DARTMOORDartmoor is situated in the county of Devon in the South West of England,a National Park of outstanding beauty and with a rich history.
DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARKDartmoor National Park covers an area of 368 square miles. The largest, and wildest, area of open country in Southern England. Nearly half of this is open moorland,with a further 11% covered by forests and woodland.
Dartmoor dominates South Devon, and provides quite a contrast to the milder southern costal resorts. The upland area of Dartmoor is wide and boggy, broken by dramatic and rocky windswept Tors. The river Dart rolls through the moor, effectively slicing it in two. In the summer, purple and yellow heather and gorse carpet the ground, softening the harshness of the area. The edges of Dartmoor have a gentler aspect with wooded valleys and streams, ancient bridges, winding lanes, farmhouses and farmland.
There is a wide range of flora and fauna, many plants and animals being uniquely adapted to life on the inhospitable ground of the High Moor. Every age of man has left some impression on the Moor. It is an area that offers so many interests for the prospective visitor to discover during all seasons of the year.
Dartmoor isn't just wild, it's special too. There are nature reserves and sites of Special Scientific Interest, endangered birds and rare plants, and thousands of archaeological sites, including burial chambers, stone circles and menhirs - more than anywhere else in Europe.
PREHISTORIC DARTMOOR370 million years back, just think what it must have been like on Dartmoor at the time of its origins.A lot has happened on the prehistoric moors in its time: dinosaurs once roamed its vast expanses, and giant redwoods grew majestically. Then, there were the years of turbulence - of volcanoes, earthquakes and ice-ages, and we know that Dartmoor has been beneath the sea - not once but twice - and possibly on even more occasions.
Since prehistoric times Dartmoor has been a place of settled and industrial activity.There is abundant evidence of Bronze and Iron Age settlers littered across the landscape of the High Moor. The Saxons used Dartmoor as an administrative centre, with kings such as Harold, Ethelred and Edward all using the North Dartmoor as a location for their royal mint.
Following the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror met Saxon resistance in the West Country and was forced to establish numerous castles to defend their new Manors. Okehampton Castle is a prime example, standing on a prominent position commanding access through the West Okement approaches on the main route around the North of Dartmoor.
The granite rock is a wealth of natural resources. Miners extracted lodes of Tin, Copper, Arsenic, Lead, Zinc, Silver and Iron by digging tunnels and latterly shafts. Records show that Tin mining was well established on Dartmoor prior to 1200 AD. The Victorians developed a significant quarry to the West of Okehampton, where the Meldon Viaduct stands an example of Victorian engineering which is now a scheduled ancient monument. Climate change drove the early settlers off the moors, leaving the landscape primarily to pasture. The damp rugged vales and dry granite topped Tors have a historic beauty, largely unspoilt and awaiting the anxious adventurer.
ASHBURTON. South Dartmoor.Ashburton is an attractive town, slate-hung fronts on many buildings. Variety of shops and historic buildings, including St Lawrence Chapel. Stannary town 1305, past prosperity built on tin and wool.
BERE FERRERS.West Dartmoor.During the medieval period silver mines were worked extensively by the Crown on the Bere Ferrers peninsula, between the Tamar and Tavy rivers south of Tavistock.
BOVEY TRACEY. East Dartmoor.Pleasant town on River Bovey just outside National Park. Good walking and viewpoint at nearby Haytor. In 12thC De Tracey family acquired lands at Parke, the site of 19thC mansion (NT)
BRENTOR. West Dartmoor.
Pleasant village with 19th Century church. Dominated by nearby Brent Tor where 13thC church, St Michael de Rupe, crowns 1100ft volcanic precipice.
BUCKFAST. South Dartmoor.Site of Buckfast Abbey, living Benedictine monastery.
BUCKFASTLEIGH.South Dartmoor.Quaint, unspoilt town, good base for walking and cycling. Weekly farmers' market and interesting shops selling arts and crafts.
BUCKLAND IN THE MOOR. The High Moors.
Cluster of thatched, streamside cottages overlooking woodland of Holne Chase. Church clock face where my dear mother replaces numerals.
CHAGFORD. East Dartmoor.Delightful, unspoilt town on slopes above River Teign, where fishing, walking and other outdoor pursuits popular. Square dominated by pepper pot market house. Interesting shops.Visit Chagford Swimming Pool
DARTMEET. The High Moors.Famous beauty spot, where east and west branches of River Dart meet in steep, wooded valley. Fine clapper bridge.
HATHERLEIGH. North Dartmoor.Ancient town of cob and thatch cottages in the heart of Ruby Country. Parish church of St John dates from 15thC; Tuesday morning market dates from 1693.
LUSTLEIGH. East Dartmoor.One of Dartmoor's prettiest villages. Thatched cottages, 15th Century church, cricket ground and 16th Century inn. Excellent village shops.
LYDFORD. North Dartmoor.Secluded village established late 9th Century dominated by castle, 1195. Ornamental bench ends, St Petrock's church, show Dartmoor plants, birds and animals framing saints and martyrs.
MORETONHAMPSTEAD. East Dartmoor.Attractive market town, gateway to eastern Moor. Unusual 2-storey arcaded almshouses. 15th Century church and interesting buildings near square. Open air swimming pool, variety of crafts. Superb walks.
OKEHAMPTON. North Dartmoor.Attractive town, gateway to wild north Moor; ideal base for walkers. Narrow lanes converge on wide, main street with town hall, built as dwelling, 1685. Castle ruins on beautiful site above West Okement.
PRINCETOWN. The High Moors.
Small town, 1300ft, highest on Moor. Dominated by Dartmoor Prison since 1805, when prisoners from American War of Independence and Napoleonic Wars first jailed.
The area is steeped in ancient history, folklore, eerie and exotic tales and legends, the presence of the prison adding an authenticity and backdrop to these stories. Dartmoor is said to be full of ghosts. There are a couple in Princetown. French and American prisoners from the early 19th century have been seen in the Plume & Feathers Pub and in Dartmoor Prison. Watch out for the Hairy Hands - which grab the steering wheels of vehicles, forcing them off the road - on the drive from Moretonhampstead to Princetown! There are many reminders, however, of real life lived on the moor over the years: hut circles, burial chambers, standing stones and crosses can be seen at every turn.
TAVISTOCK. West Dartmoor.Charming market town, on River Tavy. Riverside walk and trout fishery. Interesting architecture, and a wealth of shops and restaurants. Covered Pannier Market.
TWO BRIDGES. The High Moors.Scattered hamlet where two main roads and West Dart and Cowsick rivers converge. Bridges here since ancient times hence name of village and also its famous hotel, which replaced Saracen's Head.
WIDECOMBE IN THE MOOR. The High Moors.Immortalised by the well-known song featuring Uncle Tom Cobley and all, one of the most picturesque villages on Moor. St Pancras church, the cathedral of the Moor; 120 ft tower.