Kingswear Castle

Near Dartmouth, Devon - Sleeps 4

About this Landmark

Kingswear Castle appears to grow out of the rocks it stands on next to the water's edge. From the roof platform and many of the windows you look across to Dartmouth; or down the rocky shore and out to sea.

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • CotCot
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • BathBath
  • Outside Dining FurnitureOutside Dining Furniture
  • MicrowaveMicrowave
  • ShowerShower

Beds 1 Twin, 1 Double

  • Sleeps 4
  • 4 nights from £596
  • equivalent to £37.25 per person, per night

Built to help Dartmouth Castle defend the harbour

In 1481 a new castle was begun at Dartmouth, to defend the harbour there. To support it from the opposite shore, Kingswear Castle was completed in 1502. Together they represent the most advanced military design of their day. For the first time large guns were mounted inside on the ground floor, with rectangular ports through which to fire them.

We restored the Castle’s ground floor to look as it did in 1502, with the living quarters above. The tower stands almost on the water’s edge (those with children beware) and its rooms are filled with shifting reflected light. From the windows and the roof you can look across to Dartmouth or down the rocky coast, with its woods of maritime pine, and out to sea. Above all you can watch the river, busy now with friendly shipping. Thick walls give a sense of fortification to the place. From the roof you may raise and lower the union flag.

A Victorian summer residence

Within 50 years of its construction, Kingswear Castle was redundant; for another century it was manned in time of war, but thereafter was left to decay, until rescued and turned into a summer residence in 1855 by Charles Seale Hayne. The rooms have that sense of sturdy habitability in an exposed place, which the Victorians knew so well how to achieve, despite the building’s inherent susceptibility to damp and cold (not even 21st-century devices can fully overcome this). The twin room is accessed through a passageway.

Floor Plan

‘… the views across the water mesmerising’

The Independent

Map & local info

Kingswear Castle sits on the outskirts of the village of Kingwear, across the Dart Estuary from Dartmouth Castle. Pubs and inns in the village offer locally sourced foods and scenic views of Dartmouth Harbour, which can be accessed from here by both foot and car passenger ferries. Kingswear is also the terminus for the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway, providing another means to explore the area.

Keen walkers have the chance to follow part of the South West Coast Path and the Dart Valley Trail, which run through Kingswear, too.

A visit to Coleton Fishacre, the country home of the D'Oyly Carte family, will take you back to the Jazz Age of the 1920s when strolling around the elegant Arts & Crafts style house and delightful gardens. Experience the atmospheric surroundings of Greenway, the 1950s holiday home of the renowned author Agatha Christie, in nearby Galmpton. 

For more information on things to do during your stay at Kingswear Castle please see our Pinterest page.

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

Kingswear Castle
Near Dartmouth, Devon - Sleeps 4
Clear directions

‘I would like to spend all night on the battlements watching the stars.’

‘When we first got here there was a ship coming, and we dipped our flag and the ship dipped its flag back.’

From the logbook

Your questions answered

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    Yes.
  • How is the property accessed?

    Via an unmade road.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Paignton – 8 miles.
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    Yes – there is parking for two cars. There is a flight of steps from the parking area down to the entrance to the Landmark.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There are electric night storage heaters.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There is one bathroom with a free-standing shower and a bath.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    There are a number of steep, narrow, spiral stairs.
  • Does this Landmark have low headroom?

    Yes, the doorway to the roof terrance has low headroom.
  • Can I access the roof?

    Yes,  but we would ask that care is taken in inclement weather and that children and dogs are supervised when on the roof.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

      There is a roof platform and a garden (not enclosed). There are steep drops from the cliff edges.  

    Booking and Payment

  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I create an account?

    If you have not used the Landmark online booking facility before and you wish to register in advance, you can set up an on-line account by following the instructions below:

    Go to the Landmark home page and click on Gift shop (located at the top of the home page in red).

    Select a gift (e.g. Landmark Handbook or Anniversary Mug) and complete the ‘Amount required’ box. There is no need to complete the purchase but this step is necessary in order to bring up the registration page.

    Click ‘Next Step’ at the bottom of the page.

    This will bring you to the ‘Your details’ page.

    Please complete all the fields (name, address, contact details and create an account). Click on the green ‘Create Account’ button once you have finished.

    At the top of the page headed ‘Your details’ there will be a grey box saying ‘Signed in’ and underneath this it will say ‘you are currently signed in as ….

    Here you will also have the option to ‘Sign out’. Please do so and that is your registration completed.

    Please return to the Landmark home page.

    To check your registration or update your account details at any time please ‘Sign in’ using the icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page.

    If you experience any problems in registering or setting up your on-line account please contact [email protected]
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Am I insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Are there televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s).

Designed specifically for artillery

The building of Kingswear Castle was started by the Corporation of Dartmouth in 1491 and completed in 1502. It is thus slightly later than Dartmouth Castle, which was been in 1481 and completed by 1495. The two castles are very similar in design, however, and formed part of a single defensive plan for the river mouth and haven; together they share the distinction of being the first fortifications to be designed specifically for artillery, with a main gun platform on the ground floor. As examples of advanced military engineering they were the Exocet missiles of their day.

In another 50 years Kingswear was redundant. This was partly due to further advances in military engineering, which had produced guns powerful enough to cover the whole river from Dartmouth Castle alone. Another reason must have been that Kingswear was always difficult to maintain, being more exposed to the weather - quite early on it was recorded that iron guns could not be kept there because they rusted so quickly. The advice was to use brass cannon instead.

After the end of the 16th century it seems that Kingswear was only manned in times of emergency, such as the Civil War. According to a survey carried out in 1661, the main gun. platform had moved to the top of the Castle, but had then been destroyed by fire - apparently by accident. At this time responsibility for maintenance was transferred from the Corporation of Dartmouth to a governor appointed by the Crown and certain improvements and repairs were recommended. Some of these were apparently carried out since another survey in 1717, although declaring the Castle ruinous and useless, lists 12-, 9- and 8-pound guns as surviving there and these are unlikely to date from before the 1680s. Two guns of this size have been seen on the sea bed below the castle.

Kingswear stood in a ruinous state for the next 130 years and drawings exist showing it in this condition. Then in 1855 it was rescued by Charles Seale Hayne, a wealthy bachelor of 22, who transformed it into a summer residence. To carry out the work he employed Thomas Lidstone, a builder from Dartmouth. The Castle has remained a private residence since then with a brief defensive interlude during the Second World War, when it was occupied by the Marines and a concrete blockhouse was built close to it. In 1987 the property was bought by the Landmark Trust, which restored the Castle and now lets it for holidays.

Tudor fortification and a Victorian bachelor's residence

The original garrison probably came by boat from Dartmouth, to a landing place near the Castle or perhaps along a path above the shore from Kingswear village. When Seale Hayne restored the Castle in 1855 he made a new drive down from an existing lane further up the hill. As you stand outside the main entrance you can see above you the shutes of the machicolations, down which water could be poured on fires lit by attackers against the door.

Immediately inside the door, steps descend into the gun battery. In the 19th century a landing was made here by taking down a wall on the right, to give access directly to the stairs. This we blocked up again, to recreate the original access. In 1987 we found the ground floor divided into a kitchen and pantry. We stripped these out to recover its appearance in 1502. The floor itself, which had been considerably lowered, is now back at its original height level with the cills of the gun embrasures. Guns of the period were normally mounted on wooden beds, without wheels, so they had to be slid forward into position. In the cills of each embrasure there was once an oak plate, with a socket in its centre. This, it seems, was for fixing the guns and preventing recoil. One section of the first bedrock floor was found to act as a guide for the level and gradient of the new floor, which slopes to allow water to flow out. The new paving is of Lundy slate.

The rectangular gunports with their splayed embrasures were a great advance on anything that had gone before, allowing as they did a wider field of fire - although still very restricted. When not in use they were sealed with shutters. Three old, 17th or 18th-century, shutters survived. These have been repaired and new oak ones made to the same pattern, closed by a chain and cleat. Above the gunports are openings which run right through the wall, which might have been smoke vents, or spyholes. The magnificent oak beams support a new first floor. Because of their size they had to be worked outside the castle, before being manoevred into place in the original beam pockets. These were found to be several inches higher than those used for the Victorian ceiling beams.

We thought to begin with that the stair had been altered because at its top the steps and newel post are of one piece of stone, while lower down the steps are of rubble masonry and the newel post shows the stumps of other steps, cut off. Then, when taking away a concrete stair leading up from the ground floor, the bottom of the spiral was found, running right down to ground level and built well into the Castle wall. It seems that any interference - now or at a previous date - would result in the stair's total collapse, so it must always have been as it is now. The stone for the newel may have been reused from another building.

The first floor contains a mixture of Tudor and Victorian work. Since this was probably the guardroom, where the soldiers of the garrison spent most of their time, they were allowed a fire at which to warm themselves. Another convenience was discovered in 1989. The large east window had only been inserted quite recently. Before that, there was a recessed cupboard there, used as a wine store by Seale Hayne. When investigating its cill, the original seat and shute of a garderobe were found, with a small window beside it.

In times of war the room also served as a gun platform. In the lower embrasures, the rare oak plates survive intact. Smaller guns would have been lifted onto trestles and then slid forward into position. The upper ports would have been for siting and possibly for small arms. The gunports have all been provided with new oak window surrounds. The floor, which like the ground floor had been lowered by several inches, is once again at its original level, but the oak boards seen from below are not in fact visible here. Insulation was laid on top of these and then the Victorian elm boards laid down again, to keep the warmth in. When plasterboard was removed, the beams of the Victorian ceiling were discovered above. These were repaired and a new boarded ceiling fitted.

This room enjoys the finest views in the Castle. That it was also used for fighting is proved by the existence of several gunloops, most of which have been blocked up. The present, larger windows cut through these, but date from before 1855 - whether they are the gunports for the large guns of the late 17th century is uncertain. If they are, the guns must have been mounted on a platform. In the 19th century this floor was divided into bedrooms and dressing rooms, which we have removed to recreate a single large room.

The Tudor roof was at a substantially lower level than the present one and according to the survey of 1661 was made of calked timber, like the deck of a ship. Water ran off through scuppers, which could be seen in the walls of the second floor. It is likely that a new, higher, roof was put on in the late 17th century, but this was lost in 1855. We removed the Victorian pitched roof, which was leaking badly and have replaced it with a paved platform.

The parapet round the three seaward sides of the Castle dates from 1855, but at the back the higher parapet and the little turret are original. In this wall are the sockets for a covered platform built out over the main wall walk, allowing defenders to fire over the top of the parapet. The new bathroom occupies a similar position.

At the foot of the stairs a narrow passage leads to the small round tower. For some time this tower puzzled the experts, who thought that it seemed earlier than 1855 and suggested that it might have been a powder magazine - a very large and damp one if so. It is now agreed that it is entirely Victorian and that Thomas Lidstone was very good at copying the earlier work. It has been given a new roof and floor.

The architects for the restoration were Messrs Caroe & Partners of Wells; the interior work was carried out by St Cuthbert Builders, of Porlock and the exterior work by Exeter Cathedral Workshops.

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.