How to make the most of Dartmoor

Discover hidden gems, secluded spots, beautiful walks and fantastic activities in one of Devon’s most beautiful places.

How to make the most of Dartmoor

Sarah on Mar 31, 2015

Dartmoor National Park is a playground for explorers, adventurers and families. There are miles of ancient woodlands, peaceful rivers and lakes, majestic tors and views which will leave you in absolute awe. With so much to see and discover, where do you start?

Cycle the Dartmoor Way

‘Cycling on an old railway line around King Tor’ by Thierry Gregorius | CC BY - SA 2.0

The 95 mile circular route will challenge even the most confident rider but with the views and scenery of this route, your efforts are guaranteed to be rewarded. The route circles the National Park, meandering beside rivers before climbing steep inclines and tackling tricky uneven terrain. Of course, you don’t have to commit to all 95 miles! Start and end your ride at any point. The route links the major towns of Bovey Tracey, Ivybridge, Tavistock and Okehampton with smaller hamlets and pretty villages. If you feel like challenging yourself, the Highland Moor link will take you straight through the middle from Tavistock to Buckfastleigh taking in Two Bridges and Scorriton.

For the adrenaline seekers

‘Kayak on the River Dart’ by Heather Cowper | CC BY - SA 2.0

While a quiet stroll through heather clad hills may sound perfect to some, not everyone will be satisfied. For adrenaline seekers, there are tons of more active ways to explore the rolling heath. Adventure Okehampton offers a whole range of activities to enjoy from rock climbing up the side of Haytor to canoeing down the River Exe, building rafts or trying your hand at pony trekking. You could even take part in the 'Big Oke Abseil' an exhilarating experience which will see you free-falling from the Meldon Viaduct to the Okement River.

What is Geocaching?

It’s a great way to turn a normal walk into a more exciting adventure. The thrill of a treasure hunt is something we’ll never grow out of, which is why Geocaching is great for families. Geocaching is a similar concept to that of Letterboxing, a pastime which began on Dartmoor during the Victorian times, only this has a fresh and new approach – and an app! Hidden all over the moor and the UK are tiny weather-proof pots, some just containing a small log book, others small objects for geocachers to swap. The app will help you find the cache with hints and tips from other explorers. What’s really exciting is that anyone can start a cache, so you could leave your own personal stamp on the moors!

Fishing

The lakes and reservoirs of Dartmoor are beautiful and popular spots for keen-anglers, offering a range of species from brown and rainbow trout to pike. But that’s not all they are good for. Some are also open for recreational purposes and each lake is surrounded by miles of walking routes and wildlife trails.

‘Fernworthy Reservoir’ by Graeme Churchard | CC BY - SA 2.0

At Fernworthy Reservoir you can follow the marked three-mile route along the edge of the water and through the forest to discover a Special Protection Zone where there are two hides for birdwatching. The tranquil lake of Burrator, Yelverton is a great starting point for longer walks as many of the marked footpaths lead out on to the open moor. Managed by the South West Lakes Trust, these idyllic locations are looked after to maintain their natural beauty for visitors. Other reservoirs on Dartmoor include, Kennick, Tottiford and Trenchford, Venford, Meldon and Avon Dam.

Fishing in the lakes, reservoirs and rivers require permits, sometimes these can be purchased on site – please enquire beforehand.

Five must-visit spots

It’s incredibly difficult to suggest just five must-visit spots on Dartmoor because there are simply loads of hidden gems dotted across the moor. No doubt once you get exploring though, you’ll find a few for yourself. Here are a couple of our suggestions of where to get great views, set up a picnic, relax with the kids and refuel after a long walk!

 

Wistman’s Wood

Full of magic and imagination, Wistman’s Wood is like something out of a fairy tale. Moss-covered boulders lay beneath twisted trees. Access opposite the Two Bridges Hotel on the B3357.

Bellever Tor

Rising above the forest, from the top enjoy panoramic vistas stretching to Haytor Rocks, Rippon Tor, Hamel Down, Fernworthy Forest, Postbridge and Princetown.

Mardon Down

The view spans across the familiar mounds of Dartmoor Tors to Haldon Forest Park and Haldon Belverdere, an iconic white castle visible on the horizon.

The Elephant’s Nest Inn

Still enjoying rural Dartmoor, this friendly pub with roaring fires and local food looks out over the national park offering wanderers the perfect lunch-stop.

Shilley Pool

A quaint collection of small pools perfect for allowing little ones to paddle while you relax with a picnic, surrounded by the peaceful backdrop of Dartmoor National Park.

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