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Totnes & The River Dart - A view from our expert author
The Dart is arguably the loveliest river in England and has played an important part in shaping the county’s history.
The Dart is arguably the loveliest river in England and, like the three other great rivers in Devon, the Exe, the Plym and the Taw, has played an important part in shaping the county’s history. It rises in Dartmoor and meanders down to Dartmouth for 42 miles, with the lower 11 miles tidal. Totnes, at the upper navigable end, has been a prosperous town since at least the 10th century, and continues the trend thanks to the energy and creativity of its inhabitants.
Of all the larger towns in Devon, this is perhaps the most rewarding to visit, so provides a perfect starting or finishing point for a walk or cruise down/up the Dart. Although Totnes is as far inland as you can go by passenger boat, the Dart is still a significant presence north of the town, and Dartington Hall, with its focus on sustainability and the arts, perfectly complements the spirit of Totnes. The South Devon Railway follows the river upstream as far as Buckfastleigh.
As the river snakes its way south, it passes small villages or grand houses which flourished as a result of their location and then subsided into tranquillity when water transport ceased to be viable. Now they are an ideal base for exploring this exceptionally scenic part of Devon, and for refreshment while walking the Dart Valley Trail.
At the river mouth is Dartmouth, and its twin town Kingswear, which have been enchanting travellers for centuries, and to the east and west stretches the South West Coast Path.
(Photo: Fore Street, Totnes © Totnes Town Council)