Situated in the heart of Devon, there are a variety of fascinating places to visit on Dartmoor with quaint towns and villages, dramatic gorges and ancient landmarks all vying for your attention. At 368 square miles Dartmoor is one of the country’s largest and most untamed national parks containing vast moorlands and age old woodland making it a popular destination with hikers and those seeking to experience the great outdoors. Below are 5 of the unmissable places to visit on Dartmoor to help you plan your next staycation!
#1 South Devon Railway
The South Devon Railway built in 1872 is a former part of the Great Western Railway and takes passengers 7 miles through the beautiful valley of the River Dart between Buckfastleigh and Totnes. Sit back and enjoy the view on this award winning experience, while relaxing in a vintage carriage pulled by an iconic steam engine through Devon’s spectacular countryside. The tranquil route passes through farms and orchards and you can often spot the rich wildlife in the region, such as birds of prey and kingfishers along the river. For a truly memorable outing why not join the South Devon Railway in the dining carriage for Sunday lunch or an Afternoon Tea? For a fun packed family day out, joint tickets for Dartmoor Otters & Buckfast Butterflies and the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm can be bought with the train ticket.
#2 Castle Drogo
Built between 1911 and 1930, the striking Castle Drogo is the last great castle to be built in England and is an architectural gem - a must see during a visit to Dartmoor! It was designed by Edwin Lutyens (architect of New Delhi) for Julius Drewe, founder of the Home and Colonial stores, who wanted a building which would hark back to his medieval ancestor Drogo de Teigne. Although never fully completed to Lutyens plans due to financial issues and family deaths during the First World War, the colossal building remains an impressive sight on its ridge overlooking the Teign Valley. The castle also has a Grade II listed garden also designed by Lutyens with terraces cut out of the rock offering beautiful vistas over the valley, a rose garden and rhododendron garden.
An ancient stannary town situated on the River Tavy, Tavistock traces its existence back to the foundation of Tavistock Abbey in 961 AD. Its mix of historical architecture, a canal with lovely walks and independent shops make it a memorable location for a day out on the edge of Dartmoor national park. Make sure to head to the famous pannier market for antiques, bric-a-brac and much more! Tavistock is rightly proud of its most famous son, Sir Francis Drake, and its former importance as a major copper mining area. It is now part of a World Heritage Site and is well worth a visit during your stay in Dartmoor!
#4 Lydford Gorge and the Granite Way
The spectacular Lydford Gorge is one of the places that you must not miss during your visit to Dartmoor! It has a rich variety of flora and fauna, magnificent waterfalls and challenging, but rewarding, walking routes. At 30 metres high, the Whitelady waterfall is an unforgettable site with water crashing vertically down through the rocks and greenery into the pool below. If that wasn’t enough there is also the enchantingly named Devil’s Cauldron, a turbulent area of the river Lyd, which is considered the best part of the circular 3 mile walk through the gorge. The surrounding black rocks are assaulted by the fury of the rushing waters, which is heard long before it is seen. Make sure to check out this amazing area, but plan ahead as the paths can be slippery and dangerous at certain times of year.
For more outdoor adventure why not head to the nearby Granite Way? This traffic free cycle route along the edge of Dartmoor offers some wonderful views over the landscape and is perfect for families! This relatively level tarmaced path is suitable for all abilities, whether you are a cycling novice or racing pro. You can cycle all the way from Okehampton to Lydford and can easily make it part of your visit to the gorge. The Granite Way is beautiful in all seasons with some lovely bluebell woods in Spring, rich wildlife in Summer, the changing colours of the braken in Autumn and the stark beauty of the moors inleafless Winter. You can hire a bike from the friendly people behind Devon Cycle Hire for the day and there is also space to park up your motorhome for free. They have everything you could need for the perfect cycle trip with child seats, dog buggies, free helmets and more! There is even a Tramper for hire through the Countryside Mobility scheme. Head to the Granite Way and explore the wonderful nature of this stunning region.
#5 Brent Tor
One of the many tors on Dartmoor, Brent Tor is certainly the most mysterious! The tor is a unique example of a carboniferous basaltic volcano and unlike many other tors in the area it is not made from granite, but basaltic lava. This lava solidified as it flowed into the sea over 350 millions years ago. The distinctive tor has since dominated the Dartmoor landscape and been used as an Iron Age hillfort and later as a lookout point with the church of St. Michel de Rupe at its mount. The tor is well worth a visit for its dramatic setting alone, with great views across Dartmoor from the top!
Places to stay in Dartmoor
There are so many places to stay in and around Dartmoor and making a choice from all these options can be quite difficult. Below you will find a list of three of our favourite campsites in the region to help you plan your perfect Dartmoor getaway!
Langstone Manor Park, Tavistock
Located on the south-west edge of Dartmoor, Langstone Manor Park is perfectly placed for exploring the region. Its delightful setting in a wooded valley makes it the ideal escape where you can relax and discover the wonderful nature just on its doorstep. It has a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2018 and award winning facilities which include pitches in a former walled garden or in the Daffodil field with views of the moors, amenity blocks with underfloor heating and a dedicated family bathroom, and portable toilet liquid and grey-water disposal sites. The park is also part of the David Bellamy Conservation scheme and were given special recognition for the environmental measures they have in place.
Woodland Springs Touring Park, Venton
Just on the doorstep of Dartmoor you will find adult only Woodland Springs Touring Park, set in beautiful countryside and a haven for wildlife. It is a wonderful place to stay! There are a host of fantastic walks to be enjoyed on the moor from the park and you also have the opportunity to swim, golf, fish or horseride nearby. Guests can make the most of the award winning toilet and shower blocks with hot water and central heating, as well as the laundry and dishwashing room. The park is very pet friendly, even offering day kennels to hire if you need to go somewhere without your dog! There is also a small shop selling essentials, including wine, local beers and ciders and you can even order fresh baked bread every morning.
Churchill Farm Campsite, Buckfastleigh
Situated on a hill with panoramic views of Dartmoor, Churchill Farm Campsite is a a working beef and dairy farm between Buckfastleigh and Buckfast. It is in a wonderful location with Dartmoor and the market town of Totnes just a short drive away. The South Devon Railway and Buckfast Abbey are within walking distance, as are many charming pubs and shops in the nearby village. It has only 25 pitches with access to hot showers, toilets, a family bathroom, electric hook-ups and waste disposal. The campsite has won the AA Best Small Campsite of the Year and has everything you could need for a wonderful stay in Dartmoor!
Lydford Caravan and Camping Park, Lydford
Sat midway between the north and south Devon coasts and a short distance to the unmissable Lydford Gorge, Lydford Caravan and Camping Park is well located for discovering Dartmoor. As well as the nearby Granite Way cycle route, which runs all the way to Okehampton (9 miles), there are an abundance of stunning local walking routes. The campsite offers hard and grass pitches with electric hook-ups and access to lovely shower and toilet blocks, dishwashing and laundry areas. The Crown Inn pub and many other quaint establishments offering home cooked fare are all within an easy walk of the site.