Dartmoor is a designated National Park. It consists of 368 square miles (954 sq km) of bleak granite upland set in the heart of Devon. There are large areas of peat bog covered in gorse and heather and providing meagre grazing for the semi-wild Dartmoor ponies that roam the moor.
Rugged Granite Outcrops on Dartmoor © Hannah Benney
Great up-thrusts of weathered granite, known as Tors, break the monotony and the rapidly changing weather with its incessant rain, mist and low cloud can create a gloomy atmosphere. This atmosphere was used to good effect by Conan Doyle in his famous mystery novel "The Hound of the Baskervilles".
When the sun shines, however, Dartmoor often wears a friendlier face and, in fact, the moor has not always been as bleak. Back in the Bronze age, the climate was warmer and the hills softened with trees. In those days, men farmed the moor and today the remains of their homes and villages and of great stone circles can still be found. Just two roads brave the moor crossing and these meet at Two Bridges, close by Princetown with its notorious old prison. An army training area occupies the northern section of the moor and visitors should heed the "live fire" warning signs. The remaining moorland areas are a playground for the hardier breed of tourist.
Tourist Information Centre:
|High Moorland Visitor Centre, Duchy Building, Tavistock Road, Princetown, Devon PL20 6QF - Tel: 01822 890 414|
This picturesque moorland village is famed for its staring role in the old Devonshire Song "Widecombe Fair" which tells the sad tale of Tom Pearce's old mare, who not surprisingly died on his way to the annual fair carrying: "Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawk, and old uncle Tom Cobley and all". Another old wives tale tells of the day back in 1638 when the church was apparently struck by ball lightning during a severe thunderstorm and the blame was placed on a personal visit the Devil himself paid to the village.
Grimspound, the best known of Moor's Bronze Age settlements, lies just to the north of Widecombe. It consists of 24 hut circles surrounded by a low stone wall. The name is said derive from Grim (or Odin), the Anglo Saxon god of war.
Castle Drogo is something of a fairy-tale castle built near to Drewsteignton on the north-east edge of the moor. More about Castle Drogo...
Fingle Bridge with its worn stone arches sits firm in this spectacular gorge and carries an ancient mule track across the river and away through the trees. An Inn nearby provides a place to rest and enjoy the tranquility of this sylvan spot.
Haytor is a 1499 ft (457 m) granite outcrop on the eastern side of the moor. It can be reached by road and is a popular beauty spot that provides fine views across the rolling hills to the coastline and Teign estuary.
Situated near to Moretonhampstead on the east edge of the Moor is one of the highest Tors and offers a panoramic view eastward to Haldon Forest, with Belvedere Monument just visible on the skyline.
The village of Postbridge's lies at the centre of Dartmoor and is said to have the finest clapper bridge in Devon. The ancient stone bridge crosses the East Dart River just a short distance from the main road bridge and can be seen as you drive through the village. It is made up of four large granite slabs supported by three granite pillars. The slabs are over 4m long and 2m wide and weigh over 8 tons. Clapper bridges were constructed in the 13/14th Centuries and are unique to the Dartmoor area. There are 30 such bridges on Dartmoor which were used by old-time farmers and travellers to cross the many streams found on the moors.
Dartmeet is a popular tourist spot in the centre of the Moor at the place where the East and West Dart meet to form the Dart itself. There is a large car park, an old road bridge dating from 1792 and a partially collapsed clapper bridge.