Pub of the month - October 2022

D artmouth occupies a picturesque corner of South Devon adorned with serene outdoor spaces that will take your breath away.

Tucked into a landmark location in the heart of the town, the Royal Castle enjoys enviable views over the River Dart and serves as a restful rural retreat throughout the year.

Our 17th-century hotel and restaurant boasts a wealth of history and continues to stand proudly as one of Dartmouth’s finest buildings. Whether you’re popping in for a bite to eat or plan to call this beautiful slice of the county ‘home’ for a few days, here’s a look at what’s in store.

 

DINE BESIDE THE RIVER

When it comes to scenic places to eat in South Devon, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more charming location than the Royal Castle. Find yourself a cosy window seat and gaze out across the water. From hearty breakfasts to pit-stop lunches and wholesome evening feasts, you’re in for a treat no matter what time of day you stop by.

The menu changes with the seasons and champions the very best local produce. Not only is this gorgeous patch of the country blessed with idyllic scenery, but it’s also equally rich when it comes to quality suppliers. You can taste the riches of the surrounding land and sea for yourself when you tuck into a carefully curated dish – be it a reimagined pub classic, one of the chef’s specials, or a delicious dessert. Being so close to the ocean, it would be rude not to sample the latest catch; the Royal Castle serves local market fish to perfection, or you could opt for an all-time traditional favourite and have it coated in our St Austell Brewery ale batter with a proper portion of triple cooked chips.

Forming part of our managed estate, the Royal Castle is a go-to for sampling some of the finest beers around. Of course, you can expect to see an all-star line-up of our flagship brews, featuring Tribute pale alekorev lagerProper Job IPA, and Mena Dhu stout. Keep your eyes peeled too for a regularly updated small-batch offering – our Cask Club series of limited-edition beers showcases the talents of our Brewing team, and you might just find something a little different that becomes a newfound favourite.

 

T he best food and service we’ve ever had anywhere. Absolutely lovely staff and a beautiful old building. Dog friendly as well. We only went in by chance and I’m so glad we did. Highly recommended. Hopefully we’ll be able to stay for a few nights next year. We’re saving up already.

- TripAdvisor

STEP BACK IN TIME

The Royal Castle has a rich history. From different names to royal guests, here’s a glimpse at the building’s fascinating past.

 

The early years 

Between 1584 and 1630, the Town Corporation reclaimed land to expand the port facilities and build New Quay. Prominent in this new development were two high-status houses built for the wealthy merchants William Barnes and Joseph Cubbitt. The date stones suggest a date for these buildings as 1639.

The buildings were joined and converted to an inn in the early part of the 18th century – by 1736 the house of William Barnes was known as the New Inn, then owned John Summers, and by 1782 Joseph Cubbitt's house had been acquired by John Browne. Once the two buildings were joined together, they were renamed ‘The Castle Inn’.

During the late 18th century and early 19th century, the inn served its harbourside customers and the fashionable local area. It also supported community activities such as hosting auctions of ships taken during the Dutch wars and seized goods such as wine and sugar, and public auctions of property and household goods. It was also used as a place to present bankruptcy hearings.

A major refurbishment occurred in 1835 when the new stuccowork façade was added along with a handsome top-lit staircase. In 1879, John Buckland was wine and spirit merchant, posting house and victualler of the Castle Inn. By 1881, it was known as the Castle Hotel. The proprietor was Henry Collier, who employed a bookkeeper, housekeeper, barmaid, chambermaid, housemaid, pantry maid, billiard marker, cook, page boy and nurse, who looked after their two-year-old child. An 1895 advertisement noted that the hotel was ‘Patronised by Royalty. Fitted with Electric Light and Bells.... and sanitary arrangements are perfect.’                                                           

In the 1911 census, only two guests were recorded in the hotel and the business operated on a small number of staff − these comprised of a hotel waiter, ‘hotel boots’, manageress, pantry maid, chambermaid, and kitchen maid.

 

Famous visitors

Legend has it that Sir Francis Drake stayed in one of the private houses, while sources claim that several of the mistresses of King Charles II were guests. Another claim is that Queen Mary was a guest in one of the houses, she arrived in Dartmouth from the Netherlands in 1688, without her husband, William, who was caught in Torbay in severe weather.

More certain are the connections with Queen Victoria who stayed in the hotel in 1847 during her marine tour of Britain and King Edward VII in 1902, a visit captured on British Pathe newsreels. In more recent times, King Charles III, then Prince of Wales, was a guest. The hotel changed its name to the Royal Castle after the visit of King Edward VII in 1902. Its current ‘decorated’ frontage was added at this time.

Amongst the writers and actors who have stayed in the hotel are Cary Grant, Donald Sutherland, and Agatha Christie, who drew on the hotel as her inspiration for the Royal George in her 1936 short story 'The Regatta Mystery' and her 1958 novel ‘Ordeal by Innocence’. The hotel was used in the 1984 film ‘Ordeal by Innocence’. Being so prominent on the waterfront it is not surprising that the famous sailors Sir Francis Chichester and Chay Blyth have also been guests.

 

Unusual (and spooky) facts

  • The hotel is reputedly haunted by an old stagecoach which draws up to the front door to collect phantom passengers in the night.
  • The hotel is listed Grade II* by Historic England.
  • St Austell Brewery acquired this iconic historic hotel in 2019.

 

PLAN YOUR ADVENTURE

Dartmouth is where the river meets the sea, and presents the best of both worlds. Being a sailing port, you’ll find bobbling boats and ships of all sizes in and around the harbour. While the waterside offers a restful escape, the town itself buzzes with life, striking a perfect balance for all manner of days out.

From golden beaches and nature trails to family attractions and colourful festivals, there’s something for everyone to enjoy, whatever the weather or season. Why not get active on the water itself? You can hop aboard a boat and experience a tour of the river and coast, take navigation into your own hands by hiring a paddleboard or kayak, or embrace the elements completely with a spot of wild swimming.

The Royal Castle is just around the corner from the iconic Dartmouth Castle. The location of this majestic fortress paints a picture straight out of a fairy tale. It’s cast an imposing shadow on the narrow entrance to the Dart Estuary for more than 600 years and is well worth a visit. You can even make the journey from the town quay up to the castle by boat.

Experience the allure of steam travel with a trip on the Dartmouth Steam Railway. Grab a seat on a coal-fired paddle steamer or one of the vintage steam engines and admire some exceptional views as you chug along from Torquay to Totnes.

 

WHAT'S ON?

Not sure when to visit? Plan your trip around one of these events and get involved with the local community. 

Dartmouth Farmers Market - 8th October

Don’t miss out on the town’s regular farmers market, taking place every second Saturday of the month at Old Market Square. Treat your taste buds to fresh locally caught fish, seasonal produce, and artisan foods.

Dartmouth Food Festival - 21st-23rd October

You can’t go wrong with a free food festival, especially when it’s as impressive as Dartmouth’s three-day annual staple. Expect a tempting mix of delectable regional food and drink, chef demonstrations, workshops, food debates, and a wealth of fun for all the family to enjoy. Each year, the foodie fest welcomes around 20,000 people to the area, not to mention more than 100 South West producers.

Halloween at Babbacombe Model Village - 22nd-30th October

Babbacombe Model Village and Gardens is a fantastic day out for the family, and things are set to get spooky in October. Miniature Halloween-themed characters will take over the village, transforming the scenery into a land draped in ghostly cobwebs and the like. There’s a miniature pumpkin hunt to take on, with all successful young explorers to be rewarded with a Halloween treat. That’s not all, as evening illuminations with fire and light displays will take place on October 25th, 26th, and 27th.

Jazz Sabbath - 22nd November

Adam Wakeman (Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne band member, and son of Rick Wakeman) fronts this jazz trio that puts an experimental twist on some of rock and metal’s most iconic tunes. Pushing the boundaries between jazz and songs that defined heavy metal, these instrumental interpretations are a must for fans of jazz, rock, and anything a bit different.

Christmas Train of Lights - 25th November-30th December

A train journey like no other, Dartmouth Steam Railway’s multi-award-winning Christmas experience is the UK’s first steam train of its kind. Hope aboard a train illuminated with thousands of colourful festive lights and make your way to an enchanted forest and more. There’s an additional option to book to see Santa too.

 

GO ON A HIKE

Dartmouth to Blackpool Sands

This is a stunning circular trail for those seeking an adventure (it’s 10-11 miles long) that rewards all who take it on with mesmerising views and glistening stretches of golden sands. Blackpool Sands itself operates a seasonal dog ban, so plan ahead if you are travelling with pooches, but the walk to it is worth your time no matter what the time of year. Chart the coastal path from Dartmouth that passes the castle before arriving at the sea. You’ll experience the peaceful hamlet of Warfleet along the way.

Dart Valley Trail

Canine companions are sure to have their tails wagging along this wonderfully scenic route. Dartmouth is blessed with a variety of dog-friendly walks that carve along coastal paths and inland. You can’t go wrong ambling along the River Dart and the Dart Valley Trail. Ferries can take you along the water, unlocking banks that lead to tranquil avenues and secluded coves.

Nearby beaches

Dartmouth Castle sits above two sheltered coves that are dog-friendly throughout the year – Castle Cove and Sugary Cove. The nearby three-mile stretch of Slapton Sands is bordered by not only the sea, a freshwater lake too, and not just any lake as this nature reserve is home to the largest natural lake in the South West. What’s more, it lies within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and there’s a popular cafe for refuelling too. Just beyond Slapton, you’ll find two more dog-friendly spots in Torcross Beach and Beesands Beach.

 

MAKE IT A ROAD TRIP

Continue your exploration of Devon. Rather than heading for the motorway or A303, take the South West 660 and go slow, discovering unmissable views and new experiences all while avoiding the traffic of the main road. Why not cruise the promenade at the centre of the English Riviera, following it round Torbay to the bustling fishing port of Brixham? Or, continue west through the South Hams and experience the delights of the Exe Estuary.

There are some lovely places to stay along the route in both directions. For Exeter and onwards towards Plymouth, consider the Mill on the Exe and the Rose & Crown. For Totnes, the Royal Seven Stars won’t disappoint.

 

STAY WITH US

We’re offering you an exclusive 10% discount for stays at the Royal Castle, booked in October. Use the code ‘PUB10’ to redeem and escape to this picturesque corner of South Devon.  

* All bookings must be made before the 31st of October. Only available for use on stays made before the 18th April at the Royal Castle.