How do we even start trying to describe the beautiful landscape and features of Dartmoor National Park? There are 368 square miles of granite Tors, steep wooded river valleys, heather-covered moorland and time-forgotten villages.
Every day, people visit Dartmoor to enjoy the spectacular open views, take in nature and wildlife, take a gentle stroll or do something more sporting. There are castles and history here, the highest point in the South West and lower England is found on Dartmoor and there are many attractions and beauty spots the family can experience.
The only question is, where do you start? We’ve pulled together our top 5 places in Dartmoor that we highly recommend you plan for your Dartmoor visit...
We’re going to cheat a little with this first one and suggest a number of Tors to visit, as they are found throughout the almost barren moorland and it can be easy to walk from one to another.
A Tor is a name given to a land formation where free-standing rocks rise from the surrounding slopes of a rounded hill, and there are many in Dartmoor...
This is perhaps one of the most popular Tors and is easy to reach. Visit on a sunny day to join other people in making most of the views and climbing the rock formation.
A road passes underneath with lots of parking places. For those passing, pop on up and take in the sights where the land drops away. But for those looking for a longer trip to stretch the legs, the nearby Saddle and Rippon Tors mean a longer walk is easily achieved.
High Willhays and Yes Tor
High Willhays, at 621 meters, is the highest point in Dartmoor, the South West and the UK south of the Brecon Beacons in Wales.
Yes Tor is the second highest point, at 619 meters. They are connected by a simple path overlooking the surrounding moorland and are reachable from parking at the nearby Meldon Reservoir for the easiest route to the summits.
From the top of both Tors are 360 views and rock piles to pose against for the camera. Being so high, and right in the centre of Dartmoor and Devon, the weather can be as wild and unpredictable as the moors but you’ll regret missing the opportunity to visit.
It may look like a scene from a historical film set in another country, but Brent Tor is one of the most impressive rock outcrops in Dartmoor. Plus, with St Michael de Rupe Church on top, it’s a breathtaking sight from below and at the top.
The church is 19th century. A mythical story claims the church was built by a wealthy merchant to give thanks to God. But whilst it was being built, the Devil moved it to the top of the hill to stop the villagers from worshipping, so they decided to leave it there as they were now closer to God. Whatever the reasoning for the placement of the church, a walk around and up the hill from the nearby car park, whether you want to enter the building or not, is well worth the effort.
2. Okehampton Castle
The remains of the largest castle in Devon stand proudly in an area of woodland and beautiful scenery, Okehampton Castle is an English Heritage site found to the very north of Dartmoor. Spend your time there exploring the extensive ruins, listening to its history via the audio tour, walking through the surrounding countryside and even enjoy a picnic by the river that flows through the grounds.
The site is said to be haunted. It began taking shape in days of the Norman Conquest before a grand castle in the 14th century. Sadly in 1538 it was abandoned and left to decline.
But to this day Okehampton Castle is a must visit for those looking to experience all Dartmoor has to offer.
3. Postbridge Clapper Bridge and Bellever Forest
Found right in the heart of the National Park, visiting Postbridge encompasses everything Dartmoor has to offer, making it a must visit. The central position, friendly village atmosphere and beautiful moorland scenery show Dartmoor at its best!
The village itself is remote and forgotten in time, where a classic Post Office provides cream teas and ice cream. The East Dart River flows past the village, where a Clapper Bridge (pictured above) dates back to the 12th century and an 18th-century granite bridge is right next to it for cars.
It’s also in Postbridge that you’ll find one of three Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centres spread over the moors. Pop in for gifts and all the information there is on the area.
Not far away, by car or foot, is Bellever Forest. This pine tree forest surrounds a Tor that raises up 443 meters above sea level. Plus a pretty river flows through it, making for some amazing walking routes.
There are three set walking paths, each one taking a different route with various lengths, details can be found at the visitor centre in the Bellever carpark. Whether you go up to the top of the Tor or down to the water, you’re sure to be taken back by the stunning beauty of the place. Keep an eye out for lots of wildlife including Dartmoor ponies, and see if you can find another historical Clapper Bridge in the forest.
4. Lydford Gorge
A trip to Lydford Gorge is full of surprises. The deepest gorge in the South West is filled with walks, wildlife and stunning scenery along the bottom of the gorge. Two highlights of Lydford are the waterfalls and the eerily named Devil's Cauldron!
Whitelady Waterfall is 30 meters high, and the Devil’s Cauldron pothole is viewable from a platform above. You’ll hear the water rumbling through the valley from the cauldron before you see it. There are many other hidden treats between the two.
With the walls towering up over you, a walk through the gorge goes in a circular motion. On each end is a National Trust centre with shops, dining facilities, toilets and picnic areas. Car parking can be found at either the Whitelady Waterfall or the Devil’s Cauldron end, and visitors can enjoy the unique walks between the two.
Found on the eastern edge of Dartmoor, Lydford Gorge has walks that last 45 minutes or the whole route can be completed in 2 hours. Alternatively, spend the whole day here losing yourself in the gorge and wandering the surrounding routes.
5. Burrator Reservoir
Last on our list is Burrator Reservoir, situated within Dartmoor near Plymouth and Tavistock. Many people visit Burrator to enjoy the tranquil water and peaceful woodland surrounding it, a contrast to the usual Dartmoor moors.
Surprisingly, Dartmoor (and Devon in general) has relatively few lakes, making Burrator a rare find.
Lazy days by the water’s edge can be spent relaxing on a natural beach or on the green grass, strolling around the woodland or fishing for rainbow and brown trout (permit needed).
As an added bonus, to the left of the reservoir as you approach, leave your car by a waterfall to make the sights extra special.
Accommodation for Dartmoor
With two hotels on the coast in stunning Sidmouth, and a central hotel just outside Exeter, you're never more than an hour and a half drive to our 5 places to visit in Dartmoor if you decide to stay at a Brend Hotel. And the drive through the stunning scenery is worth the effort. Discover The Belmont, The Victoria and The Devon Hotel here...