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Dartmouth Castle, Devon | Solo van life UK

Dartmouth Castle, Dartmouth, Devon. Van life UK. Solo Van Life UK. Van life. Van life reality. Truth about van life.

Dartmouth Castle, Dartmouth, Devon

Key facts about Dartmouth Castle.

  • Work began in 1388

  • Built on a promontory where the River Dart meets the English Channel

  • Built to protect Dartmouth and its harbour from the French during the 100-Year War

  • Upgraded with an artillery tower in the 15th century

  • Dartmouth castle was the first purpose-built coastal artillery fort in Britain.

  • The castle saw service during the English Civil War from 1642 to 1646. During this war, the castle's vulnerability to ground attack became apparent. Subsequently, the Gallants Bower fort situated above the castle was used to provide additional defence.

  • The Grand Battery was added to Dartmouth Castle in 1748 and was equipped with 12 guns.

  • The artillery in the castle was upgraded in 1859

  • By the early 20th century Dartmouth Castle was considered redundant by the authorities

  • Bought back into service during World War II

  • Dartmouth castle was retired from service in 1955

  • Now managed by English Heritage.

History of Dartmouth Castle

Dartmouth castle is one of the smaller castles I've visited so far on my travels. Its sole purpose of construction was to protect the entrance to the river Dart and thereby the town of Dartmouth and its harbour.

However, although it may be on the smaller side, it has to have one of the best views and locations of most castles in the UK.

It was built as an artillery fort in 1388 by John Hawley, the then Mayor of Dartmouth by order of King Richard II as the 100-year war again France drew on and the threat to Dartmouth was identified.

As the war continued into the 15th century, the English channel became the scene of many fights at sea with both French and English ships being captured or destroyed. Almost a century after its construction the castle was upgraded with a new gun tower accommodating more powerful artillery. In addition, a harbour chain was implemented. This chain ran from Dartmouth Castle to a fort on the opposite bank of the River Dart. In times of attack, this chain could be pulled taught, just above sea level, preventing enemy ships from entering the estuary and thereby making them easy targets for the artillery in Dartmouth Castle.

In addition to its military function, the castle served as a symbol of Dartmouth's wealth and importance. The castle was a visible sign of the town's strength and prosperity and would have deterred potential attackers from attempting to raid or plunder the town.

In the 16th century, the castle was converted into a mansion by the Carew family. In the 19th century, the castle was used as a coastguard station. Today, the castle is open to the public and is a popular tourist attraction.

My thoughts

Don't expect a day out exploring the castle. You could easily see, including reading all that is on display and accessible to the public within an hour.

But if you take your time to enjoy the views offered from the castle, it can be a very nice place just to appreciate the view of the River Dart and all its water traffic. If you're lucky you may even see a dolphin or seal (I didn't on my visit but many others have).

If you're into British history then Dartmouth castle is absolutely worth including in your itinerary when you visit Dartmouth.

Despite its size, it has played a significant role in British history.


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