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.

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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.

Children and dog walking down path out of Little Dartmouth car park
Path from Little Dartmouth car park – an accessible section
View of Little Dartmouth south west coast path

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!

View of Little Dartmouth south west coast path

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.

A shortcut

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.

View of Little Dartmouth south west coast path
The path at top of field above Compass Cove

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.

View of Dartmouth Castle from the River Dart in South Devon

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. 

Rocky path to Gallants Bower in Dartmouth
Path to Gallants Bower
Panoramic view from Gallants Bower in Dartmouth
Panoramic view from Gallants Bower

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. 

Path above Compass Cove overlooking the English Channel

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.

View of Little Dartmouth south west coast path

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.

Child walking down path to Sugary Cove
Path to Sugary Cove
Castle Cove in Dartmouth
Castle Cove on a wet winters day

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.

Start your walk here

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. 

Dartmouth Castle and Tea Rooms
Dartmouth Castle Tea Rooms and Castle entrance

More Devon walks with kids

If you are looking for more walks to do in Devon with kids check out these posts:

Do you have a favourite walk in Devon?

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The Little Dartmouth circular walk is a moderate walk for families who want to explore the South West Coast Path in South Devon. Here's everything you need to know about doing it #walk #hike #outdoor #fun #getoutside #travel #UK #Devon #DevonwithKids