The bleak moorland which makes up much of Dartmoor National Park is a stark contrast to the sandy beaches along Devon's coastline. The national park covers 365 square miles and is littered with craggy rocks and strange granite boulders, carved out over time by wind and weathering. At lower levels, Dartmoor has undulating hills and wooded valleys scattered with ancient tombs, hut circles and the ruined remains of Devon's mining and quarrying history.
Places to visit on Dartmoor
Bovey Tracey is the gateway to Dartmoor from the south, and Tavistock is the entry point from the west. The headquarters of the Dartmoor National park is at Parke, a mile from Bovey Tracey and the information centre is a great place to start your visit to Dartmoor.
Those wanting a challenging hill climb should head for Haytor which stands 1500 feet high. It is easily recognized as you drive up from Parke – just look for the huge granite outcrops which resemble the two humps of a camel. Steps have been cut into the rock to aid walkers to the top where views as far as the Teign Estuary and the English Channel can be seen on a (rare!) clear day.
Widecombe-in-the-Moor is best known for its lovely church, known as the Cathedral in the Moor. It is the original focus of the old song, “Widecombe Fair“, which still takes place here in September.
Those visiting Dartmoor from North Devon should stop in Moretonhampstead, an ancient market town. It is now a centre for pottery, woodturning and other crafts. Not far away is Lustleigh, a chocolate-box pretty village, seemingly untouched by modern times.
Things to do on Dartmoor
Driving through Dartmoor, there is a speed limit of 40mph, but few people want to rush through this gorgeous scenery. However, the twisting narrow roads, bone-shaking cattle grids, limited visibility at times and the likelihood of sheep or Dartmoor ponies ambling across the road makes it a very sensible one to comply with. The Dartmoor ponies are rarely more than 12 hands high (that's 48 inches or 122 cm at the shoulder). They will often put their heads through an open car window in search of food, but beware, they can give a nasty nip if given the chance.
Interesting monuments on Dartmoor include the remains of 24 round buildings within a perimeter wall at Grimspound which dates back to the Bronze Age. There is a medieval clapper bridge at Postbridge on the B3212 which spans the East Dart River next to the road.
You will find another old packhorse bridge with a pleasant tearoom nearby called the Badger's Holt at Dartmeet on the B3357. It is about 5 miles (8km) east of Princetown, which is best known for its Victorian prison, still in use. My personal favourite stop is to take tea at the old Two Bridges Hotel, just outside Princetown where the B3212 and the B3357 intersect, or at the Bedford Hotel before a stroll around the delights of Tavistock.