Dartmouth was ‘born’ in the 11th Century when those conquering Normans built houses and port facilities in what they realised was a strategically important location. From then on, Dartmouth played an important role in England’s wars, right up to the second world war when Slapton Sands, a couple of miles down the coast, provided the location for training for the D-Day landings. There’s also the famous Royal Naval College, where Princes Charles and Andrew did their training.
We were amazed at how interesting Dartmouth was, with its historic buildings, rich history and legends of pirates, robbers and ghosts. But the highlight for me was a trip to Greenway House, the home of crime writer Agatha Christie. We took a small boat for the half hour trip and landed at a small village where we had to ring an old bell to summon the ferry from across the river to take us over to Greenway. The old house was beautiful, but the gardens were exquisite. Daffodils, primroses, magnolias … it was simply breathtaking and gave me loads of ideas for my more modest patch. In the house I really enjoyed looking through the family’s scrapbooks and, as a writer, found the one entitled “Writing” absolutely fascinating. Agatha herself had written that she often found the writing process hard and struggled with plots and character development. She wrote that her motivation to finish a book was usually driven by the pleasure of having another book published, but more often because she wanted to do something to the house, like turn an old loggia into a conservatory and needed the funds to do so!
Back in Dartmouth, we had a Devon Cream Tea in the Sloping Deck Restaurant (which really did have a sloping floor). The tea shop was situated in an old 17th Century Butterwalk timber-framed building – built with granite piers supporting the upper floors which projected over the street. Ships used to moor at the back of the building and discharge cargo directly to the markets beneath. Fascinating. We had an evening meal at the Royal Castle Hotel overlooking the port. This was built as two merchant houses in 1639 but is now “the” hotel to be seen in at Dartmouth. It served as a film set for Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence, and celebrities such as Cary Grant and Gregory Peck have stayed there.
We plan to go back and continue to explore this fascinating place.