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A Dozen Things To Do On Dartmoor

Posted by Jonathan

Dartmoor is famous for its rugged beauty, its numerous tors (the rocky outcrops), miles of open spaces as well as some notable areas of woodland.

The iconic moss-caked trees of Wistman’s Wood appear in many photos of the National Park.

It is a vast area and visitors can find it challenging to plan a trip to Dartmoor. So here is our list of the dozen recommended things to do when visiting.

The air is so clean and fresh up on the moor. If you are used to city living, you will feel like a weight has been lifted from your chest. You will probably sleep very soundly that night!


One small step or one giant leap?

1. A walk down memory lane at Okehampton Castle – the largest castle ruin in Devon

The barbican as viewed from the east. Dan Spencer

Okehampton Castle is an historical motte and bailey castle was begun in the late eleventh century. Beautifully capturing a life once lived, the castle has charmed many historical admirers. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spent time here as well as in Princetown. Some say that Hound Tor and this castle may have inspired the “Hound of the Baskervilles” novel featuring the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. More recently Dr Dan Spencer visited it and wrote this blog

The Chapel and Priest’s Lodging as viewed from the south. Dan Spencer

Journey back to the fourteenth-century when the Castle was converted into a magnificent residence by the Earl of Devon. Imagine the great feasts that visitors enjoyed then or immerse yourself in a beautiful walk through the once adjoining 1,700 acres of deer parks. Okehampton Castle is the perfect afternoon walk for your weekend getaway.

2. Learn about bygone lives at the Museum of Dartmoor Life

The Museum of Dartmoor Life. Tim Sandles

Okehampton was once a prosperous town in the late-Victorian/Edwardian era. Life then is now perfectly preserved at the Museum of Dartmoor Life in Okehampton. It is a relatively small museum, but it has an extensive story to tell. You can journey through Dartmoor’s history since the Bronze Age via the 3-floor myriad of artefacts and interactive displays showing the town’s traditional industries such as glassmaking, quarrying, agriculture, mining, and rural crafts.

Museum staff and volunteers provide informative explanations for people of all ages. A free pass gives you the chance to revisit the museum multiple times throughout the year.  It is museums like this which have fuelled the love for Dartmoor in people like Tim Sandles. Tim wrote an extensive blog on the wonders that the Museum of Dartmoor Life has to offers.

3. Admire art in nature at Stone Lane Gardens

A short drive from Okehampton is Stone Lane Gardens. A combination of Art and Conservation in tranquil 5-acre woodland, the garden is home to various rare trees notably, the National Collections of Birch and Alder trees.

A creation of Kenneth and June Ashburner, the garden has expanded to house open-air sculptures and an annual exhibition. In 1995 it was awarded “National Collection” status and in 2015 it was awarded “Scientific Status” for the Birch collection. In 2019, Stone Lane Gardens became an RHS Partner Garden.

Stone Lane Gardens is well praised for the beautiful selections of unique birch trees, including the rare and endangered Mingelion Birch from the Caucasus. Beautifully captured by Malc & Jude Mollart in their blog post on a walk-in Stone Lane Gardens, we highly recommend this peaceful garden as a pleasant woodland wander.

4. Taste a pint of ale at The Nobody Inn at Doddiscombsleigh

Towards the East of Dartmoor is a charming 16th-century inn in the village of Doddiscombsleigh. Visitors and locals alike have trusted the inn for years for the fresh local produce and especially their extensive selection of more than 250 wines, 240 whiskies and excellent ales such as Jail Ale (brewed at Princetown on Dartmoor).

Authentic décor and plenty of character aside, the inn has received the “Best Restaurant” award in 2019/2020 by Food & Drink Devon as well as “UK Inn of the Year” by The Good Hotel Guide in 2017.

The Nobody Inn Website

5. Sip tea at Primrose Tea Rooms

Solo Sophie

After a long walk on the Moor, Primrose Tea Rooms in Lustleigh is the place to go for a welcoming afternoon tea. Many visitors have fallen in love with the various homemade treats: cakes, rolls and fruit scones are accompanied by the best cream tea one could wish for.

The shop’s wide bay windows are the perfect spot to watch the world go by, as recommended by Sophie Nadeau writing as Solo Sophie. This is just one of the many must-visit spots that she has found when visiting Lustleigh – which we think is possibly the prettiest village on Dartmoor.

6. Guided Pony Walk

Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust Gallery

Experience the wonders of Dartmoor in the safe and capable hand and under the guidance of qualified Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust Guides. 

They will take you on a free walk at Bellever and show you the flora, fauna, history, archaeology, wildlife and especially ponies of Dartmoor.

Dogs on leads are allowed. All walks have to be pre-booked

Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust

7. Walk llamas at Dartmoor Alpaca & Llama Walks

Dartmoor Alpaca & Llama Walks started as a small family farm of Alpacas. As the farm grew, they introduced llamas and eventually, llama walks on the Moor and now a llama walking business.  

The farm offers various walks during which you can admire the beauty of Dartmoor National Park. You can choose from, amongst others, the Hot Choc Walk, Cream Tea Walk, and the Lunch Walk with lunch or refreshments.  The Meet & Greet sessions are tailored for people who do not want to walk but want to learn about alpacas and llamas.

The walks are a fun experience for couples, as well as friends and families alike, which etched a permanent grin on the faces of all Mags Nixon’s family members, as shared in details on her Llama Walking In Devon blog.

8. Walk your dog at Wistman’s Wood from Two Bridges Hotel

Wistman's Wood. Portia Crossley

Wistman’s Wood is on the Western slopes of the River Dart valley and it is famous for its eerily beautiful moss-covered tangled old oak trees. The 3.5 hectares of dwarf woods mesmerise visitors with their mystical intertwining trees layered with spongy moss and more than 100 types of lichen wrapped around granite boulders. Along the way local sheep, ponies and cattle greet trekkers as they pass.

To start the walk, park at The Two Bridges Hotel, then head in the direction of Wistman’s Wood, through the Tors before coming back to the Hotel for a refreshing afternoon tea and a delicious pint of Jail Ale which would have been brewed just a couple of miles away in Princetown. A walk here has been described in detail by a Devon-based photographer Portia Crossley when she visited with her husband Reuben and their four-legged friend Ia.

TripAdvisor says that a visit to Wildwood Art Gallery is the Number One thing to do in Horrabridge. The independent gallery was established in 2016 by artist Cheri Hunston with the work of like-minded artists in focus.

The Gallery’s wide variety of artworks from traditional, post-war investment art to modern and contemporary fine art in various mediums and textiles will keep you thoroughly engaged. The primary focus is Dartmoor, the Southwest and British wildlife. There is also a good selection of jewellery, ceramics and crafts from local artists and artisans.  

https://www.wildwoodartsdartmoor.co.uk/

10. Explore the wild at Tamar Trails Centre

Serious Outdoor Skills

Tamar Trails Centre in the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a place for outdoor lovers to learn, explore and have fun. In an area of steep wooded valleys, a slow-flowing river and overgrown riverbanks, visitors to the Tamar Trails can explore the old transport systems of canals and tramways, which are all part of the Tamar’s rich mining history and heritage.

You are spoilt for choice with exciting activities, from walking, running, horse riding, cycling, studying wildlife and the natural world to tree-surfing, shooting archery, canoeing, downhill mountain biking and indoor climbing. The River Tamar scenery is stunning. Experienced and adventurous souls can even go on a unique 3-day canoe expedition on the River Tamar, as shared in the Serious Outdoor Skills blog.

11. Haytor, Hound Tor and Jay’s Grave

No list of things to do on Dartmoor would be complete without including a visit to a Tor or two. There are two easily accessible Tors on the Eastern side of Dartmoor: Haytor and Hound Tor.

Haytor is predominantly two large solid granite mounds that thousands of people have been able to climb to the top of over the years as steps and footholds have been carved into the locations which otherwise might be tricky. On a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction from the top of the taller one.

Having conquered Haytor, you should hop back into the car and drive the short distance over to Hound Tor.

Houndtor

Hound Tor, as mentioned earlier, may have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when writing “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. By comparison to Haytor, Hound Tor is much more spread out with individual, intricate granite structures. Again, you can climb up and on to the Tor.

Another great photo opportunity!

Beyond the Tor is the ancient settlement. All that is visible now is the outline of the buildings which once stood. The walls are now no more than a few feet tall. All we can think is that it must have been a cold, hard existence! Emma took a walk around Hound Tor and the medieval village. Her blog is here.

Jay's Grave

As it is so close to where you are likely to have parked, it is worth mentioning the sad tale of Kitty Jay whose burial place is less than a mile away.

You can read various accounts of her unfortunately short life and her unassuming burial location which has drawn so many visitors over the years partly because of the myth surrounding the fact that there are always fresh flowers placed carefully on her grave and nobody knows who leaves them.

The legend of Kitty Jay

12. Lydford Gorge

At Lydford Gorge, there are various walks you can take totalling about 3.5 miles. The Gorge is beautiful, surrounded by lush greenery, birds, insects, and other wildlife.

The River Lyd captured the River Burn 450,000 years ago, which changed the course of the Lyd and in the process, Whitelady Waterfall was formed.

Whitelady is over 28 metres tall.

Lydford Gorge

There are plenty of things to do on Dartmoor to meet all kinds of needs, especially for those who enjoy good food, excellent drinks, and many interesting walks in the green woodland.

Walking Books have a huge selection of books and guides which you can check out for further inspiration.

Whatever you do though, if you are out walking on Dartmoor, you should always make sure you have appropriate clothing as the weather can change in an instant. Take a charged mobile telephone, and if you can lay your hands on one, an old-fashioned compass.

If you visit Dartmoor, why not book to stay at our Devon holiday cottages or city apartment?

Our convenient locations and full self-catering facilities will bring you that much-deserved rest after all the fun yet tiring explorations the Moor has to offer. Enjoy your time on Dartmoor with The Extra Mile Accommodation.

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