Dartmoor National Park covers almost 370 square miles of upland with its recognisable granite tors exposed on the hilltops, acres of open grassland and wooded valleys. There really is something for everyone here. You can explore the moors on foot, horseback, by bicycle or in the car, but be aware; you will be sharing the roads with a variety of livestock, including Dartmoor ponies, all of which have a tendency to wander onto the tarmac!
Dartmoor is a hub for all kinds of outdoor pursuits from walking and cycling to horse riding and climbing. Our holiday cottages make the perfect base for all these activities and include lots of dog friendly cottages. If you’re not feeling quite so energetic, Dartmoor is still a fantastic place to simply get some fresh air, dip your toes in a stream or sit back and enjoy a Devon cream tea.
The landscape here is sprinkled with stone monuments which serve as a lasting reminder of our ancient history, much of which is still unexplained. Some stone rows and hut circles are within easy walking distance of the road but if you are planning to head off the beaten track it’s always advisable to have a map, compass and sensible clothing as the weather can change rapidly. If the fog descends, you will soon understand why this place inspired the spine-tingling tales of Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles!
Another popular way to explore the moors and keep the kids entertained is by “letterboxing”, a traditional pastime originating on Dartmoor. Essentially, it is a predecessor to Geocaching, combining elements of orienteering and puzzle solving. Letterboxers hide small rubber stamps and notebooks inside waterproof boxes in nooks and crannies all over the moors. The aim is to follow the clues, find as many as you can and stamp them in your own notebook.
North Dartmooor provides an excellent base for exploring the moor and Devon's northern coastline too.
Belstone, a village steeped in folklore boasts a dramatic 'Tor' which rises up to a dizzying 1500ft. There are a number of Bronze Age remains within the parish. The most notorious is the Nine Maidens stone circle, named after a group of young women said to have been turned to stone as punishment for dancing on a Sunday. Confusingly, the stones are also known as the Seventeen Brothers, who allegedly suffered the same fate. Either way, the stones are said to “dance” at noon every day, so it’s worth a look to see if you can spot them swaying!
The town of Chagford is also well worth a visit for the numerous arts and crafts shops, homely cafes and pubs and legendary hardware store (yes, you read that correctly).
Nearby is Cheriton Bishop. A quaint little village situated on the eastern edge of Dartmoor allowing complete immersion in the wild whilst being only 10 miles from the thriving city of Exeter, with its excellent shopping, historic architecture and great art scene.
The village of Manaton is a great spot for exploring Dartmoor. The tourist attraction, Becky Falls, is literally on the doorstep, but it’s also just a short drive to the picturesque villages of Lustleigh and Widecombe in the Moor, both great for a wander round and a cream tea. Venturing further into the moors you will reach Haytor, a famous outcrop of granite, particularly popular with climbers. If you don’t have a head for heights you can sit back and watch those who do ascend the vertical face of the rock or walk the loop right around the tor. Look out for the disused granite tramway on your way round.
The Teign Valley is a wonderful area of wooded valleys in the foothills of Dartmoor. From here Exeter and Topsham are within easy reach, and the nearby market town of Bovey Tracey holds claim to being the “Gateway to Dartmoor”. The town is home to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, where you can watch craftsmen at work producing wares including jewellery, glass, textiles and prints.
The quaint little village of Rattery is located just on the southern edge of Dartmoor National Park and close to the South Hams market town of Totnes. Nearby is the pretty town of Ashburton, with its independent shops, cafes and delis. Or venture through South Brent up the narrow lanes to the small car park at Shipley Bridge. From here you can walk to the Avon Dam. A pedestrianised road follows the river all the way to the dam so it is great for pushchairs and kids’ bikes and scooters.
Shaugh Prior is a great spot for walking, with a scenic riverside path through the woods and up onto the moors. The villiage is within easy reach of Plymouth, which is worth a visit for a stroll along the Barbican or a trip to the National Marine Aquarium. If you drive onto the moors, stop off at nearby Cadover Bridge. It has a large car-park so is a great place for a picnic or base if you fancy a longer hike. Tavistock is also close by and is certainly worth a visit on market days.
Staying in one of our holiday cottages on South Dartmoor means you‘ll not only be immersed in moorland life, but you’re not far from the South Devon coastline and its fantastic beaches.
Situated in the heart of Dartmoor is the village of Postbridge, famous for its clapper bridge which is said to date back as early as the 12th century. The clapper bridge is still intact and stands next to the current road bridge. The surrounding area is scattered with remnants of Neolithic monuments and Bronze Age settlements, so it’s definitely worth a stroll around to see what you can find and allow yourself to step back in time.
From Postbridge both Moretonhampstead and Princetown are within a short drive. The latter is home to the infamous Dartmoor Prison which was originally built to house prisoners from the Napoleonic War. It was completed in 1809 and is remains a working prison with a visitors centre and museum.
Yelverton, on the edge of the moor, offers a good base for exploring Plymouth and is also close to the nearby market town of Tavistock, which has both high street and independent shops and a pleasant riverside walk. Travelling east into the centre of the moor towards Princetown, you will find Burrator Reservoir, a popular spot for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
To the west of Dartmoor is the small village of Chillaton, whose history of mining and quarrying is still evident if you look hard enough. Grassy hummocks in the valley hide old spoil heaps and you may spot a beautiful old stone kiln as you wander round. The North Cornwall coast is within easy reach, as are both Launceston and Tavistock. Lydford is also worth a visit. Standing on the western edge of Dartmoor, this tiny village has a big history. It was once of strategic importance and has its own small castle, but a real must is to take a stroll to the dramatic waterfall and the whirlpools, known as the ‘Devil’s cauldron’ at Lydford Gorge.
Dartmoor Zoological Park is a 30-acre zoological garden located near the village of Sparkwell, on the south-west edge of Dartmoor. It was the subject of the book and hollywood film We Bought a Zoo, which has gained the Zoo world wide fame. However the personal charm and up-close feel to the whole park has not disappeared.
A family run country house hotel surrounded by beautiful countryside with two places to eat - the fine dining restaurant offering an inspirational menu using fresh local produce, along with The Blue Tiger Inn offering a bistro style menu and cream teas in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Ilsington Country House Hotel Restaurant Ilsington, Newton Abbott TQ31 9RR (T: 01364 661452)
An ideal eating place for hungry walkers and families in the heart of Bovey Tracey serving good quality dishes made from fresh local ingredients, accompanied by a selection of cask ales and wines from around the world.
The Cromwell Arms Fore Street, Bovey Tracey TQ13 9AE (T: 01626 833473)
A fabulous little farm shop and cafe. We stopped here for lunch when we arrived and breakfast during the week. We picked up all our meat from the onsite butcher, but there seemed less choice in the shop compared with our visit last year.
We were staying a mile away near HayTor for two weeks in June and used this excellent farm shop most days. The friendly staff make you feel welcome and the service is very efficient. We ate there several days and as much as we could used it as an alternative to supermarket shopping. The meals are excellent and the cakes are works of art!
A friendly café surrounded by beautiful parkland which prides itself on its sustainability and use of high quality local, seasonal produce. Open daily for lunch and tea, and transforming into a candlelit restaurant on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Home Farm Café Parke, Bovey Tracey, Newton Abbot TQ13 9JQ (T: 01626 830016)