Any visitor to England’s West Country will not fail to appreciate the wild and unspoilt scenery they will surely encounter on Dartmoor in the very heart of South Devon.
Covering some 954 square kilometres, Dartmoor is rich in sites of antiquity and places of archaeological interest and is famous for its granite hills known as ‘Tors.’ Taking its name from the river Dart, Dartmoor is as picturesque as anyone can imagine with its wooded valleys glades and waterfalls. Once dismissed as a barren wilderness in previous centuries and renowned for its peat bogs and ponies, the area is now one of the UK’s major tourist centres and is a protected area.
Camping and caravanning enthusiasts will love Dartmoor and will appreciate the chance to explore the landscape at their leisure.
In order to visit Dartmoor it is likely you will stay in Plymouth which is Devon’s city by the sea. Is not only a hive of activity for shoppers but also serves as a base for anyone wishing to explore the rest of the county. Dartmoor National Park is also easily accessible from Exeter which has an international airport and is located on the main London to Penzance railway line.
Head north from Plymouth towards Tavistock on the A38 and soon you will be in Dartmoor itself only twelve miles from the coast.
Lovers of horses will want to see the Dartmoor ponies that roam the moors and add to its wild and windswept landscape. Although most visitors will come in summer, Dartmoor can provide the discerning tourist with a breathtaking experience at any time of year. In August there will be a marvellous display of purple heather over the undulating moors and during the winter the snow blankets the landscape.
The moors have been the setting for such famous stories as ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ due to its eerie and desolate feel. In the book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the moorland mists swiftly engulf unfortunate victims who have strayed from the beaten track leaving them easy prey for the toothsome canine. But it’s only fiction so don’t let that put you off visiting Dartmoor – there are many reasons for visiting that will be sure to make your visit memorable and worthwhile.
Why not try a Devonshire cream tea? There are many ‘Olde worlde tea shoppes’ which will provide hearty afternoon refreshments after a brisk walk on the moors. Offering a selection of home made scones and jam topped with lashings of clotted cream such places are reason enough to visit Dartmoor – and for those who prefer something savoury, nothing will beat a pint of Devon cider and a ploughman’s lunch at one of the county’s fine roadside Inns.
The photographer will be delighted with the plethora of places that can be described as areas of outstanding natural beauty. Burrator Reservoir which provides Plymouth with its water supply is a popular beauty spot for a Sunday afternoon’s drive.
History buffs will love places such as Buckland Monachorum and Buckland Abbey at Yelverton which is owned by the National Trust. Originally built by Cistercian monks and later the home of Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Francis Drake, this is a house with history. Here you can admire the bluebells in spring and dress up in a Tudor costume
Many have visited Dartmoor through no choice of their own; Dartmoor Prison at Princeton is one of the UK’S oldest established prisons and can almost be described as tourist attraction in its own right. The grey granite walls hewn from the landscape add to the bleakness on a dreary day. The prison has a museum so any one interested in the history of crime and punishment would enjoy a visit. The town of Princetown is a colourful relief from the starkness of the prison and you can enjoy a hearty lunch at many of the welcoming pubs nearby.
Steam enthusiasts will find that the Dartmoor Railway is reason enough to visit the region. The line will carry you to the edge of Dartmoor and is a popular means of discovering the area for those staying in mid and North Devon.
Families with children will love the Dartmoor Zoological park at Sparkwell located only five miles from Plymouth where animals from all over the world can be seen in a delightful setting. The zoo is a family run business and their success story is the subject of a book and a forthcoming Hollywood movie.
Dartmoor has something for everyone not only the outdoor enthusiast; even those with restricted mobility can take Day trips to all the popular points of interest. For those who want a short break from city life and a few days of quiet seclusion in the country why not hire a quaint cottage in the heart of Devon to fully appreciate all that Dartmoor has to offer.