The thing about Dartmouth, Devon, is it is just so God-damn irresistible. Like a thick slice of lemon drizzle cake. Or freshly-ironed bed linen. Or gin (just saying).
So even if you’re not staying in the town for long – which I wasn’t – it’ll slink in and seduce you and, before you know it, you’ll be itching to go back.
1. Sailing Highs | 10am
First things first; sail along the south embankment on foot. It’s a great way to break the ice with Dartmouth.
As you walk, the milky green of the mighty River Dart slides alongside you, carrying all manner of life on its back: fishermen going about their daily business, entrepreneurs chinking champagne glasses aboard their yachts, and tourists squinting against the sun as they ride the lower ferry over from Kingswear.
If you fancy breaking waves yourself, pop to a candy-striped ‘Boat Trip’ hut where you’ll find plenty on offer – from easy, breezy hop-aboard tours, to book-it-early cruise and dines.
2. Gallery Loving | 11am
What better way to see Dartmouth than through someone else’s eyes – and there’s ample opportunity to do so in this coastal knickerbocker glory of a town.
Dartmouth is awash with galleries and studios dotted along the willowy streets, offering contemporary splashes of art and designs, to traditional braces of sculpture and crafts.
Simon Drew, an English illustrator and cartoonist (known for his nonsense verse and pun-tastic humour), has a gallery in Foss Street – which is well worth the detour.
My other favourites were Baxters Gallery and the White Sails Gallery.
3. Tart Takeaway | 1pm
I’m all for a sit-down lunch, where your napkin is unfolded for you and the waiter is so accommodating he’ll let you tap his forehead with a spoon (don’t tell me you’ve never done it?). But sometimes it’s nice to stroll and dine.
So instead of choosing between the cafes, bars and restaurants that abound in Dartmouth, I high-tailed it to the curiously named ‘Sloping Deck Bakery’ for a sticky-fingered déjeuner.
The bakery nestles in the deliciously-named Butterwalk (with its swollen Tudor overhang) and serves just-baked takeaway delights: pies, pasties, pastries, tarts. What’s more, the staff are bouncy and friendly and don’t mind being pestered for a photo. (Thanks girls.)
If you want to sit down, you can creak your way upstairs to the tea room; here the tea comes served at an angle thanks to 400 years of architectural tilt.
If that’s not your cuppa tea (mwah), do as I did and grab a goat’s cheese tart and head for the Royal Avenue Gardens just across the road.
4. Blooming Relax | 2pm
The Royal Avenue Gardens make for a nice flowery snug when the sun’s in full bloom. It’s dappled with shady trees, encrusted with sweet flowers, and bedded with soft lawns.
My trip was a high-summer one and many Dartmouth visitors and residents were hanging out (and by ‘hanging out’ I mean their bellies, chests, and legs were – although, mercifully, no boobs. It isn’t that kind of town).
Park yourself on a bench or unfold yourself on the grass to eat your takeaway tart – but keep it neat, keep it crumb-less, this is Dartmouth.
5. Pudding on Ice | 4pm
You can’t go far wrong with an ice-cream. But a place as unique as Dartmouth, deserves to be celebrated with pudding that’s also a one-off. Thankfully, I was tweeted in the direction of Dartmouth Ice Cream Company.
Any ice-cream shop that boasts an on-site dairy has to be a safe bet. And Dartmouth Ice Cream Company didn’t disappoint. Pimms sorbet – tick. Devon cream tea – tick. Banana and peanut – tick. Baileys – tick. Are you getting the picture – tick?
I couldn’t resist two scoops of creamy turkish delight and, quite frankly, could’ve eaten the whole lot again. But I AM a bit of a piggy-pants at times – don’t ‘tick’ that.
6. Castle Dinner | 8pm
Of course, there is a veritable cocktail of places to dine come the evening in Dartmouth, and high on my list of restaurant musts is a little riverside charmer called Annabelle’s Kitchen.
The only thing that competes with the quality of the grub at Annabelle’s Kitchen is the exquisite view out of the restaurant’s front-loaded arched window.
If you can’t get a reservation at Annabelle’s (it’s, unsurprisingly, popular – but always worth a call), my other dining top-tip would be the Royal Castle Hotel.
I enjoyed 3 delicious courses, with attentive and polite service on the side. All the food is locally sourced, with the provenance of what you’re tucking into laid out helpfully in the menu.
See my full review of staying and eating at the Royal Castle Hotel.
6. And so to bed | 10pm
I’ve been Claire. You’ve been Dartmouth. I’ve been awesome. But you’ve been better. Until next time.
Lusting for more Dartmouth eye candy?
Have a peek at my Delicious Dartmouth photo tour.
Thanks to all those who tweeted suggestions
for my 12 hours in Dartmouth.
I wasn’t able to fit them all in this time. But next time, it’ll be:
Breakfast at the Café Alf Resco, the Rockfish for lunch, a boat trip with Great Escapes, and a walk to Dartmouth Castle.