Monday, 19 September 2016

Our Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat day out

One of the great things about having visitors to stay is that we get to indulge in special excursions in the name of showing our guests how much fun our new Torbay home can be! This was especially true for the weekend just gone as Dave booked the four of us onto a day trip with the Dartmouth Steam Railway And River Boat Company. The company does pretty much what is says on the tin - steam train and boat rides - and both are perfect ways to see the gorgeous scenery around here. We began our tour by driving to Paignton to catch the steam train. Car parking in the public Station Lane car park is £8 all day and is only a short walk away. Be aware that the mainline rail station is right next door to the steamline rail station, but they are clearly signposted so we didn't wander into the wrong one!

The Lydham Manor 
Our locomotive for the day was the 7827 Lydham Manor which was built in 1950 in Swindon. It pulled a train of several vintage carriages all from different eras. Our outward journey carriage wasn't very far removed from ones I used in the 1980s whereas our return journey carriage felt much older and more luxurious. We travelled from Paignton along the pretty coastline getting to enjoy great views across beaches and out to sea. One of the stops was for Agatha Christie's former home, Greenway, which is now owned by the National Trust and is somewhere I am keen to visit. For this journey though, we stayed on the train all the way to Kingswear where our all-in tickets allowed us to immediately board the Kingswear passenger ferry and cross over to beautiful Dartmouth.

We were booked onto an hour-long river cruise at 2.15, but didn't hear it mentioned during announcements on board the ferry so took the prudent step of checking at the kiosk before wandering off to look around Dartmouth. It was a good thing we did because it turned out that particular cruise had been cancelled. My only complaint of the day was that it would have been nice to have been told this when we picked up our tickets that morning!

The Kingswear Castle 
Fortunately there was room for us on the 1.30 sailing so, instead of going for lunch we trooped back down to the boats to set sail down and up the River Dart. We were lucky that our boat for the trip was the elegant Kingswear Castle paddle steamer. She was built in Dartmouth in 1924. We sailed (paddled?) down the Dart to see the castles at its mouth before turning around and heading upriver as far as Greenway which we briefly saw high above us on a hill. Our informative guide told us about the river's history and explained buildings we could see on the banks. We all enjoyed the cruise and I am now tempted to take some of the other river and sea journeys offered from Dartmouth. Considering how ill I usually feel on cross-channel ferries, I was delighted to have no problem at all on the Kingswear Castle!

Returning to Dartmouth at half past two meant we were all hungry and the town has a bewildering array of cafes and restaurants! We must have wandered around for another half and hour just trying to decide where to eat and finding somewhere that wasn't already completely full. I was often distracted by beautiful historic architecture too including this timbered and painted frontage, and the wonderful leaning walls of the only surviving medieval house in the borough of Dartmouth which is The Cherub Inn. I've included its photograph at the end of this post. The Cherub is believed to date from about 1380. We didn't go there though, but chose another old building which houses The Spinning Wheel cafe. Here they do good well-filled sandwiches, but Dave thought his traditional pasty was a bit dull. It's pretty pricey too, probably because of the surroundings and ambience.

Lunch munched, we explored narrow streets and interesting boutique shops, failed to spot a bride although we were deafened by the bells rung to celebrate her wedding, and just got to the old market to look around before it closed for the day. My favourite shop was Candles And Soaps Of Dartmouth on Foss Street which has a colourful range of attractively scented soaps at good prices and lots of Christmassy decorations already twinkling away! Dartmouth is nicely arty and we soon learned to look up as well as forward because several shops and homes have unique additions - like this fish!

The last return train of the day was at 5pm and we got the ferry back from Kingswear in time to have a quick look around the visitor centre on the platform, but unfortunately it was already closed up so we just had the gift shop instead. Brief excitement on the way back consisted of the conductor politely but firmly dealing with a faredodger! Considering that most of the day involved sitting down, I was surprised by just how tired I was when we got back home. It was a great day and I thought very reasonably priced at £23.50 each which included the two train rides, two ferry crossings and the hour's river cruise.
The Cherub Inn 

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