Dartmoor National Park in Devon contains over 450 miles of public rights of way offering fantastic opportunities for walking, cycling, horse riding and climbing. At the time of the dinosaurs, Dartmoor and the whole of the South West Peninsula were submerged, only later to be pushed back up, with the top soft chalk surface of sea creature shells soon being eroded away to reveal the granite surface you see today. Dartmoor is a moorland of Tors, many of which are extremely dramatic such as Hound Tor or Brent Tor with church atop in West Dartmoor.
Exploring Dartmoor National Park
Marked paths include the Two Moors Way, the circular Dartmoor Way and for cyclists there’s the Devon Coast to Coast Cycle route which pushes mostly through the east of the National Park. Visitors to Dartmoor should note that there is a 40 mile an hour (64 kilometre) speed limit throughout the park. The highest peak in Dartmoor, at 2,039ft is High Willhays to the North, with a scattering of other peaks around it. The southern section of the Park has low peaks with a more wild barren landscape. The best of Dartmoor’s prehistoric sites are to the west of the National Park.
To the East is a more gentle Dartmoor, with pretty villages such as Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Dartmoor experiences rapid changes in weather patterns, so visitors need to generally take care and be prepared whilst moorland walking. Good maps, boots and protective clothing are highly recommended – find out more on the official National Park website. What makes Dartmoor particularly special is its open access to commons where walkers are permitted to roam off public rights of way.
The Dartmoor Ponies
Chosen as the logo for the National Park when it was first designated in 1951, The Dartmoor Ponies give this National Park its unique character and are integral to the cultural history of the park. Many visitors come to Dartmoor to see the ponies who have a generally gentle, friendly temperament. The Dartmoor Ponies are not wild, they are owned by local farmers who release them into the commons to graze annually, so they serve an important function in conservation grazing and preserving habitats. The Dartmoor Ponies are actually a mix of breeds with Shetland ponies also featuring alongside the native Dartmoor pony and pure-bred.
The Dartmoor Way & Two Moors Way
Two popular long-distance trails are in Dartmoor. The Dartmoor Way is a superb circular long-distance path winding around the outskirts of the park for 90 miles, taking the walker and cyclist through some of Dartmoor’s most beautiful villages and fascinating sites. Easy to dip into and to undertake shorter stretches, The Dartmoor Way also features a separate route for cyclists. The trail passes through villages including Okehampton, Ashburton, Bovey Tracey, Manaton, Lydford and Princetown.
The Two Moors Way (Devon Coast to Coast) is 102 miles long and weaves its way through the centre of Dartmoor National Park, from Ivybridge up past Widecombe in the Moor, Drewsteignton and then onwards towards Exmoor National Park all the way to beautiful Lynmouth on the North coast of Devon.
Dartmoor Granite Tors
Tors are granite blocks and found in the upland heart of Dartmoor. Granite flowed as molten rock from the centre of the earth along the South West Peninsula some 280 million years ago. As it cooled it shrank, creating vertical and horizontal joints in solid rock. The exposed granite has been eroded over millions of years, and although one of the hardest rocks, granite is vulnerable to erosion from chemicals in rainwater. The weathering and re-freezing of ice also contributed to the formation of Tor granite structures such as Bowerman’s Nose.
Dartmoor Visitor Centres
Main Dartmoor National Park visitor centres are at central Princetown and Postbridge, Haytor in the east between Widecombe and Bovey Tracey and you’ll find ample information, maps and guides on Dartmoor at various tourist information points across towns and villages including Okehampton, Tavistock, Ashburton and Moretonhampstead. Admission to National Park centres is free and they make great starting points from which to begin your Dartmoor tour, featuring displays on the park’s history, culture, wildlife and geological formation.
Where to Stay
Dartmoor accommodation offers an extra special holiday or short break experience. Surrounded by spectacular rural scenery, Dartmoor’s wide choice of holiday cottages, country house hotels, Grade Listed Manor houses, gourmet inns and warm, welcoming B&B accommodation have a charm all their own. Whether you’re looking for that dog friendly cottage close to favourite moorland tor walks, a family farm holiday experience or a luxury country house hotel for that special romantic escape, find them all here in Britain’s most famous moorland National Park.
Bustling market towns and villages on the outskirts such as Ivybridge, Tavistock, Yelverton, Bovey Tracy, Buckfastleigh and Okehampton are ideal gateways in, offering a wealth of accommodation options and amenities including tearooms, inns and quirky independent shops. Keen walkers, climbers and outdoor enthusiasts will find an outstanding choice of secluded cottages and beautiful barn conversions right in the heart of Dartmoor around Postbridge. For that special luxury retreat choose a Dartmoor cottage or lodge with private hot tub.
Michelle is an experienced travel writer with iknow and has travelled extensively across the UK, Spain, Portugal and the USA. When she’s not busy writing for iknow she enjoys spending time touring museums and art galleries and seeking out the best independent shops in Manchester and Leeds.