Visiting Kingswear Castle

Kingswear Castle is not open for public viewing. However, the site has been restored and repurposed as a holiday let, meaning you can have a private resort instead! If you're visiting Dartmouth or the greater Devon area, you can hire a boat or kayak and view the castle from the water.


Specific parking spaces for two cars are available for Landmark guests 

Property is accessed via an unmade road

A flight of steps leads down from the parking area to the entrance - may not be accessible by those with limited mobility or disabilities

For more accessibility information and other FAQs, click here


One twin and one double; sleeps four 

Available from £677 for four nights - that breaks down to £42.31 per person, per night

Dogs are allowed

Amenities include a microwave and a shower

Prices may vary

Holiday at Kingswear Castle

Discover Dartmouth or relax and enjoy the beautiful riverside scenery in the charming village of Kingswear. There are several historical sites nearby, including the 80-foot tall landmark, Daymark, Berry Pomeroy Castle, and, of course, Dartmouth Castle. There's a village store, a handful of pubs, and other great accommodations available to ensure that a holiday at Kingswear Castle is a holiday fully adored. 

History of Kingswear Castle 

The timeline below presents the highlights of Kingswear Castle's comparatively brief yet detail-rich history. To learn more, click here to access The Landmark Trust's 107-page History Album of Kingswear Castle!

Time Line

-1491-1502 (Castle Built)

Some records say Kingswear Castle's construction began in 1491, and others speculate the possibility of the castle being built "in one go" starting circa 1500 or 1501. In any case, the Corporation of Dartmouth is undoubtedly credited with the castle's creation, and it was recorded as complete by 1502.

Kingswear was the second of two artillery forts erected for the sole purpose of defending the harbour at the mouth of River Dart in the town of Dartmouth, and it appears to grow out of the water's rocky edge upon which it stands. 

Slate rubble was used to build the square, three-storey tower, with detailing done in red sandstone ashlar. Matching Dartmouth Castle's design, the primary gun platform was installed inside the ground floor; indeed, this was an advanced military approach, considered "state-of-the-art" for its time.

-1502 - c.1552

Due to its close position to the waterline, the iron cannon at Kingswear quickly corroded from wind and saltwater. The weapon was replaced with a new, expensive, brass counterpart. However, the rapid military advances of the time strengthened Dartmouth Castle's capability to protect the entire river mouth; and Kingswear Castle was considered superfluous within half a century of its development.

-1570 (Survey)

A survey recommends Kingswear retain four brass cannons on site. Yet by the end of the century, the castle was regularly unmanned and only utilized in emergencies. 

-1597 (Survey)

Another survey observes trenches adjacent to Dartmouth and Kingswear Castles and a chain extended across the harbor between them.

Special note: Subsequent observations in more recent years, including a pilot's survey and various aerial photographs, appear to indicate the chain from Dartmouth Castle extended not to Kingswear Castle, as the late-16th century survey depicts, but rather to Gomerock Castle's terminal, some 250 meters (820.21 feet) from Kingswear.

-1642 (Civil War Emergency Use)

One emergency use came during the Civil War when Kingswear Castle was utilized to boost Dartmouth's defences against Charles I in support of Parliament. 

-1643 (Dartmouth Captured)

As they were designed to guard against shipping attacks, both Kingswear and Dartmouth Castles quickly fell when Prince Maurice attacked by land and captured the town. 


The Royalists held the town and fortified both castles.* This lasted until a Parliamentary army led by Sir Thomas Fairfax reclaimed Dartmouth, with both castles surrendered to them the day following a successful nighttime attack. 

*Records suggest the Royalists built two earthwork forts at this time to protect the vulnerable castles they had captured. Various sources refer to these added strongholds as Gallants Bower and Mount Ridley or Kingsworth. However, others believe the forts (or at least the one at Kingswear, specifically) were built in 1627 and later reutilized during the war. 

However, in researching this article, it was unclear which historical records inspired such supposition or when the forts' names were even first communicated.  

-1661 (Survey)

A survey of Kingswear notes that (at some point, perhaps during the war) the main guns were moved and mounted to the roof; additionally, an accidental fire had resulted in its destruction. Based on these findings, specific repairs and enhancements were suggested to the Crown, who gained control of Dartmouth and its defensive castles around this time. 

-1717 (Survey)

A new survey declares Kingswear as useless and ruinous, despite the implication that previously recommended repairs were carried out. (Though it is unclear why this assumption is often presented, as no such detail mentioned suggests repairs were undertaken; however, it is very likely the Crown simply added enhancements to the fort without making repairs.)

The inquiry also noted the survival of five guns;* two capable of 8-pound (3.6-kg) balls, two for 9-pound (4.08-kg) balls, and one for 12-pounders (5.4-kg) capability with installation dating no sooner than the 1680s based on the sophistication of the weaponry for its time.

*Special note: Two guns of matching size have since been spotted below the castle on the sea bed. 

-c.1789 - 1799 (Reutilized for Fortification) 

With aggression coming out of France throughout the French Revolution, the castle was purportedly repaired and garrisoned for defense. 

-1815 (Abandoned)

The castle is again left to decay once the Napoleonic wars come to an end.

-1855 (Rescue & Renovation)

After some 130 years in a perpetually ruinous state, Kingswear Castle was bought by Charles Seale Hayne, who renovated and remodelled it into a posh Summer home. He hired Dartmouth architect Thomas Lidstone, who redesigned the ground floor, built the conical roof, fixed-up the parapet, and added the round tower to the castle's north. (The concrete structure connecting this new tower to the original Gun Tower was created later.)

-1939-1945 (WWII Emergency Use)

The castle had been maintained as a private residence leading up to World War II when the Royal Marines briefly used the castle as barracks and added a concrete block-house for reinforcement.  


Sir Frederic Bennett purchased the castle and converted it into a private residence and the headquarters for his constituency. 


Sir Frederic retired from politics and sold Kingswear Castle to The Landmark Trust, who began transforming the structure into a holiday let. The ground floor and roof were restored to recreate the original appearance; several other repairs and reinterpretations were also made. 

Kingswear Castle is a Grade I listed building protected by law.

Kingswear Castle Occupants


Castle Occupancy/Control...

When it served as an active artillery fort, Kingswear Castle was occupied by military power belonging to whichever power had control at the time. It spent much time abandoned under Royal control, though temporarily employed during the Civil War. 

The restorations made in the 19th century turned it into a private residence for its limited owners, with brief military re-occupation during WWII. 

Today, "occupancy" requires advanced booking, though it is available to all.


 Images of Kingswear Castle

Kingswear Castle Kingswear Castle
Kingswear Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Kingswear Castle Q&A

What Type of Castle Was Kingswear Castle?

Kingswear Castle is characterized as an Artillery Fort. Notably, a proposal to also define it as a Chain Tower has been rejected. 

When Was Kingswear Castle First Built?

As indicated in the timeline, Kingswear Castle was first built possibly as early as 1491, certainly by 1500, and was completed in 1502.

What Was the Main Use of Kingswear Castle?

Indeed, "artillery fort" is just as it sounds. Kingswear Castle was made to guard the mouth of the River Dart. The main gun platform was positioned on the ground floor, and perpetually more lightweight artillery would have been kept on the subsequent levels, including the roof, as suggested by the flat, wooden platform in place. An octagonal stair-tower provided access to each storey. 

Kingswear served as one of two fortifications built for the same purpose; however, quickly-evolving military engineering strengthened the other castle. Additionally, the castle's positioning on the coast and proximity to the water made it particularly vulnerable to corrosion. These things eventually combined to deem Kingswear Castle as unnecessary, inefficient, and otherwise redundant.

Does Kingswear Castle Share an Affiliation With Dartmouth Castle?

In a way, Kingswear Castle could be considered the 'younger brother' reinforcement of Dartmouth Castle. Kingswear Castle was the second artillery fort built on the river banks circa 1491-1502, with Dartmouth built first from 1481-1495.** Each was part of a unique defensive plan to protect the Dartmouth Port, and they share a similar design.

Dartmouth is noted as Britain's first fortification designed specifically for cannons. Overall, history suggests the Corporation of Dartmouth was funding the most advanced artillery of the time continually as it developed. And initially, it was an ineffective range of available weaponry that provided sufficient argument for the necessity of Kingswear Castle's creation.

As it were, time was quick to call this cutting-edge solution outdated, and Kingswear Castle was reduced to but a shadow of its counterpart after only a century of use. 

** CrazyAboutCastles' speculative-opinion is that the discrepancy of Kingswear Castle's construction start-date (1491 vs. c1500) perhaps concerns the Corporation of Dartmouth's formal request--or grant thereof--for further fortification of the property. Alternatively, a mention of the Corporation "funding" the project suggests the intention was there in 1491, but the money was not. 

How Big Is Kingswear Castle?

Whilst incredible detail is provided regarding its Victorian, Tudor, and other historical architecture and design, the castle's actual dimensions appear to be the one thing still guarded by Kingswear. However, the images provided by The Landmark Trust suggest the rooms are a comfortable size, comparable to that of a larger hotel room or small apartment space. 

Does Kingswear Castle Still Exist?

Kingswear Castle has been repaired, remodeled, and repurposed into a unique holiday resort. The ground floor was restored to resemble the original 1502 appearance, and the floors above contain somewhat modernized living quarters.

Location of Kingswear Castle

Situated on the river's eastern banks, Kingswear Castle is located opposite Dartmouth in the village of Kingswear within South Devon, England. Repairs and restorations did not include relocation of any portions, and this is its original position.