Great things to See & Do on The Dartmoor National Park
Top ten exciting things to see and do on wonderful Dartmoor – ranked!
At the heart of beautiful Devon in the South West of England is the stunning, granite topped and heather covered moorland of The Dartmoor National Park, nearly 1,000 sq km (368 square miles) of Dartmoor beauty spots, stunning hillsides and steep wooded river valleys, glorious rivers and woodlands and famous granite tors. The area is rich in history, wildlife like the Dartmoor ponies and has beautiful and unique features.
Devon is rightly famous for gorgeous beaches, but you can't say you've seen Devon if you haven't seen Dartmoor. Around every corner, there are scenic views that will stay with you forever. So make sure to visit Dartmoor.
Here is our list of 10 great things to visit on Dartmoor for a fun day out.
1. Buckfast Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary
For all those Nature and wildlife lovers this is a must-see, there is lots of fun to be had, as well as things to learn here. The knowledgeable and entertaining Otter Keepers will tell you lots interesting facts about the life of the Otters and their young (Kits) plus they are very cute and exciting things to see.
There are three feeding times a day for the otters, and if your visit coincides with one of these, you are in for a real treat.
The butterflies are simply gorgeous with their striking colours and are so delicate – it is like watching a bouquet take flight. As they breed more than 30 different species of butterfly here, there is lots to see. Make sure you bring your camera to this one!
There are indoor/covered attractions here, too, so this is an excellent place for a family visit, whatever the weather.
2. Lydford Gorge
Lydford Gorge is the deepest river gorge in the South West of England with a marvellous 30m high natural waterfall, a real sight to behold. The National Trust-run attraction consists of a circular walk, starting and ending at the car park, visiting the waterfall.
The path is sometimes steep and rocky, and the round-trip walk is about an hour. You will be walking through mature trees and beautiful, peaceful countryside, often within sight of the water. Dogs are welcome here, but you must keep them on a lead.
There are lots of scenic views, so take a moment on your way around to capture an image as a permanent reminder.
In the heart of the Dartmoor national park, if you want to experience everything Dartmoor has to offer in a single place, you must visit the quaint village of Postbridge. This tiny and friendly village offers unfettered access to the scenery of Dartmoors beautiful moorlands and its many granite tors. It is perfectly positioned right in the middle of the park, so come here to see the Dartmoor Ponies. Because of its remote nature, the village itself feels like time has forgotten it.
Once you are Postbridge there are so many opportunities and places to explore head to Merrivale to visit Great Staple Tor, Roos Tor or Cox tor or head to Prince's hall or Two bridges hotel, an 18th century Hotel.
Princes Hall and Two Bridges as well as the post office at Postbridge all offer amazing cream tea's and meals. Why not try a Dartmoor ale which are made up the road in Princetown about 2 miles away, beat that for local, and whilst your at Two Bridges you can head across the road and follow the path to the out of this world Wistmans Ancient wood.
Wistmans wood is very unique, the woodland itself is thousands of years old, but because it lies next to a river in a damp valley, the lichen that grows on the trees has sapped there energy and kept them small and stunted, hence the oak tree's here are small, twisted and contorted. The druids used to worship here and you can feel the mystical world throughout the woodland.
Be sure to walk over the clapper bridge in Postbridge its from the 12th century! there is also the national park visitors center in the village. This provides the perfect opportunity to study the history of the area and even pick up some souvenirs.
A short walk from Postbridge you will find yourself in one of the Dartmoor National Park green spaces, Bellever forest, see if you can find the other old Clapper Bridge located here. I will give you a clue look for water and a road. Bellever is mainly a pine forest with lots of picnic tables and things to see and do, so take a bite to eat and breath in the fresh air.
4. Buckfast Abbey, Buckfast
Buckfast Abbey was founded in the 11th century by King Canute (yes, the one who couldn't keep the tide out). There was a community of monks here over 1,000 years ago, and there is once again today.
Despite the current Abbey being relatively modern there is so much to see and do around the Abbey. Be sure to check out the impressive interactive display, called 'The Monastic Way Exhibition', which tells more about the monks' lives at Buckfast.
Buckfast used to be part of a pilgrimage route from Buckfast to Tavistock Abbey, the route was marked across dartmoor by a series of 132 individually carved Granite Crosses. The crosses where waymarks to be used during the voyage.
The route still exist today and is know as the Abbots way, many people walk parts of the route when hiking on Dartmoor.
Whilst at Buckfast Abbey check out the beautiful and award-winning gardens, especially the Millennium Garden. If you are visiting in the summer, the Lavender Garden - with over 50 varieties of this useful and colourful plant – is a real treat for the senses.
Buckfast has a justifiably famous restaurant, mainly offering local and seasonal food, which many visitors highly recommend.
When you visit Dartmoor be sure to see the lovely village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor is best known for the song "Are You Going To Widecombe Fair" – and you can, if you happen to be there on the second Tuesday in September, but be warned, it will be busy!
As well as the famous church in the village (called St Pancras, but known at the Cathedral of the Moors), there are other top sights here. Parts of the town date from the 16th century, so there's lots of history, but there are also geographical features nearby, like the famous Shilstone Rocks, one of the famous Dartmoor 'Tors' rocky, granite outcroppings. And you can climb it. There are also several equestrian trails here, for those who like to take to the saddle, and the Shilstone Rocks riding centre can supply a suitable mount. http://www.dartmoorstables.com/
Don't miss a visit to the Rugglestone in which is a real local pub with great food (make sure you duck as you enter though) Visitors also strongly recommend to visit Old Inn as well if you want to sample a classic Dartmoor pub. Be sure to visit the nearby bowerman's nose for a unique tor with some great folk law.
We offer several Photographic Prints and Wall Art of Dartmoor so why not check out our range at Sebastian Coell Photography
6. Moretonhampstead Motor Museum
A real treat for petrol heads (and a mostly indoor attraction, in the event of a rainy day – it does happen on Dartmoor!) is the marvellous Moretonhampstead Motor Museum.
A range of cars and motorcycles dating from the beginning to nearly the end of the twentieth century here, at which you can marvel. There is a fascinating display of motoring-associated artefacts, too – lots to see.
Even the premises are authentic; the exhibitor has housed it in the former Bus Depot. From Rolls Royce to Bubble Car and BSA to Triumph, there is a lot to see and we would highly recommend a visit to this unique collection.
7. Bovey Castle
Experience a taste of luxury on the Moor. The listed Bovey Castle Hotel is one of the best in the South West, the location for the 2017 marriage of British Olympic Diver Tom Daley to Dustin Black, is an oasis of 5-star style set in 275 acres of grounds.
The hotel itself, early 20th century, was built by the WH Smith family's heirs as a private home, then was used by the Great Western Rail company during the height of the Railway's. Many of the rooms are still Railway themed such as the Great Western Dining Room.
Now of course everyone can enjoy the luxurious surroundings and there is much here to see and do from spa facilities and fine dining to outdoor pursuits like archery and even falconry.
Having visited and eaten at Bovey Castle the food and atmosphere are very pleasant, upmarket and unique. Expect silver service and great attention to detail, whilst listening to a live pianist. The price is on the higher end, but we would highly recommend it for a fine dining experience.
8. Miniature Pony Centre, Postbridge
You might have seen the wild Dartmoor ponies on the Moor (please take care – they really are wild animals!) and you might have visited Shilstone Riding Centre, but even so, kids of all ages love Dartmoors Miniature Pony Centre.
With something to do and see in dry weather or wet weather, this is a fantastic attraction. You can book a pony ride for the kids, or maybe they want to take part in a Pony Care session. This fun and educational event will allow participants to learn what goes into caring for these lovely animals. They will get 'hands-on', too!
There are pond walks and nature trails here to enjoy; in addition to the ponies, there are donkeys and pigs to encounter, too.
Indoor and outdoor play areas, children's entertainers and a café add to the list of exciting and enjoyable attractions at this centre, which visitors rate very highly.
The pony Centre can be found along the B3212 roughly in between Mortenhampsted and Postbridge.
9. Tavistock Farmers Market
Sat right on the edge of the Dartmoor National park is Tavistock, a genuine market town. Holding the highly esteemed 'World Heritage' status, visitors rightly respect Tavistock as something special; it is well worth visiting. Wander through the old streets with their variety of independent stores or visit one of the charming hostelries to enjoy an excellent beer. But visit Tavistock on the 2nd, 4th or 5th Saturday of any month for an extra treat; that is when the town holds the Tavistock Farmer's Market.
Fresh, local, seasonal and unique products are on offer, ranging from meat, game and seafood delicacies through locally brewed beer and hand-crafted gin. You can buy locally grown fruit and plants. You might also be lucky enough to catch one of the occasional demonstrations put on by specialists in association with the market, which cover everything from dressing shellfish to crafting hanging baskets.
Tavistock is well worth a visit any day and is a fascinating town, with the Farmer's Market being the icing on the cake.
Moving from Tavistock in the southwest of Dartmoor, we come to Chagford, over in the northeast. Chagford is another picturesque market down with a lovely old octagonal market house in the middle of town nicknamed 'the pepperpot.'
As well as the attractions in Chagford (pubs, tea rooms, cafes, and a delicatessen, to name just some), you are on the gateway of moorland walks with lots to see – more clapper bridges, stone circles, ancient dwellings and so forth.
Another of the rivers that rise on the Moor is nearby, the River Teign. The Teign Gorge is a spectacular sight, and the National Trust-owned Castle Drogo (The last castle to be built in england) overlooks this gorge - We would highly recommend a visit to Teign gorge also known as Fingle Gorge and Fingle woods, you can walk either from Castle Drogo car park or from the Bridge at the Fingle Inn.
Also nearby are the last remaining Dolmen stones on Dartmoor (ancient burial site). This photo here beautifully illustrates this striking feature against a starry night sky.
This is just a handful of the adventures that await you on the Dartmoor National Park with over 368 square miles of moorland to discover
We would also recommend visiting the following great places to see on Dartmoor.
- See the abandoned medieval village of Grimspound or Hound Tor and transport yourself back in time.
- Visit Castle Drogo - The last castle to be built in England, Castle Drogo has just finished a lengthy refurbishment and is a great place to visit with the family.
- Visit the stunning natural woods at Fingle Woods, Fingle woods is a Dartmoor gem in a steep sided valley, the wood has several beautiful tree's and a river flowing through them which make for some great woodland walks. Learn more about Fingle Woods at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fingle-bridge/features/fingle-woods
- Visit the dramatic granite tors of Dartmoor - with over 160 tors to climb and explore, you will be set for weeks worth exploration.
- Explore the ancient woodland at Wistemans wood and be transported to a magical enchanted place with stunning scenery.
- Visit Okehampton Castle to indulge in your medieval history.
- Explore the many ancient clapper bridges like the stunning example at Post bridge
- Visit the ancient stannary town of Ashburton and learn about the history of the area and its stunning surrounding moorland.
- Explore the picturesque Nuns Cross Farm
What's your favorite place to visit on Dartmoor? Let us know in the Comments box below!
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I am a Devon based photographer, who enjoys travel, hiking, rugby and photographing the beautiful world in which we live in, I see photography as a creative expression upon visiting beautiful places. Each picture often tells a story.
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