Located near the quay, opposite the Tourist Information Centre this is a useful on-street parking area providing the space is only required for less than 2 hours. We were fortunate that a space was available when we drove pass on a quiet mid-week day.
Capacity: 25 cars
9:00 am to 6:00 pm
2 Hours, No Return within 2 hours
The Dartmouth and Torbay Railway Company was formed in 1857 with the express (for want of a better word) purpose of connecting Dartmouth to the South Devon Railway at Torre (in Torquay) and hence onto the Great Western mainline at Newton Abbot.
However the planned river crossing never happened and the line was completed as far as Kingswear, on the opposite bank of the river. By all accounts this was due to a combination of local politics and a shortage of cash and instead the lower ferry services (at the time horse and passenger) completed the link.
However in advance of the failure of the planned bridge Dartmouth Railway Station was built but without either platforms or rails. The station building was used to receive mail, goods and people and because of the importance of the traffic to the naval college, HMS Britannia as it was then, the station master at Dartmouth was actually paid more than his counterpart at the real railway station over the river (which did have platforms, rails and even trains).
The station building continued in use following the takeover of the Kingswear line by GWR (and subsequently British Railways) and was only closed, as a railway station, in 1972 when British Rail decided to close the line between Paignton and Kingswear.
When the heritage company, the Dartmouth Steam Railway, took over the line the railway station wasn't included in the deal and the building was sold off for private use. Nowadays it has been repainted in the GWR livery and is now a cafe-style restaurant called, strangely enough, The Station Restaurant and just to add insult to injury they put the new bus stop outside it.
Whilst the Lower Ferry has been around since at least 1365 the Higher Ferry is a relative newcomer. Originally, in 1828, a suspension bridge was planned to connect the A379 Plymouth to Torbay road but for whatever reason this failed to get planning permission and so a floating bridge was constructed instead. This comprised a 40 foot by 30 foot pontoon powered by a 4 hp steam engine which shuttled back and forth drawn by chains.
After several manifestations, including a period of being, literally, horse-powered, the ferry service was discontinued in 1908 and wasn't reinstated until 1912 when the Torpoint Chain Ferry Company aquired the old floating bridge. They had a new purpose-built ferry made at Cremyll Shipyard which was propelled by wire ropes instead of chains and all subsequent ferries have used this system.
The present-day ferry was installed in June 2009 and has a maximum capacity of 36 vehicles. This shuttles continuously 365 days a year, including Christmas and New Year, with the normal operating hours from 0630 until 2250 Monday to Saturday and 0800 until 22.50 on Sundays. Foot passenger fare is a mere 50 pence whilst for a standard car is £4.50 and for regular users a multiple journey, machine-readable, "Tag" is available.
There's probably been some sort of ferry crossing between Dartmouth and Kingswear since time immemorial but the first documented evidence comes from a 1365 Close Roll entry (the Close Rolls were the Chancellor's administrative records, so-called because the individual entries were rolled up and tied at the end of each period). At this time the ferry was operated as a Crown created monopoly and the reference in the Roll was to the granting of this to a local landowner, William Carey.
In 1365 the ferry was probably simply a rowboat with maybe a couple of burly rowers and the capacity to transport people or relatively small quantities of goods.
Over the years there have been many different types of operation including a floating bridge, a prototype RoRo (Roll-0n, Roll-off), paddle steamers and tug boats. When the railway arrived in 1864 the then railway company, Dartmouth and Torbay Railway, set up a franchise operation to ferry its passengers across to Dartmouth - the original aim had been to bridge the river which is how Dartmouth ended up with a railway station with neither platforms nor trains.
When Great Western Railway aquired the line in 1876 they initially continued using the existing franchise and then decided to have their own purpose-built ferry, The Mew, commissioned. The Mew was a twin-engined steamer certificated to carry up to 547 passengers and with a top speed of 10 knots. When The Mew began service in 1908 passenger accommodation was on the main deck whilst the promenade deck was used for freight.
As the use of motor vehicles increased The Mew was redesigned and the pontoon docks strengthened so that the ship could function as a RoRo - vehicles could board at one side of the river and drive straight off at the other.
Parallel to the various railways' ferries there continued to be an independently-run, tug-pulled "Horse Boat". The railway companies owned the rights of passage to this crossing too but contracted it out to a company run by the Casey brothers who became Casey and Heal when George Casey retired in 1909. The Postmaster General had the power to have the mail shipped on whatever boat he chose and the railway companies were required, according to the original 1857 Dartmouth and Torbay Act, to allow use of their ferries by the general public as well as their own passengers.
In 1925 Great Western sold on the rights to the "Horse Boat" to Dartmouth Town Council, effectively establishing the route as a public highway, and concentrated on using The Mew as its own passenger, goods and vehicular crossing.
The Mew was in service until 1954 before she was retired, after 46 years of almost continuous crossings, and GWR commisioned the building of a pair of smaller boats, the Adrian Gilbert and the Humphrey Gilbert to run the crossing. Meanwhile the council continued with a tug-pulled service as a continuation of the roadway.
Upon privitisation British Rail took over the GWR service, using the existing boats, and then after BR decided to withdraw its train service in 1972 and selling the line on to the fledgling heritage Dart Valley Railway their ferry service was included in the package.
This situation continues to the present-day. The vehicular ferry is operated by the local government (now the South Hams Council) whilst the passenger ferry is run by what is now known as the "Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company" who operate the ferry year round, even when the trains are no longer running their seasonal timetable.
The council-run ferry, now propelled by "Hauley V", is the only vehicular one whilst the railway's "Edgecumbe Belle" (formerly the GWR's Humphrey Gilbert) is foot-passenger and light freight only. For those of us without infernal-combusting-engined machines there's a 10p difference in fares - on the cheaper vehicle ferry you have to cross on deck whilst on the Edgecombe Belle there is a covered seating area. However the crossing only takes three-minutes (and neither have bars) and so, penny-pinching aside, it's usually just a case of turn up and see which the next boat is going to be.
As early as 1365 there is a mention of a ferry crossing the River Dart. The Dartmouth Higher Ferry is a vehicular cable ferry which crosses the River Dart operating between Dartmouth and Kingswear (at the northern end of the embankment next to the Floating Bridge Inn and the Dart Marina Hotel). The crossing forms part of the A379 between Torbay and Plymouth. The Dartmouth Higher Ferry vessel can carry 32 cars at a time.
Car Single: £4.50
Foot Single: £0.50
Dartmouth Castle can be reach by road, or ferry - the passenger ferry leaves the Embankment at Dartmouth throughout the day whilst the Castle is open.
More information can be found using the link below.
This is a very pleasant and old fashioned manner way to get to Dartmouth.
You buy a train ticket from Paignton to Dartmouth, however no train has ever pulled into Dartmouth. Instead you alight at Kingswear and take the Passenger Ferry over the estuary to Dartmouth.
It is many years since I have travelled on the Stream train, but it is excellent and the views are breath-taking.
For the full effect, take the train from Paignton Train Station, however you can catch the train at Goodrington and Churston.
The service is not all year around, so check out the train timetable using the link below. If you are in the area close the Christmas, you could take the Santa Steam Special!!
The Lower Ferry is a 5 minute trip between Kingswear to Dartmouth.
Costs £3 each way.
The Higher Ferry also for cars is £2.50 one way or £4.80 return and you do not have to go into the town of Kingswear to catch this ferry.
There is also a passenger ferry leaving from outside the Kingswear Train Station. Note the train station is not a mainline station - it only has the tourist steam trains running from Paignton.
Note the ferry may only take a few minutes to cross, however it can take ages to wait as ferry's don't take many cars. It you do have to wait, make sure you turn off your engine and limit the polution to the local towns.
For details about current prices and operating times, see the link below.
You can either just take the train to & from Kingswear, stops at Goodrington Beach & Churston Station. This costs ?7.00 return.
Another option is to buy a "Round Robin" ticket. This takes you in a full circle, from Paignton to Kingswear on the steam train, the Ferry from Kingswear to Dartmouth. The from Dartmouth a cruise up the River Dart to the wonderful "alternative" town of Totnes & then from Totnes a bus back to Paignton. This whole trip cost ?13.50. Good value for money, I thought!
You can pick up this trip up any of the points mentioned, you do not have to start it at Paignton
There are 2 car ferrys to & from Dartmouth / Kingswear. The one higher up the river is much larger, but there is only 1 & the lower ferry operates 2 at a time.
Just out of habit I always use the Lower ferry, for a car it costs ?3.00 each way, but if you plan to use it more than 5 trips it pays to buy a ticket book from the ferry man. Which is ?16.00 for 20 trips. This takes the cost down to 80 pence a trip. Quite a saving!
Photo is of the tug boat of the lower ferry changing direction
The Dart passenger ferry departs from the pontoon in Kingswear to and from Darmouth continuously until about 11pm daily. Costs £1.00 each way, the crossing only takes about 5 minutes.
Make sure you do not miss the last ferry, it is a 20 mile round trip across the first bridge at Totnes!
I you are going to use it regularly it will pay to buy a season ticket, which halves the cost.
The foot passenger ferry takes only a few minutes to cross the river Dart and costs £1 per adult. It is a great way to see views of Dartmouth