The picturesque landscape of Dartmoor National Park is as diverse as it is beautiful. With awe-inspiring granite tors, gushing rivers, waterfalls, rolling valleys, ancient forests and picturesque views around every corner, it is an area that leaves you invigorated and inspired.
Dartmoor has far more to offer than simply a glorious landscape, though. With the largest number of archaeological remains in Europe, the abundant stone circles, menhirs, stone crosses and ancient villages are guaranteed to take you back in time.
Owing to the height and geology of Dartmoor, it has been subject to very little intensive farming - and wildlife has thrived. Rare birds, butterflies and insects inhabit the skies, while little-seen Lichens flourish. Dartmoor ponies are an iconic sight for any visitor too. The semi-wild herds roam the park freely, providing picture-perfect moments.
Dartmoor is known for its folklore and legends. The mythical moors are supposedly home to pixies, a headless horseman, spectral hounds, and a large black dog, to name a few. The devil was even said to have paid a visit to the postcard village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor during the Great Thunderstorm of 1638.
Possibly the most interesting fact about Dartmoor, however, is that it is the only place in England where Wild Camping is allowed. Thanks to the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985, individuals or small groups can camp up to two nights without asking landowner permission. So long as you choose a spot sensibly - well away from roads and civilization - take your rubbish home and do not light fires, the solitude and tranquility is all yours (just watch out for the headless horseman).
While the landscape can sometimes be challenging and extreme, it is also peaceful and leisurely; blossoming into a new character every season. Whatever the month, Dartmoor is always breathtaking. However, always be well-prepared when tackling more ambitious routes.
These seven handpicked routes serve as an introduction to this rugged and beautiful landscape. All the main points of interest are covered and, whatever mood you are in, there will definitely be something for you here.
While most of these routes are intermediate, many can be easily extended. On Classic Tors on Dartmoor, try a diversion up to the Bowerman’s Nose, a Highlight close to Haytor - or even try extending that route up to Grimspound. If you are hungry for more on the Clapper Bridge to East Dart Waterfall route, why not try incorporating the Lower White Tor, Higher White Tor and Rough Tor? The great thing about Dartmoor is that the paths are plentiful and the attractions abundant, so get out there and start exploring.
A good base for your Dartmoor visit is the Stannary town of Chagford. Renowned as a haven for artists and creative types, its 15th and 16th century buildings, independent shops, great selection of cafes and restaurants, and good public bus links make it the perfect place to explore the national park.
Chgaford bus times: bustimes.org/localities/chagford
General Dartmoor travel information: visitdartmoor.co.uk/visitor-info/travel-information
If this happens to be your first visit to Dartmoor, this route is the perfect introduction. If you have visited before, what better way to fall back in love with the landscape?
This superb route takes you to ten iconic Dartmoor tors, some famous historical points, and includes plenty of fantastic views. This area of the national park is also very popular with another native - the Dartmoor pony. You will, no-doubt, bump into the semi-wild herds plenty of times here.
Right at the start, prepare to be amazed by Haytor Rocks. The much-photographed landmark is even more impressive when you experience it first-hand. If you climb to the top, you can experience panoramic views (it is also a great vantage point for sunrise and sunset).
From there, the sights - and tors - keep coming thick and fast. The imposing rocky outcrop of Hound Tor is arguably the best viewpoint in the national park.
The atmospheric remains of Houndtor Village, too, are a prized sight. The settlement comprises a cluster of 13th century stone longhouses on land that was originally farmed in the Bronze Age. From the top of Greator Rocks, there is a fine view over the abandoned village and the surrounding moors.
Take your time on this route; scramble on the tors, take in the views and let the beauty of Dartmoor sink into your soul.
Below the rounded ridge of Hamel Down, is Grimspound, the late Bronze Age circle hut that sheltered legendary detective Sherlock Holmes when he investigated the Hound of the Baskervilles.
When you visit Grimspound today, and indeed the surrounding area, it is easy to see why author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to set the third of the Sherlock Holmes series here; there is a magical, mythical, if a little ominous atmosphere, that is sure to leave one’s inner creative battling to break out.
As well as artistic inspiration, there is plenty of nonfiction to enjoy too; real-life history, views aplenty, abundant wildlife and, surprisingly, relative solitude considering how famous the area is.
Perhaps the best-known prehistoric settlement on Dartmoor, Grimspound comprises the remains of 24 houses within a stone wall. Dating to around 1450-700 BC, the eerie settlement lies in a fold in the hills about 1,500 feet (450 meters) above sea level. As this is the routes namesake, be sure to take plenty time to enjoy the eerie atmosphere here. There is also the ruined remains of a former medieval village at Challacombe to experience.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
This route, or some variation of it, is one of the most famous in Dartmoor. The popularity is for good reason, though. The Teign is Dartmoor’s most iconic river its upper valley boasts sublime views and iconic sights, including the imposing Castle Drogo and Fingle Bridge.
From the market town of Chagford - a wonderful place to explore in its own right - this walk takes you through a beautiful forest of oak, hazel and birch, which is as beautiful as any British woodland, along river pastures and up onto the tops of the gorge to enjoy the views below.
Castle Drogo always looms on the horizon. And whilst a visit is not an essential component, it is highly recommended. A masterpiece of early 20th-century architecture, the castle took 20 years to build and is reminiscent of a stark medieval fortress. There are stunning gardens to enjoy too.
Following the breathtaking Hunters Path, high above the river and the gentle Fisherman’s Path, this route is a glorious way to experience the wonder of Dartmoor.
Can you remember the enchanted forests and haunted woodlands of childhood tales? If you do, then prepare for your dreams to become reality. If you do not - it is time to remember the magic.
Wistman’s Wood is like something from a fairytale. The atmospheric woodland of dwarf oaks and jumbled boulders - covered in dense, surreal moss - is eerie and enchanting. Any moment you could imagine a fairy flying past.
This magical woodland is most likely a leftover from the ancient forest that covered Dartmoor around 7000 BC, the woodland is a genuine journey back in time. The abundant mosses and lichens that festoon the trees and the granite boulders is unrivalled.
The route curves back past Longaford Tor and Littaford Tor, both of which boast equally splendid viewpoints of the countryside.
This route is leisurely and suitable for all abilities. As you could easily march around in under two hours, this route provides the opportunity to thoroughly experience and enjoy the magic that is on offer. Do not rush!
Try a detour to Higher White Tor, Crow Tor, Lydford Tor and Beardown Tors to etend this route.
This easy-going route is a superb way to experience Dartmoor’s beauty, wildlife and history in a leisurely manner. Many of the paths have been improved to ensure that all ages and abilities can enjoy the delights of Fernworthy.
The area is home to some important wildlife habitats and is meticulously managed to ensure the future survival of its inhabitants. You can observe rare species on this route, such as the Marsh Fritillary butterfly and the Bee Hawk moth, both of which are thriving here. Interesting birds such as Snipe, Heron and Grebe can be seen all year round too and can usually be observed from one of the two bird hides, located at the western end of the reservoir in the nature exclusion zone.
There is more than just wildlife here, though. Fernworthy has a plethora of burial cairns, hut circles and old farm buildings that are easily accessible. The most popular archaeological site is Fernworthy Stone Circle. ‘Froggymead’, as it is sometimes called, is a fantastic Bronze Age circle of 27 granite slabs and blocks on a plateau of land within a Forestry Commission plantation.
Sheer water power, combined with geology and climate change, has carved out the awe-inspiring Lydford Gorge, the deepest in the entire South West.
So impressive is the steep-sided and wooded gorge that it has been enjoyed by Dartmoor visitors since the Victorian times.
This leisurely stroll enables you to see all the sights; allowing plenty of time to revel in their breathtaking beauty.
Tucked away on the western fringe of Dartmoor, the awe-inspiring natural attractions at Lydford Gorge include the 98-foot high (30 meter) Whitelady Waterfall and the turbulent pothole known as the ‘Devil’s Cauldron’. Summoning images of witchcraft, myths, legend and folklore, this quirky route will delight young and old alike.
As the seasons change, so does the wildlife of Lydford Gorge. From woodland birds and wild garlic in the spring to diverse fungi in the autumn, it is a fantastic place whatever the season.
This delightful route starts and finishes in Postbridge - a must-see on any visit to Dartmoor.
The picturesque hamlet boasts, what is arguably, the best example of a clapper bridge - an ancient form of bridge - that exists anywhere. The much-photographed bridge is believed to date back to medieval times and would have replaced stepping stones to help packhorses cross the river. Right next to the clapper bridge is the 18th century bridge, also impressive in its own right.
After taking some time to explore Postbridge, follow the East Dart river up to Grey Wethers a pair of impressive prehistoric stone circles. Situated in one of the wildest and most solitary parts of the moor, the Bronze Age stone circles have no less than five legends attached to them. With an eerie, ghostly atmosphere to the area, it is easy to see why these circles are so enshrined in local folklore.
To rid one of the spooky chills, towards the end of the route, take some time to enjoy East Dart Waterfall. Whilst it may not be the biggest of waterfalls, it is in a idyllic location and is a great place to stop for a picnic and, if the weather is right, a splash in the river.