Along The Way: Dartmouth Castle

Dartmouth Castle has defended the narrow entrance to the Dart Estuary for over 600 years. From the top of the tower, visitors get a breathtaking view across the water—or... vertigo. Work on this fascinating defensive complex was begun in 1388 by John Hawley, a privateering mayor of Dartmouth. About a century later, the town added the imposing and surprisingly well-preserved "gun tower," perhaps the first fortification in Britain specially built to mount a "ship-sinking" heavy cannon. The estuary could be blocked in wartime by a heavy chain, and then ka-boom!—the cannon would open fire on stationary ships; the classic uh-oh moment.

The castle saw action during the English Civil War and continued to stand guard right up until the Second World War. Updates over the centuries include the Victorian "Old Battery" with its remounted heavy guns, guardrooms, and maze of passages that visitors can explore. Throughout the castle, numerous displays retell the six centuries of the fortress's history.