"We travel not to escape our life, but to stop life from escaping us"
The hiss of steam and the sway of a river, there is nothing quite like a ride on a steam train or trip on a ferry so why not combine both. We took the steam train to Kingswear and ferry to Dartmouth for a family day trip.
Full Steam Ahead
Our kids love taking the train anywhere. There is something about a train journey where they can watch the world go by from out the windows on both sides of the train that makes them love the experience. The steam train from Paignton to Kingswear (across the water from Dartmouth) is unique because it’s a steam engine. The hiss of steam and the chug-chug of the train as it rolls to its destination just add to the experience. We took the 10:30 am train, which let us relax and have breakfast but still have some good time in Dartmouth to explore. Past beaches and through tunnels the train rolls along. People stand at crossings waving and our girls eagerly reply with a smile and an enthusiastic wave back.
Pulling In And Shipping Out
We pull into the station at Kingswear and head out of the train onto a platform that hasn’t changed much since it was first opened. Down the platform past the café and onto the dock towards the Ferry that will take us across the river to Dartmouth. The trip is only 5-10 minutes across to the other side of the river and you can either sit inside or adventure outside (like we did) and ride on at the front of the ferry watching the other boats and birds bob up and down as we pass them. The ferry jostles in against the dock and everyone file out and up the dockside back onto dry land ready to explore Dartmouth.
Parks And Markets
Take a right out of the ferry and have a walk along the river side to stroll through Royal avenue gardens. Although it’s by no mean a huge site to see, taking the short walk usually separates you from any crowds that took the ferry with you who head straight out into the town. The gardens have some interesting statues, a bandstand and fountain plus when you leave at the other end you are perfectly placed to head up Duke Street and cut down Foss Street for a walk away from the cars past galleries and stores. At the end of the street loop around to the left and head back toward the old town market that offers a selection of different shops and if you are feeling adventurous a fish monger that offers fish filleting lessons and a taste of some great local catch.
A True Devon Lunch
After this bit of exploration it time for lunch! We head to the Smith Street Deli for one of the best ploughman’s lunches I have had in many years. For everyone who doesn’t know about the ploughman’s then here is the low down. The ploughman’s lunch usually consists of a thick slice of ham and of mature English cheddar accompanied but crusty bread, pickled onions and relish however at Smith Street they add a great little fresh salad which fit perfectly with the meal. Other than the ploughman’s they offer homemade soups with fresh crusty bread, sandwiches and a whole host of other great meals plus some great coffee and tea. If you are looking for a delicious lunch this is the place to go in my opinion, you can even buy some tasty cheese, olives and crackers to take home for an evening snack, what more do you need.
Memories in Art
After filling up on lunch there is time to explore the rest of the shops and streets on Dartmouth. Stores offering handmade soaps and other artisan products all the way to the standard tourist items are dotted around the narrow streets. If you’re looking for a different and unique present or souvenir head over to Paul Barclay Designs. A former dock master turned artist has a distinctive style and offer a great range of prints and original art for everyone budget. If you catch Paul there he is keen to answer questions about what goes into creating art and hear about where you are from and what brings you to the area. Like I say, if you are looking for a unique gift or a souvenir for yourself this is the place to check out.
Carb lines and Lifeboats
Before catching the ferry back check out the RLNI lifeboat visitor’s center to learn about the amazing work they do keeping people safe when they are out on the water and across the road you might find people dropping lines into the water with small bags of meat on the end. Our girls were delighted when they were pulled back up with two or three crabs attached which were then dropped into a bucket for them to see (no hooks are used and all the crabs are usually returned to the water after). If you fancy trying it yourself duck into one of the tourist shop and they will point you towards what you need.
After watching the crabbing we walk along the river side and jump onto the ferry back to Kingswear and the train station. Make sure you get on the ferry about 20-30 minutes before your train is set to leave just to make sure you don’t miss it. Tired from a day of walking around our girls sit on the train and the slow chugging begins to lull them to sleep…..yea right, how could they wave to all the people the train passes by if they are asleep plus they wouldn’t want to miss it if the train drivers decided to let out a ‘woo wooooo’ before we get to the station.