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English Heritage Members: Free
Adult: £8.50
Child: £4.50
Concession: £7.50
Family (2 Adults, 3 Children): £21.50

Family (1 Adult, 3 Children): £13.00


Dartmouth Visiting Castle

Dartmouth Castle is a defensive fort erected to protect the mouth of the River Dart. It was fortified many times over the centuries in response to threats of invasion, and has several gun platforms and a gun tower. Visitors can explore the artillery fort and learn more about its history by booking a ticket through English Heritage.


  • There is no on-site parking at Dartmouth Castle.
  • A car park sits about 12 metres (39 ft) from the gate (charges apply).
  • Disabled visitors may be dropped off at the front of the site.
  • Access road parking is free.



  • English Heritage Members: Free
  • Adult: £8.50
  • Child: £4.50
  • Concession: £7.50
  • Family (2 Adults, 3 Children): £21.50

Family (1 Adult, 3 Children): £13.00



  • Dartmouth Castle is open daily from April through September.
  • The site is open on weekends only from October to March.
  • Opening times are 10 am to 4 pm.

Location and Access

The physical address of Dartmouth Castle is:

Castle Road




Dartmouth Castle sits just 1.6 kilometres (~1 mi) southeast of the town centre. When travelling by vehicle, you can access the site just off the B3205.

To access the site by vehicle using GPS, enter the following coordinates:

  • Latitude: 50.342381
  • Longitude: -3.567246

There are several bus services that make stops in Dartmouth, including Service 92 from Totnes and Service 93 from Kingsbridge. Paignton (Service 120) and Brixham (Service 18) use the ferry to access Dartmouth from Kingswear Banjo. 

The nearest train station is in Paignton, about 13 kilometres (8 mi) from Dartmouth Castle. To access the castle from the station, visitors must use the ferry. To see available routes and pricing, check out the Great Western Railway website.

Know Before You Go

  • The tea room serves several food and beverage options. Visitors can choose from tea, coffee, sandwiches, and a few hot meal choices. While enjoying your lunch in the tea room, take some time to indulge in the spectacular views of the River Dart.

  • Feel free to bring a picnic. Save on food costs by bringing a picnic to Dartmouth Castle. There are several benches dotted throughout the castle grounds, as well as a few grassy spaces perfect for a quiet lunch.

  • Dartmouth Castle has limited wheelchair access. The fortress sits atop a rocky promontory and the site has many areas that require ascending and/or descending stone steps. In addition, there are numerous steep slopes throughout the grounds. Access to the Gun Tower is via a steep spiral staircase and there are four steps leading to the gift shop. There is no lift on-site.

  • Public toilets are located on the castle grounds. These restrooms are not accessible and do not include baby-changing facilities. The closest disabled toilets are located in the Dartmouth Town Centre on Coronation Park and in The Old Market, about 2.6 kilometres (1.6 mi) from the castle.

  • Dartmouth Castle welcomes dogs. While pets and service dogs are permitted at the castle, they must remain on a lead at all times. There are dog bowls and locations for toileting throughout the site. Owners are required to pick up any waste left by their canine companions.

  • Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop. Before wandering around, browse the on-site gift store, run by English Heritage. Here, you can pick up a guidebook that can teach you more about Dartmouth Castle as you explore the site. In addition, you can pick up toys, books, wine, and other souvenirs. 

Dartmouth Castle Events

From time to time, Dartmouth hosts events on the castle grounds. Events typically occur during the warmer months (April through September) when the site is open weekly.

Past events at Dartmouth Castle have included performances by The Inn Theatre Company, storytelling, holiday celebrations, and a variety of different childrens’ activities. For more information on current and upcoming events, see the Dartmouth Castle Events page.

Places To Stay Nearby

The Royal Castle Hotel

2.6 km (1.6 mi) north

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Tea and Coffee Facilities
  • En-suite Bathroom with Spa Bath
  • River Views
  • Free WiFi
  • Restaurant/Bar

Bayards Cove Inn

1.8 km (1.1 mi) north

  • Television
  • Chair and Desk
  • Tea and Coffee Facilities
  • En-suite Bathroom with Complimentary Toiletries
  • River and Sea Views
  • Free WiFi
  • Restaurant/Bar

Browns Hotel

2.9 km (1.8 mi) north

  • Television
  • Tea and Coffee Facilities
  • Free Parking Permits
  • Free WiFi
  • Restaurant/Wine Bar

History of Dartmouth Castle 

Dartmouth Castle was built in 1388 as an artillery fort. It was designed to defend the Dart harbour from a possible French invasion. The invasion never came, and the site saw little military action. During the English Civil War, Royalists held the site for three years. Later, it was besieged by Parliament. It fell into disrepair in the 18th century before being brought back into military service during World War II. It was retired in 1955.

Time Line

- 1380s (Fortalice Constructed)

John Hawley, Dartmouth’s mayor at the time, was given permission by Richard II to build a “fortalice by the sea” to defend the mouth of the River Dart. The land upon which the fort was constructed belonged to the Carews.

- 1404 (Carew Home Built)

Despite threats of French invasion, an attack never came. Around this time, the Carews constructed a home at the corner of the castle grounds.

- 1481 (Henry VII’s Plans)

Although there was already a small fortalice at the site, Henry VII felt the area needed additional defences. He planned to build an artillery fort at the site, agreeing to fund its construction. He also made payments to maintain a heavy iron chain that would protect the entrance of the estuary.

- 1486 (New Artillery Installed)

When tensions between the English and French began to rise, additional weaponry was installed at Dartmouth Castle.

- 1495 (Gun Tower Completed)

The Gun Tower was finished and included the chain attached to another tower across the river.

- 1540s (Defences Improved)

Henry VIII ordered the construction of several more gun batteries to prepare for a possible French invasion. The invasion would never come.

- 1550s (Castle Seized)

After various defensive additions were added to Dartmouth Castle, Sir Peter Carew spoke out against the project. He believed it crossed over onto his home’s property. In retaliation, Sir Peter Carew sent the officers of Dartmouth Castle away and seized the fortress for himself.

- 1554 (Dartmouth Gets The Castle)

The town of Dartmouth was granted possession of Dartmouth Castle after a trial. During this time, Carew fled to England after facing charges for treachery. 

- 1556 (Carew Returns)

Despite his charges, Carew returned to England. Upon his return, he seized Dartmouth Castle again. Another legal battle ensued, and it was agreed upon that the town would maintain ownership of the fortress, while Carew remained in his home on the site.

- 1597 (Castle Refortified)

Several alterations were carried out to refortify the castle’s defences. These alterations included improvements to the Gun Tower and repairs to Lamberd’s Bulwarke.

- 1642 (English Civil War)

During the early parts of the English Civil War, Dartmouth Castle took the side of Parliament. It was garrisoned with only five men around this time.

- 1643 (Dartmouth Besieged)

Prince Maurice, a Royalist, marched to Dartmouth and took over Dartmouth Castle. Prince Maurice was able to take over after he placed artillery on the earthen mounds behind the castle, which allowed his troops to fire from a higher vantage point. From there, the Royalists took the fort and held it for three years.

- 1646 (Parliament Retakes Dartmouth)

Sir Thomas Fairfax and his Parliamentarian army headed to Dartmouth and took back control of the town. From there, he marched to Dartmouth Castle. Despite having held the castle for three years, the Royalists surrendered one day after Sir Thomas arrived in the town.

- 1662 (Castle Garrisoned)

After the English Civil War, tensions died down. However, two decades later, Dartmouth would grow increasingly worried due to threats from the Dutch and French. Due to the possibility of an attack, the military continued maintaining Dartmouth Castle for the next three decades. It was garrisoned with 23 men, plus the castle governor.

- 1715 (Castle Neglected)

The castle was listed as “ruinous” and its artillery was outdated and unmaintained.

- 1741 (Renewed Threats)

Yet again, threats between England and France began to gain steam. As such, the castle was strengthened in preparation for an attack.

- 1748 (Gun Battery)

Lamberd’s Bulwarke was rebuilt. The simple structure was transformed into a large, two-storey platform, capable of servicing 12 guns. During this time, the Bulwarke was renamed the “Grand Battery.”

- 1859 (Dartmouth Point Battery)

Additional restorations and rebuilding projects commenced on the Gun Battery. It was renamed yet again, this time as the “Dartmouth Point Battery.”

- 1909 (Office of Works)

Dartmouth Castle was transferred to the Office of Works. Around this time, various restoration work was carried out. Eventually, the site was opened to the public.

- World War II (Back in Service)

During World War II, the English brought Dartmouth Castle back into service. It was equipped with more weapons, including quick-firing guns dating from World War I.

- 1955 (Castle Retired)

Dartmouth Castle was retired from military service and placed back under the care of the Ministry of Works. 

- Present (English Heritage)

Today, Dartmouth Castle is managed by English Heritage. It receives tens-of-thousands of visitors each year.

Dartmouth Castle Occupants


  • 1388: The Carew family lived on the land of Stoke Fleming, and provided part of the land to the government due to increased tensions with France. After the castle’s construction, the Carew family built their family home inside the walls of the fortalice.
  • 1540s: Sir Peter Carew lived at the family home. He would seize the castle twice (after property disputes) before agreeing to let the town own the castle while he remained in the Carew family home.
  • 1642: The castle was garrisoned by five men (in support of Parliament) during the early parts of the English Civil War.
  • 1643: Prince Maurice, in support of the Royalists, took over the castle.
  • 1646: Sir Thomas Fairfax, a Parliamentarian officer, forced the castle’s surrender.
  • 1650s: Sir John Fowell served as the castle governor.
  • 1662: Dartmouth was garrisoned by 23 men and Sir John, the captain and governor.
  • 1859: Three soldiers and 55 reservists manned the castle.
  • World War II: Members of the British Army occupied and manned the site. Non-commissioned officers lived in the castle.

Dartmouth Castle Architecture 

General Layout

When King Richard II ordered the building of an artillery fortress, John Hawley, Mayor of Dartmouth, got started on the defensive structure. Dartmouth Castle was erected atop a rocky promontory, giving it a perfect vantage point for protecting the Dartmouth harbour. It served as an important means of defence during the 100 Years War when French threats of invasion were commonplace.

The site was designed exclusively for defence, and included a Gun Tower, several gun platforms, and a massive gun battery. There were some basic accommodations for the garrison.

Original Layout

Before the construction of the Gun Tower by John Hawley, Dartmouth Castle stood as a small fortress. It boasted a stone curtain wall, two towers, and a gatehouse. Around the 1400s, the primary weaponry consisted of catapults, cannons, and the iron chain which could be raised to block the harbour entrance. Visitors can still see the remnants of the original fortalice, moat, and curtain wall at the southwest corner of Dartmouth Castle.

Gun Tower

Situated on the north side of the artillery complex is the Dartmouth Castle Gun Tower. It faces outward, overlooking the River Dart, to protect the harbour from invaders. This tower was constructed alongside the original fortalice using limestone.

The Gun Tower sits between two massive gun platforms used for mounting heavy artillery. These platforms would undergo alterations throughout the centuries to keep up with the ever-changing weapons technology.

There are three-storeys in the gun tower, and each level includes two separate rooms. In the basement of the Gun Tower, there were artillery guns and gun ports protected by shutters to prevent damage from the sea. On the ground level, the rooms served as private accommodations for the garrison, with additional accommodations and an oven on the first floor.

The ground level of the Gun Tower also housed the chain room. This space served to operate the iron chain that stretched across the harbour.

Old Battery

At the southeast corner of Dartmouth Castle, visitors can see the Old Battery. The battery has gone by various names over the centuries, including Lamberd’s Bulwarke, the Grand Battery, and the Dartmouth Point Battery.

Above the entrance to the Old Battery sat a guard room. This room was designed to protect the facility from invaders, should they infiltrate the space. It included murder holes in the ceiling where the garrison could drop missiles (i.e., spears, boiling water, etc.) onto enemy heads.

The Old Battery also boasts a spiral staircase that leads to the battery itself, where massive guns were once mounted and ready for battle.

Defensive Design

Dartmouth Castle is an artillery fort, so its entire design was created with defence in mind. The first castle on the site utilised catapults and cannons. As military technology progressed, the site was expanded to include the Gun Tower and an iron chain was added to protect the harbour. Additional gun batteries were installed during the 1540s.

In the basement, ground level, and the first floor of the Gun Tower are gun loops. Lighter artillery was mounted atop the tower. A 5.5 metre (18 ft) turret juts upward into the sky, sitting higher than the roof. To reduce the threat of gunfire from earthen mounds near the castle, parts of the castle were raised. 

During the 1480s, Dartmouth Castle’s Gun Tower was equipped with two “murderer” guns, which brought the total of murderer guns to four. It also included 12 serpentine guns around this time.

The Old Battery boasted additional defensive measures, including a ditch, gun-loops, and murder holes. At the centre of the battery were several platforms used to hold large guns that could face the sea, including a 24-pounder that could destroy a warship. A smaller gun pointed at the entrance of the harbour.

Images of Dartmouth Castle

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Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

What Can I See During Visit to Dartmouth Castle?


  • Use the information panels to tell the story of Dartmouth Castle. There are several panels throughout the site that explain the purpose and history of the various rooms and buildings. Visitors can also learn about those who occupied the castle, including the mayor, John Hawley, who constructed the fortalice.


  • See the weapons platforms used throughout Dartmouth Castle’s history. There are two open-air gun platforms flanking the Gun Tower. Standing near these platforms gives visitors an idea of how large these weapons actually were. The gun platform near the gift shop once served as a disguised gun house during World War II.


  • Find out what it took to fire the massive weapons. An audio/visual display shows visitors how the 19th-century gun battery had to be prepared before firing.


  • Explore the Old Battery. These rooms were once stocked with gunpowder and explosives. While looking around the site, know that you’re walking the same corridors of soldiers who once protected the Dart estuary.


  • Try on historic garb and see mediaeval toys. Children will love the dress-up box located in the Gun Tower. Try on real Tudor artillery helmets, see old gun replicas, and have a fantasy sword fight!

  • Climb the four storeys to the open roof platform. This platform once held lighter guns to defend the harbour. Today, it’s used as a viewing platform where visitors can take in the scenic views of the River Dart and nearby sea.

Dartmouth Castle Facts


  1. The harbour was known for piracy. John Hawley built Dartmouth’s first castle at the orders of King Richard II. During his time as Mayor, Dartmouth harbour was well-known as a hub for piracy and privateering. French ships were common targets, and King Richard II often took percentages of seized cargo. However, neutral ships were also attacked, which led to conflict. Although Hawley was eventually charged with condoning robbery and distributing the goods, there is no record of the trial outcome.

  2. Hawley had a sharp military mind. When 2,000 Breton men came ashore to take Dartmouth in retaliation for Hawley’s piracy against the French, Hawley was grossly unprepared. Despite this, he put together an army of untrained soldiers and defeated the knights in a conflict known as the Battle of Blackpool Sands. 
  3. Visitors and staff claim that Dartmouth Castle is haunted. Guests have reported many strange occurrences, including sensing both “good” and “evil” entities. The most active site appears to be the Gun Tower, where visitors report seeing a young woman and a child and hearing loud crashes with no one in sight.
  4. Author Geoffrey Chaucer visited Dartmouth in 1373. It’s believed that his character, “The Shipman,” from “The Canterbury Tales” was based on John Hawley, the Mayor of Dartmouth.
  5. English Heritage may have uncovered the mystery of the iron chain. The iron harbour chain stretched across the river where it was protected by another tower. It was designed to stop ships from entering the Dartmouth harbour, making them easier to assault. Although the chain had a winding mechanism in the Gun Tower, it couldn’t have relied on that machine alone. English Heritage created a video presentation showing how boats may have been used to raise the chain and prevent ships from passing. 
  6. The Mayflower was serviced at Bayard’s Cove. The Mayflower was the wooden ship that transported pilgrims across the Atlantic Ocean to America. In 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers were preparing for their journey and stopped for repairs in Dartmouth.

Dartmouth Castle Q&A

Is Dartmouth Castle worth visiting?

Dartmouth Castle is absolutely worth visiting, especially for history buffs. The artillery fort dates back to the 1300s, and later played an important role during the English Civil War. During World War II, Dartmouth Castle would once again serve the military, though it never saw fighting. Visitors can see audio/visual displays, interactive exhibits, and tour the site to learn more about the castle and the history of its harbour town.

How old is Dartmouth Castle?

Dartmouth Castle is over 600 years old. The original fortalice was erected on the site in 1388 by John Hawley, Mayor of Dartmouth. Its building was ordered by King Richard II to protect the River Dart from the threat of a French invasion. Later, it saw action in the English Civil War and was used during World War II.

What is Dartmouth Castle famous for?

Dartmouth Castle is famous for defending the River Dart. It was equipped with numerous weapons, including massive guns and catapults. The site saw some military action during the English Civil War, and was later reinstated as a military fort during World War II.

Are dogs allowed in Dartmouth Castle?

Dogs are permitted inside Dartmouth Castle. Both pets and service dogs must remain on a lead. For your convenience, there are toileting sites and water bowls available. Visitors must pick up after their pets.

Location of Dartmouth Castle

Dartmouth is a small town in Devon, England, with a population of just over 5,000 residents. The village grew along the western bank of the River Dart as a busy harbour town. Today, the town is a popular tourist destination.

While in Dartmouth, check out its two secluded beaches or go for a scenic drive in the English countryside. Snap photographs of the historic buildings and magnificent gardens as you breathe in the fresh seaside air.

Dartmouth has several retail centres, museums, and venues where visitors can shop, learn, and unwind. During the warmer months, there are an array of watersports to enjoy.

For fresh, locally-sourced cuisine, check out the various restaurants and pubs. Whether you’re looking for a simple tomato soup or a traditional fish n’ chips, you can almost guarantee the food was sourced within a mile or so from Dartmouth.

Other Places To Visit Near Dartmouth Castle

Bayard’s Cove Fort

Bayard’s Cove Fort is a Tudor fort erected in the 1500s. Like Dartmouth Castle, this fort also served to protect the harbour and worked in tandem with the castle’s defences. 

Kirkham House, Paignton

The late-mediaeval stone home is a piece of history, offering up the story of wealthy families in the area. The space includes a Great Hall which could hold up to 30 people. Today, you can explore the site 

Berry Pomeroy Castle

Berry Pomeroy Castle is a ruinous castle built during the 15th century. It was built to become a luxurious home in Devon, but the project was left unfinished. It was later restored and the ruins are said to be haunted which you can learn more about through the site’s audio tour.