The West Country is packed with enticing boating spots and hidden gems. In this feature Peter Cumberlidge picks the best bits of Devon and Cornwall
A cruising classic, Dartmouth’s grand port is cocooned in a steep-sided valley with fantastic layers of houses climbing above the river on both sides.
Kingswear village faces Dartmouth from the east bank and ferries shuttle between them. The inspiring facade of Britannia Royal Naval College overlooks the harbour from its rolling acres of park.
Dartmouth has three marinas: Darthaven on the Kingswear side, Dart Marina just past the Higher Ferry, and Noss Marina further upstream near an old shipyard.
Darthaven has a chandler and travel-lift, and you visit Dartmouth by dinghy or ferry. Dart Marina (pictured below) is next to a comfortable hotel, bar and restaurant and you stroll into town along the embankment.
You can cruise two miles inland at any tide to visitor buoys off Dittisham village, handy for the welcoming Ferry Boat Inn and Anchorstone Café.
Above half-flood, the river is navigable another six miles to the old port of Totnes. The peaceful Dart valley winds past mysterious creeks, ancient oaks, a few choice manor houses and a vineyard!
You glimpse Stoke Gabriel village and pass Duncannon quay before the river snakes away into secret country. Arriving at Totnes near high water, you can turn just opposite the Steam Packet Inn.
Newfoundland Cove is a handy lunch anchorage just outside Dartmouth. Blackpool Sands (pictured below) is a splendid beach two miles west of Dartmouth. Anchor in the east corner outside the swimming buoys and dinghy ashore to Venus beach café.
Redlap Cove is a ‘locals’ hideaway between Dartmouth and Blackpool. Hallsands is in the south crook of Start Bay, near an old ruined village.
The Seahorse seafood restaurant is my star choice on South Embankment. Chef Mitch Tonks also runs the Rockfish fish and chip café further along the quay.
Don’t miss The Ship Inn just above Darthaven Marina. The Floating Bridge is next to Dart Marina, with cask ales and hearty cooking.
My favourite is the pleasantly ‘lived in’ Windjammer Inn (pictured right) run by yachtsman Andy Coombe – a great choice of beers and excellent food.