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Dartmoor National Park

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Dartmoor National Park covers a large area of Devon in the West Country of England.


Clapper bridge

The Dartmoor National Park is located in Devon between Exeter and Plymouth. It contains the dartmoor moorlands covering 954 square kilometres (368 sq mi). This is one of the best areas in the UK for bronze age remains and much of the moor seems almost littered with stone circles, stone rows and burial stones. Walking paths and general ease of accessibility outside the trodden tracks make the park available to trekkers of all levels. Pubs, many of them with inns, exist within the national park, and visitors can walk from pub to pub or head out for multi-day trekkings that take you further away from civilisation.


Dartmoor forest; Dartmoor prison at Princetown, built during the Napoleonic wars; Conan Doyle's book, The Hound of the Baskervilles featuring Sherlock Holmes is set in foggy Dartmoor. Tin mining has had an important role in Dartmoor's history. The so-called stannary towns had their own assemblies, laws and courts and there was even a stannary gaol. Rabbit rearing was important once and there are places still carrying the name of Warren. More recently the china clay industry provided the raw materials for the Potteries area of Staffordshire.


(Modern!) pony with prehistoric remains

Moorland with rocky hills (called Tors). Large areas are boggy. There are also forested areas, and particularly in the outskirts of the park, cultivated fields, kettle, and a good few villages. The river Erme flows through the park. Rolling rather than steep hills make up the Dartmoor area which lies at a higher elevation than its surroundings with High Willhays (621m, 2037ft) being the highest point.

Flora and fauna[edit]

Ferns, wild ponies, Dartmoor cattle. Foxes, Buzzard & badgers in reasonable quantity.


Can be very changeable. You can be sun-burnt and get lost in mist on the same day.

Get in[edit]

Access to the National Park is free. Various towns and villages on the edge of the park rightly claim they are the "Gateway to the Moor".


Get around[edit]

Plan to be on foot to see Dartmoor's best. There are lots of lay-bys where it is safe to leave your car all day. There are plenty of tors to climb and rugged footpaths between them. Energetic children can also manage hours of hiking on Dartmoor as the terrain is suitable. Bring plenty of drinking water and dress for changing weather (layers and water-proofs). A decent set of weather proof hiking boots make for a more comfortable walk on Dartmoor as there's plenty of wet marshy land to cross.

See[edit][add listing]



  • Bovey Tracey - prehistoric remains visible all round the roads.
  • Buckland-in-the-Moor - wooded area with an unusual church clock in the village - having 'My dear mother' in place of the numbers 1-12. Ten commandments are to be found in stone on nearby Buckland Beacon (very eroded).
  • Chagford - a village deep in the moor.
  • Cornwood - a southern Dartmoor village.
  • Drewsteignton on the north-east of the moor with a great old pub, the Drewe Arms.
  • Harford - a tiny village with a picturesque bridge and church near Cornwood.
  • Haytor Vale - near some very striking tors.
  • Lydford - A village north of Tavistock with a spectacular limestone gorge and a castle that was once used as the stannary prison.
  • Mary Tavy - a pleasant moorland village north of Tavistock that generally gets less crowded than many areas but the walks are as good.
  • Meavy - village green and ancient oak tree.
  • Peter Tavy - as Mary Tavy above.
  • Shaugh Prior - village with granite church with old china clay pits all around.
  • Sheepstor - the tor is very shapely and immediately above the village , which has the tomb of James Brooke, white rajah of Sarawak.
  • Widecombe-in-the-Moor - Though best known for its song it's worth seeing for its large church (sometimes known as 'the cathedral of the moor.' Good pubs.

Other beauty spots[edit]

  • Brent Tor - north of Tavistock - a small hill but reputedly the first sight of land for a sailor who vowed to put a church on top and the church is there.
  • Burrator reservoir - this is artificial and supplies Plymouth but it seems like a natural lake from many angles - visit combines well with Meavy and Sheepstor.
  • Castle Drogo [4]
  • Dartmeet - scenic junction of the West and East Dart
  • Double Waters - particularly beautiful junction of the river Tavy and its tributary, the Walkham.
  • Fingle Bridge - on the river Teign on the north-east of the moor.
  • Foggintor Quarry - former granite quarry near Princetown. Very picturesque, but caution should be exercised at all times here owing to the unstable nature of the site. The Quarry pool is cold, deep and full of sharp rocks, so refrain from swimming in it.
  • Lustleigh Cleave
  • Shaugh Bridge - at the junction of the Meavy and Cad rivers to form the Plym.

Do[edit][add listing]

Letterboxing is very similar to the much newer craze of geocaching but has been around a lot longer.

Like geocaching each post/letter box consists of a small weatherproof box with a rubber stamp that may also contain a note pad. The stamp designs are limited only by the imagination of the person who placed them and come in a very wide range sizes. As you find each box, you record your visit by taking an impression of the located stamp. Finding the boxes usually requires a series of clues, ranging from the very easy to the fiendishly difficult. Most letterboxes are placed on the moor by private individuals, who give their clues to friends and family. Some clues will be made available for the wider community to find. Some boxes are placed by charities/groups wishing to raise a little money and normally form the basis of a circular route, in a particular part of Dartmoor, usually consisting of a set of stamps with a common theme. These are also available for a short period, and the clue sheets are sold for a nominal fee. Most people who do letterboxing on a regular basis will usually have their own stamp, which they carry around with them to put in the notepad of the boxes they find.

Letterboxing on Dartmoor has a big following in the local region and beyond. You will find people who go out for an hour or two on their way home from work, as well as people who come down from all over to spend a week walking to find new and exciting stamps.

The number of boxes is constantly changing as people lose, update or remove stamps.

Letterboxing on Dartmoor.
Dartmoor Letterboxes Funstuff
Official website
Wikipedia Info

Buy[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

The Old Police Station in Princetown serves some of the best fish and chips on the moors.

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • The Palk Arms, Hennock, Bovey Tracey, TQ13 9QB, ""01626, [1]. The Palk Arms is a traditional 16th Century free house overlooking the Teign Valley in Dartmoor National Park, a few miles from Bovey Tracey. A relaxed pub, it is dog friendly and serves a selection of real Devon ales, local ciders and a reasonable pub food menu. Also offering bed and breakfast accommodation  edit
  • Peter Tavy Inn - 15th century.
  • Plume of Feathers, Princetown
  • Cornwood Inn
  • Mary Tavy Inn - 16th century
  • Royal Oak, Meavy - a 15th century oak tree on the village green
  • Rugglestone Inn - superb traditional inn at Widecombe.
  • Old Inn, Widecombe
  • Fingle Bridge Inn - Excellent setting near Drewsteignton.
  • Drewe Arms, Drewsteignton
  • Elephant's Nest, Horndon, Mary Tavy - 16th century - great Moorland location.
  • Walkhampton Inn
  • Dartmoor Inn, Lydford
  • Dartmoor Inn, Merrivale - on the Tavistock to Princetown road

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Moorland View (Boutique thatched holiday cottage), North Bovey (Near Moretonhampstead), 07786 264865, [2]. checkin: 4.30pm; checkout: 10.30pm. Boutique, thatched self-catering holiday cottage dating from 1705. Two bedrooms, sleeping four. Short breaks available. Membership of Bovey Castle country club included. Great local walks, and a 20-second stroll to the 13th century Ring of Bells pub. 07786 264865, £120/night.  edit
  • Springfield Cottage (Luxury holiday cottage), Old Liverton (Near Bovey Tracey), 01626 824988, [3]. Boutique, luxury self-catering holiday cottage dating from 17th Century. Two bedrooms, sleeping four. Short breaks available.  edit
  • Great Bidlake Manor, Bridestowe [5] An outstanding Elizabethan manor house on the western edge of Dartmoor is available as luxurious self-catering for up to 13 persons in 6 double or twin bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms.



Campsites in Dartmoor are scattered sparsely over the National Park. Rough camping/bivying is allowed but is restricted in many areas. Worth checking the local information centres and the park website for the restrictions.

Otherwise a really good way of finding a tent pitch is to ring up farms. A fair number who aren't denoted as campsites on Ordnance Survey maps nevertheless will offer a pitch for a nominal fee (a few pounds per night). They usually have phone numbers available through a quick web search. They have the added advantage of being quieter and in fantastic locations for backpacking.

North Dartmoor:

  • East Okement Farm - Quiet farm just inside North Dartmoor, close to the edge of the military ranges, excellent location for accessing many paths. About £6/night/pitch


Stay safe[edit]

Dartmoor can be a deceptively dangerous place. The weather keeps changing, and you could get surrounded in mist very quickly, in the summer it can get very hot, and you may not be able to find shade for several miles.

If you plan on going out for a walk of any length on Dartmoor, it is vital to know how to read a map and use a compass if you plan to go off the beaten track

It can be almost impossible to navigate some areas and you can end up walking in circles. If you must use a GPS, take plenty of spare batteries.

As with any outdoor activity, it is always best to let somebody know where you're going and how long you expect to be.

Get out[edit]

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