One of our favourite coast walks in South Devon is from the National Trust car park at Little Dartmouth to Dartmouth Castle at the mouth of the River Dart. It has incredible views from the South West Coast Path, isn’t too much of a challenge and there’s plenty of diversions to keep kids going. You can even extend your day out and explore the Castle or historic Dartmouth. Here’s what you need to know about doing the Little Dartmouth circular walk with kids.
Little Dartmouth circular walk route
Start at the bottom of the Little Dartmouth National Trust car park (post code: TQ6 0JP) and follow the South West Coast Path as it winds up and down along the rocky coves near the mouth of the River Dart. It’s well sign posted.
The path starts flat but as you follow the well worn route through the fields it becomes less even. Cattle and sheep graze on some of this land so dogs must be kept on a lead when livestock are present. Also watch out for poo!
Allow yourselves plenty of time to stop and gaze out to sea. In the summer months there’s always plenty of passing marine traffic. It’s also possible to spot diving sea birds and seals from the cliffs.
You can take a shortcut when you reach the field above Compass Cove Beach and walk up to join Castle Road rather than follow the South West Coast Path for its whole route to Dartmouth Castle.
We usually take this shortcut with the kids but if you have more stamina then the coast path is worth the effort for more views of the coves around the mouth of the River Dart.
Stopping at Dartmouth Castle
Dartmouth Castle is an English Heritage site that is open most weekends of the year (check before you visit). It dates back to 1388 when it was built at the entrance of the River Dart to protect Dartmouth from French raids. Over the centuries towers and batteries were added, giving the guns longer range into the English Channel.
Today you can tour the Battery, Casemates and Gun Tower. These were used as coastal defences right up until World War II and were finally handed over to the state in 1955.
Visiting the Castle is one of our top things to do in Dartmouth if you have the time.
You can also climb up to Gallants Bower – the ruins of a 17th Century fort where there’s panoramic views of Dartmouth and the river mouth. The path is signposted from Castle Road. Be aware it is steep and uneven.
The return route
For a quicker return from the Castle follow Castle Road south. After a short climb up a metalled road there is a set of houses on your left and a five bar gate with kissing gate in front of you. Pass through this and walk straight across the top of the field, through another gate and onto a country lane. This is a direct and flat route back to Little Dartmouth car park.
Be aware that this is much less scenic once you’ve walked through the field, but will help if you have young children who are getting tired.
A pushchair friendly section
It is possible to appreciate some of the views of this walk with a pushchair.
Follow the first section of path at the bottom of Little Dartmouth car park down towards the sea. When you get to the first gate there is a bench on the other side. This is the end of the accessible part of the walk and is a good picnic spot with a lovely view to the south and Start Bay, as well as to the North where you can see the Daymark near Kingswear.
How long does the walk take?
If you take the South West Coast Path it takes about an hour to reach Dartmouth Castle. If you are walking with young children or if you choose you explore some of the accessible coves along the way, like Sugary Cove or Castle Cove, allow longer.
I’d recommend leaving two hours to do the whole circular walk and a bit more if you intend to stop for refreshments at the Castle Tea Rooms or explore further.
Parking for the Little Dartmouth circular walk
The Little Dartmouth car park is free for National Trust members. It costs £3 for non-members and can this be paid by phone. There is no parking machine.
You can also park on Castle Road in Dartmouth and do the walk the other way around. Parking is free on Castle Road but fills up fast in the summer months.
There are no toilets in the Little Dartmouth car park. You can find public toilets on Castle Road close to Dartmouth Castle.
We always stop at Dartmouth Castle Tea Rooms to refuel with coffee, cakes and ice cream before heading back.
More Devon walks with kids
If you are looking for more walks to do in Devon with kids check out these posts:
- Gara Rock to Mill Bay in Kingsbridge, South Devon
- Easy Dartmoor walks with kids
- Lydford Gorge in West Dartmoor
- Berry Head Nature Reserve near Brixham
Do you have a favourite walk in Devon?
Would you like more Devon goodies delivered to your inbox? Sign up to the Devon with Kids newsletter.
Are you saving ideas for places to get some fresh air with the kids? Why not save this post about the Little Dartmouth circular walk to Dartmouth Castle.