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The River Dart – overflowing with adventure

Written by Fiona

August 10 2022

One of the UK’s most iconic water courses, the River Dart in Devon, springs from Dartmoor. Over the next 75km, it winds its way through some of the region’s most stunning landscapes, between verdant woods and rolling hills, before flowing into the sea at Dartmouth.

The course of the River Dart is varied – narrow and untamed on some stretches, wide and calm on others. Whether you’re looking for adventure or some more relaxing exploration, this is the perfect spot. 

Every part of the River Dart offers unique opportunities to discover new landscapes and activities. Self-catering agency Luxury Coastal, based locally in Devon, is intimately familiar with the Dart’s many secret gems. Its team members have all explored every nook and cranny of the river and know how to help visitors spend the perfect day in the region. 

White water kayaking on the River Dart. Credit: Graham Bland

Throw yourself into white water kayaking 

A very popular way to go adventuring on the Dart is in a kayak. In fact, the Dart Loop, a three-mile meandering river stretch, is one of the most popular whitewater sections for canoeists and kayakers in the whole country.

The Loop is dotted with rapids, many of which hold monikers such as Lover’s Leap and Washing Machine, bestowed on them by affectionate water sportsmen. 

If you have your own kayak, you can launch from stone slabs at Newbridge, conveniently located at the bottom of a flight of stairs.

Alternatively, you can hire expertly maintained equipment from companies such as Adventure Okehampton or River Dart Adventures. Note, though, that kayaking and canoeing are forbidden during the summer months. 

The River Dart has many calmer stretches. Credit: John Clift

Try paddleboarding 

Another fantastic way to get out onto the river is paddleboarding, or stand-up paddleboarding (SUPing). A relatively new sport, it has become popular in recent years as many supermarket brands started offering boards at competitive prices. 

In Dartmouth, WESUP Dartside Quay offers a great spot to try your hand at paddleboarding. Surrounded by nature, they also offer kayak tours and self-guided sessions. Located just across the water, their sister company Solskinn provides weary visitors with delicious snacks and coffee. 

Dart wildlife. Credit: Derek Harper

Give river cruising a shot 

Not in the mood for getting wet? River cruising lets you take a breath, sit back and watch as the beauty of the Dart passes by. Between May and September, the historic paddlesteamer “Kingswear Castle”, operated by the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company, wends its way along the river.

It is the UK’s last remaining coal-fired paddle steamer and a round-trip offers stunning views of historical sights, from the estate of Agatha Christie and Britannia Royal Naval College to Sir Walter Raleigh’s Boathouse, Greenway Quay and Dartmouth Castle. 

Walk near the River Dart. Credit: Alison Day

Opt for the timeless classic – and walk 

Finally, there is the most classic way to explore the region: On foot. A wonderfully scenic 16-mile trail connects two of the region’s most beautiful towns. 

From Dartmouth, you walk along the Dart Estuary. Then, climb its surrounding hills, which offer stunning vistas of Dartmoor National Park. The end point of the route is Totnes, a historic town with great waterside dining options. 

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