The River Dart in Devon’s is one of the county’s most iconic bodies of water, arising in Dartmoor and ending at the coast in the South Hams port of Dartmouth. It makes its 75km journey down to the coast by passing through some of the area’s most beautiful landscape, carving through hillside and surging between woodland. Narrow and wild in some parts, calm and wide in others, it forms the perfect spaces for outdoor adventure or laid-back exploration.
And with every stretch of the river comes a unique landscape to discover as well as countless opportunities for enjoying it. Operating out of Devon and local to the area, self-catering agency Luxury Coastal has a team who have spent plenty of time exploring the river and its attractions, so we caught up with them to find out more about some of the activities on offer as well as how to make the most of a day out on the River Dart.
White Water Kayaking
Quite possibly the most popular section of white water for kayakers and canoeists in the country, The Loop on Dartmoor (also known as the Dart Loop) is a 3-mile meandering stretch that features a series of rapids which have affectionately been given names like Lover’s Leap and Washing machine by members of the sport’s community. Visitors with their own kayaks will be able to launch from the slabs at the bottom of the steps at Newbridge or opt for the expertise and equipment hire from companies like Adventure Okehampton or River Dart Adventures. (Please note however that neither kayaking nor canoeing are permitted during the summer months).
Paddleboarding or SUPing is a wonderful way to get out on the water, and with many supermarket brands now selling boards at really competitive rates, the sport has become more accessible than ever before. If you’re thinking of visiting Dartmouth and are looking for the ultimate way to relax while on holiday there, you’ll love WESUP Dartside Quay on the river’s bank. In a stunning spot that’s surrounded by wildlife, they offer paddle board and kayak tours or self-guided hire sessions, and their sister company Solskinn which is across the riverbank, offers yummy snacks and coffees for you to enjoy after your adventure.
If you prefer to sit back and let the scenery unfold before you, why not try a river cruise? From early May to September, the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company operates its historic paddle steamer “Kingswear Castle”, the last remaining coal-fired paddle steamer in the UK. The circular trip is a fantastic way to view the town’s best-known icons including Kingswear and Dartmouth Castles and Britannia Royal Naval College, Sir Walter Raleigh’s Boathouse, Greenway Quay and The Estate of the late Dame Agatha Christie.
Linking two of the area’s prettiest towns this 16-mile route is one of the best in the county. Starting in Dartmouth it follows the verdant banks of the Dart Estuary before heading up and over the surrounding hills and affords visitors truly wonderful views of the valley as far as Dartmoor National Park. The route ends in the historic town of Totnes which offers a number of waterside pubs, so a post-ramble lunch can be savoured whilst overlooking the river.