferries Walk
The walk, which is based on the Dart Estuary in South Devon, gives some alternative options and includes the attraction of two ferry crossings of the Dart.
Start the walk at Dartmouth Station on the riverside Embankment.
Lower Dart Passenger Ferry operates 7 days a week, regular service 7 am until late, Monday - Saturday; 8 am until late, Sunday.
The Station Restaurant has the unmistakable architecture of a GWR building, although no trains ever ran to Dartmouth. It was originally intended by Brunel that the line from Paddington would cross the Dart a little upstream to terminate in Dartmouth. However, difficulties meant that a bridge across the Dart was never built and the railway only ever went to Kingswear on the opposite bank. However, tickets to and from Dartmouth could be bought, including the ferry crossing, hence the station. Higher Dart Ferry operates 7 days a week, regular service 6.30 am until late, Monday - Saturday; 8 am until late, Sunday. Walk length: Basic route 2.25km/1.5 miles Higher path option 3km/2 miles OS Maps: Outdoor Leisure (1:25000) No. 20 South Devon Landranger (1:50000) No. 202 Torbay and South Dartmoor
Walk down to the ferry pontoon behind the station and take the passenger ferry to Kingswear.
The ferry lands next to Kingswear Station. This was the end of the GWR line from Paddington and was closed by British Rail in 1972. However, a private company bought the length of line from Paignton and it now operates as a steam railway. This offers a wonderfully scenic trip of 30 minutes which follows the coast as well as climbing high above the estuary. Kingswear Station has featured in numerous period films and television series, including “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” and episodes of “Poirot”.
Walk out to the road and turn left uphill. Turn left down the steps which descend to cross the railway on a metal footbridge. On the far side continue between the boatyard and the railway.
Cross the marina access road (1) and follow the path upriver between the railway and the Dart.
This path gives superb close-up views of the estuary as well as a splendid panorama of the Dartmouth waterfront opposite and the Britannia Royal Naval College on the hill above.
The path leads to the slipway for the Higher Ferry. Board the ferry to return to the Dartmouth side (2).
The Naval College was built in 1902-05 to train naval officers and replaced an old ship, the “Britannia”, which was moored in the estuary.
The Higher Ferry is technically a “floating bridge” and runs on two chains which cross the river and return to the bed once the ferry has passed. It was opened as long ago as 1831.
Now walk back along the Embankment to return to Dartmouth Station.
Higher Path Option
Follow the route described above to the riverside footpath from Kingswear. Just after crossing the creek beyond the marina access road, leave the riverside footpath and cross the railway at the small level crossing (1 above).
Follow the lane, then take the footpath up the steps on the left - look out for the sign screwed into the wall. At the top of the steps turn left and follow the path through the woods, high above the estuary.
The views tend to be best early in the year, before the trees are in full leaf, but wherever there is a gap the panoramas up and down the estuary are superb. This is Hoodown Wood, one of the many woodlands clothing the slopes of the Dart Estuary. They may well owe their existence to being used as a source of timber for shipbuilding at and around Dartmouth.
Just before the houses at the far end of the woods take the footpath which zig-zags steeply down to the left - it is signed to Kingswear and Dartmouth. Walk down the road at the bottom to the Higher Ferry (2 above).
From here you can cross to the Embankment as described above.
This map is reproduced from Ordnance Survey material with the permission of OS on behalf of the Controller of HMSO ©Crown Copyright. Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown Copyright and may lead to preosecution. Devon County Council. LA076562. 2000
Basic route Higher path option