When Steven Spielberg, whilst filming Warhorse, praised Dartmoor National Park for “its abundance of natural beauty”, commenting that he was “stunned” by the landscape that lay before him, he was reflecting what both locals and visitors alike experience when they come to this special place. 368 square miles in size, it’s one of England’s great wildernesses, and an outdoor lover’s ultimate playground.
A bewilderingly rich offering awaits the Dartmoor visitor, with plenty of great interest to discover, including many layers of history, abundant nature, countless myths and legends, and beautiful scenery. Containing the largest concentration of Bronze Age remains in the UK, there are stone rows, standing stones and settlements that can be freely explored. The remains of the tin mining industry which thrived for many centuries are also very visible in places, and one of the best ways to explore these aspects of Dartmoor’s history is on foot. Seemingly endless trails across this historic landscape make Dartmoor a walker’s paradise, and it’s perfect for cyclists, horse riders and kayakers too.
This is the only place in England where you’re allowed to wild camp – what an experience this is, although please follow the rules as specified by Dartmoor National Park Authority. Whatever you choose to do on Dartmoor, always keep a camera to hand, as the views won’t stop coming, and the photogenic and iconic Dartmoor Ponies are never far away.
The jury is out on just how you should pronounce ‘Bovey’ (Buvvy, Bowvy or Bovvy), but the old market town of Bovey Tracey has several notable reasons to visit it. Situated on the southern edge of Dartmoor, the town is well known for its array of craft related elements, and with a good stock of shops, accommodations, and places to eat at, visitors will be pleased if this is their chosen destination for a daytrip or longer.
A small but charming town, Chagford has a community that really takes care of itself and anyone that happens upon it. It’s definitely worth a detour to spend some time enjoying its much loved and historical church, interesting independent shops and great selection of places to eat at, and make sure to wander down some of the quieter streets, as there are some characterful buildings and quirky back alleys.
The key gateway to the western side of Dartmoor, the handsome market town of Tavistock has many layers of interest as a destination, and plenty of stories to tell. Perfect as a base from which to explore the Moors, or to cross the border over into Cornwall, it’s safe to say that Tavistock may well convince you to return time and time again.
A visit to Dartmoor almost seems incomplete without stopping in Widecombe in the Moor, such is the charisma of this much-loved village situated in the southern part of the national park. It's an old community, and famous in part for its annual 'Widecombe Fair', which has been immortalised in the folk song of the same name.
Located in a beautiful position on the northern edge of Dartmoor, the ancient town of Okehampton has occupied an important position on the main route to Cornwall for many centuries, and still does today. Offering an indication of this status is the impressive ruin that is Okehampton Castle, the largest medieval castle in Devon, which stands above the town on top of a wooded hill.
In recent years, Ashburton has given itself a most effective facelift, and has become one of the most desirable towns to visit in the whole of South Devon. Formally one of the Stannary towns, from where the tin mining industry on Dartmoor was governed, these days it has a wonderful selection of independent shops, cafes, delicatessens and eateries, as well as a trail of antique shops offering a broad selection of opportunities to buy something old, interesting and collectible.