Bayards Cove Inn, Dartmouth
This historic inn, located right by the waters edge does charm and comfort, with a super-family-friendly vibe.
Ahoy there! Fancy hearing about one of Dartmouth’s bonafide hidden gems? I’ve just been for a night away with the fam in tow and can confirm that this little townhouse is one worth knowing about. Here’s why.
Now, I’ve been to Dartmouth a fair bit in my life (is there anyone who hasn’t?), but somehow I’d never really clocked Bayards Cove Inn. Why? Well I reckon that’s partly because this mega-historic building dating from 1380 – 1380! – does such a sneaky job of blending into the architecture around town, so it almost feels like a comfortable part of the furniture.
Not that it’s always been so inconspicuous, of course, because, for the history buffs, Bayards Cove Inn has a very prominent spot in the record books *flicks to page 4359 and clears throat*. The Pilgrim Fathers, who set sail on the Mayflower from Southampton, America-bound on a voyage of discovery nearly 400 years ago moored up here with leaky issues (they clearly knew a decent port in a storm when they saw one; more observant than me, too).
But today, in a town that just gets smarter and sleeker with every passing season, there’s nothing shouty about this intimate townhouse, which I find quite refreshing. Instead, it’s an ancient, atmospheric, unpretentious inn that’s still doing the business in hospitality hundreds of years down the line.
Dartmouth, situated on the River Dart (cunningly) is a gorgeously sheltered spot, thanks to the hills that overlook and hug the town. A ridiculously pretty naval port with a long and colourful history (the Naval College heralds your arrival, standing proud as you pass it on your descent into town), people come to holiday here because it feels like a nautical playground, with class and sophistication to boot.
You’ll find this inn on Lower Street, which is right in the centre of town on the one-way system. Right across the road is Bayards Cove, Dartmouth’s oldest wharf, where you can sit on the cobbled quayside and watch the world float by. While there’s no car park as such (just a small garage), you’ll get your first taste of the kind of service that you can expect on arrival, as the staff will go out of their way to bagsie you a convenient spot. Lying down in a spare space outside, while you do another loop of the one-way system? Pah, all in a day’s work, here.
I remember once staying at hotel in Prague (a really swanky one, too) and overhearing an American woman at reception, loudly declaring that she wanted to check out immediately because the building was too old: ‘nobody told me the buildings were so old in Prague and it’s freaking me out!’ she complained to the whole room. I’m reminded of that weird conversation now, because said woman would be packing her bags and marching out of town back to the glass buildings of LA again, if she came to Bayards Cove (good riddance).
Expect low ceilings, cosy corners, lots of wooden beams and character. The bar and restaurant downstairs is suitably cosy and welcoming and was nicely busy the whole time we were there.
Upstairs to the rooms, this feels like an inn that’s slowly and quietly going through a bit of a restoration project, as gentle upgrades are evident all over the place. While parts do look a weeny bit tired here and there, honestly? You don’t care a bit, because it doesn’t distract from everything else that Bayards Cove Inn has going for it.
There are 7 rooms and two of them are suites big enough for families. We stayed in the Drake Suite, a quirky two storey duplex at the back of the building, which meant it was super-quiet and we didn’t feel the need to tell our 4 year-old with elephant characteristics to tiptoe around.
Had we been staying longer than a night, we’d have been perfectly happy with the amount of space we had to loll about. Downstairs was home to plenty of storage, the shower room and the kids bedroom, while upstairs takes you up into the eaves (mind your head!), with an open plan lounge/bedroom layout, divided up by the staircase going up through the centre.
It was super-comfortable and the only noise we ever heard was the pitter patter of raindrops and the gentle to-and-fro of the passenger ferry nearby, which was rather nice to drift off to, actually.
SCOFF & QUAFF
What’s really lovely about Bayards Cove Inn is that it’s well-used by the locals, a clear mark of quality in a town that’s full of trendy, top-notch places to eat. From first thing in the morning, people are coming in for a cuppa and a read of the papers, spilling into hot chocolate and cake, with lunch and dinner in-between.
Both are casual affairs, perfectly suited to the place, with a few surprises on the menu. Favourites like steak burgers and moules frites sat alongside the Bayards lasagne and Tracy’s handpicked Dartmouth crab (we learned that Tracy is a bit of a seafood ledge in these parts). There is plenty of emphasis on seafood, with lots of freshly landed options on the specials board, which is always a big plus.
I loved my crab linguine special, followed by a white chocolate and raspberry creme brûlée.
And breakfast was fun the next morning, too, with freshly cooked options on the menu, along with all the Sunday papers.
Service is flipping brilliant, in my opinion, not least because of the attention showered on the Mudlet. It’s a small team wearing many hats, striving to put this inn on the map and they treat everyone coming through the door like a VIP. Which is nice.
Oh, did I not mention that already?! Seriously though, I reckon that’s one of the big USP’s here. The staff go out of their way to make small people feel special (my 4 year-old developed a mega girl-crush on Lottie) and the building itself has that relaxed feel that makes parents exhale a sigh of relief when they arrive. The restaurant does a decent children’s menu and the family suites feel a bit of an adventure. Ours had a bunk bed room beneath the main room and felt like a little den to hide away in – totally fine by us come bedtime, while we popped open a bottle in the lounge upstairs!
OUT AND ABOUT
You can’t go wrong in Dartmouth, whoever you are and for whatever reason you’ve visited. Whether you want to mooch around quirky boutiques, galleries and cafes, like the institution that is Cafe Alf Resco, pootle on the river Dart down to Dittisham, ferry your way across to Kingswear or explore gems further afield like Greenway House, it’s easy to lose a weekend in these parts.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Couples and families wanting a low-key, super-relaxed stay, right in the centre of town. Those keen for a slice of history will love it, too. You’ll be hearing loads about the Mayflower 400 Anniversary celebrations in the coming months and if you’re struck by the story, it’s another reason to schedule a stay, before the rest of the world gets in on the act.
Not for: Those wanting somewhere new, slick, with straight edges and contemporary this, that and the other, might want to walk on. This is a hotel with character at every turn.
££: Really reasonable. Two nights in the family suite we stayed in, costs from £370 for a family of 3 on a weekend in April. In the restaurant, evening main courses start at £14, going up to £22 (for a steak).
Bayards Cove Inn, 27 Lower Street, Dartmouth, TQ7 9AN. Tel: 01803 839278. bayardscoveinn.co.uk