DEVON | Paignton – Totnes – Dartmouth
< em>June 2022. Making the best of four weeks off, after the Mediterranean cruise for Danny and Mexico for Timothy, we organised a train trip in England. On the menu: Bletchley Park, the night train to Penzance, the Dartmouth Steam Railway and the Isle of Wight. On the last day, we roamed around London to sample the Elizabeth Line.
The ‘Round Robin‘ trilogy of bus, boat and train revolves around Paignton, Totnes and Dartmouth. We stayed in Paignton.
Paignton is a seaside town on the coast of Tor Bay in Devon. Together with Torquay and Brixham it forms the borough of Torbay which was created in 1998. The Torbay area is a holiday destination known as the English Riviera.
Paignton has some 50,000 inhabitants. It has origins as a Celtic settlement and was first mentioned in 1086. It grew as a small fishing village and a new harbour was built in 1847. A railway line was opened to passengers in 1859 creating links to Torquay and London.
“Paignton has plenty to offer including superb beaches of golden sand and a good selection of seafront restaurants, bars and marine activities. The beaches in Paignton stretch for miles and make for fantastic walks with breathtaking views or rockpool exploring!”, the Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company says.
Well… we got a different vibe. We can’t say we were swayed by Paignton. Few (nice) restaurant options, tea houses which close early or are just closed, contrary to what Google indicates. Aggressive birds, pavements in a quite bad state and many shops abandoned. Paignton didn’t feel that lively.
So now, we can’t say Paignton was a success.
Totnes is a market town and civil parish at the head of the estuary of the River Dart within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is about 5 miles (8.0 km) west of Paignton, about 7 miles (11 km) west-southwest of Torquay and about 20 miles (32 km) east-northeast of Plymouth. It is the administrative centre of the South Hams District Council.
Totnes has a long recorded history, dating back to 907, when its first castle was built. By the twelfth century it was already an important market town, and its former wealth and importance may be seen from the number of merchants’ houses built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Today, the town has a sizeable alternative and ‘New Age’ community, and is known as a place where one can live a bohemian lifestyle.
“It is unconventional with organic, ethical and fair trade the norm. It is the home of the Transition Town movement and is proud to be a little different. It attracts people worldwide who are concerned with the environmental and sustainability”, the Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company says.
“There are many noteworthy buildings and monuments in the town, including their museum. They are watched over at the top of the town by the Norman motte and bailey castle which has commanding views of the Dart valley including to the river Dart. There is a plethora of shops, markets, restaurants/cafés, pubs, an hotel, and lovely walks to enjoy by the river. Not too far away from the town you’ll find the award-winning Riverford Field Kitchen, a must for all foodies. You can even take a walk around the farm before taking lunch in the restaurant.”
We had a little bit of time to explore. We walked under the East Gate and to to the motte, but that was closed. Totnes gave a welcoming impression.
Dartmouth is a town and civil parish in Devon. It is a tourist destination set on the western bank of the estuary of the River Dart, which is a long narrow tidal ria that runs inland as far as Totnes. It lies within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and South Hams district, and had a population of 5,512 in 2001, reducing to 5,064 at the 2011 census.
Dartmouth was the home of the Royal Navy in the reign of Edward III (1312-1377) and ships have been built here as far back as the 12th century or earlier. Dartmouth sent many ships to join the English fleet against the Spanish armada, the armadas’ ‘payship’ was captured and anchored in Dartmouth harbour.
The town is home to the Britannia Royal Naval College which has been at the forefront of the education and development of world-class Naval Officers since 1863 and where the Queen met her future husband. Dartmouth has always been of strategic importance as a deep-water port for sailing vessels (regular visits by naval and pleasure cruise vessels attest to this!). The port was used as the sailing point for the Crusades of 1147 and 1190, and Warfleet Creek, which is a short walk from Dartmouth Castle is said to be named for the vast fleets which assembled there.
Dartmouth was twice surprised and sacked during the Hundred Years’ War, after which the mouth of the estuary was closed every night with a great chain. The narrow mouth of the Dart is protected by two fortified castles, Dartmouth Castle and Kingswear Castle (a castle at each end of the chain).
Although Dartmouth has a small population, it feels the liveliest of the three towns we did. Elizabethan streets, many restaurants and the Dartmouth Museum. There is a link between Dartmouth and the Mayflower, which is part of the United States’ origin story.
Dartmouth has no railway station, but Kingswear does. Isambard Kingdom Brunel did build a railway station, which is now a champagne bar called Platform 1.
- ENGLAND 2022 | Bletchley Park.
- REVIEW | GWR Night Riviera sleeper train from London to Penzance.
- DEVON | Cruising River Dart from Totnes to Dartmouth.
- DEVON | Dartmouth Steam Railway from Dartmouth / Kingswear to Paignton.