What to see and do on and around Dartmoor
Dartmoor is ideal for walking, cycling or pony trekking encompassing 368 square miles and over 200 tors, ranging from the dramatic Haytor and Hound Tor (setting for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles) to remote outcrops and the highest tors of High Willhays and Yes Tor. There is plenty to do and see over on the east side of Dartmoor. Do take time to visit Castle Drogo or enjoy some beautiful shaded woodland walks at Parke in Bovey Tracey. There are also many beautiful clear streams and rivers with their source on the high moor where you can swim or kayak or where you can just picnic and enjoy the peace and quiet and dramatic scenery.
Moorland towns and villages
The ancient stannary towns of Tavistock, Ashburton and Chagford offer a range of independent shops and markets with local produce and gifts. Princetown, on the high moor, and famous for its remote prison built to hold prisoners of the Napoleonic wars and has a museum and visitor centre along with several pubs and cafes. A host of Dartmoor villages such as Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Lustleigh, Buckland-in-the-Moor, South Zeal, Belstone and Sticklepath each have their own unique character, Dartmoor thatched cottages and cafes and gift shops.
For those who want to explore further afield there are a host of beaches such as Teignmouth, Dawlish, Paignton, Slapton and Bigbury on the south coast all within a 1 hour drive. Alternatively the north coast features the large expanses of Woolacombe and Saunton Sands in Devon and the smaller rugged inlets of Boscastle and Tintagel just over the border into Cornwall.
The cathedral city of Exeter with a wide range of cosmopolitan shops and restaurants, its outstanding university and sports centres and cinemas is only a 30 minutes drive. A little further west is the naval city of Plymouth with its historic Barbican, world famous Hoe where Sir Francis Drake is said to have played bowls while waiting for the Spanish Armada and Theatre Royal with many West End productions. Plymouth also boasts the National Marine Aquarium, an ice skating rink and the Plymouth Pavilions music and entertainment venue.
Attractions and Activities
Becky Falls with its woodland paths and bubbling streams is just outside the village of Manaton and within walking distance.
The location of Little Hazelcott is perfect for beautiful walks, drives and climbing tors. The country lanes around Little Hazelcott are filled with a variety of flora and fauna and the hedgerows in spring become a mass of colour. On Dartmoor there is something for everyone at no extra cost. Gentle strolls along easily navigated paths combine with more ambitious hiking routes which will keep you going for up to a day at a time. There are several really good dog friendly pubs and cafes within walking and short driving distance.
Further information can be found on the following websites:
Explore Dartmoor by public transport
The Haytor Hoppa (Bus service 271) is run by Dartmoor National Park and normally operates in the summer months between May and September. The bus runs every Saturday and is a circular, scenic bus service which covers the eastern side of Dartmoor starting and finishing in Newton Abbot via Bovey Tracey. The service is run by Country Bus http://countrybusdevon.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/271.pdf
Every Saturday: 23 May – 12 September 2020
This is a circular, scenic bus service which covers the eastern side of Dartmoor - starting and finishing in Newton Abbot via Bovey Tracey. Stops en route include Haytor Information Centre – with easy access to Haytor Rocks, the beautiful village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Houndtor Rocks, Manaton village, Becky Falls visitor attraction and Yarner Wood – before returning to Bovey Tracey.
Daily fare from Newton Abbot (or Bovey Tracey) for hop on/off all day: adult - £5 (£3.00); senior - £4.00 (£2.00); child (5-15 years) - £2 (£1). Dogs are also welcome on board and only 50p for a standard journey.
Ideas for great days out
Walks through ancient woodland beside the Becky Brook with family activities and a variety of animals, literally about 8 minutes away in the car. Dogs welcome on all the walks but must be kept on a lead at all times. Café and gift shop.
Directions: Go back up to the village green, turn left and follow the lane past the Kestor pub and out of Manaton. Within a couple of minutes you will see the sign for Becky Falls and the car park on the right.
Known as ‘The Gateway to the Moor’, Moretonhampstead is an ancient market town located in the centre of Devon and on the edge of Dartmoor National Park and about 4 miles from Manaton. There are a selection of local shops, (butchers, post office, newsagent, tourist information office and a small convenience store) cafes and pubs. There is also an open air swimming pool for the summer months, a small motor museum and the Miniature Pony Centre a couple of miles away on the road to Postbridge.
Lustleigh is a charming, picturesque Dartmoor village a few miles across the valley from Manaton. Winding country lanes lead to the thirteenth century church which overlooks the Village Green, its cluster of thatched cottages and the ancient Church House. A path leads down and over the Mill leat to the picture postcard hamlet of Wreyland with its thatched cottages, pretty gardens and cricket field. The shop with Post Office, a tea-room and a fifteenth century pub make this the heart of the village. Past the Dairy visitors will find the Town Orchard, a blissful retreat for all who come here with its stream, May Queen rock and cider apple trees. The community of Lustleigh is a lively one and proud of its old traditions. On the first Saturday of May every year the ceremony of crowning the May Queen takes place here to the accompaniment of music, singing and dancing.
Bellever Forest – About a mile south of Postbridge (take the road almost opposite the tourist information centre car park) is the hamlet of Bellever on the East Dart river. The hamlet consists of a few former forestry commission houses and Bellever Farm owned by the Forestry Commission which houses the oldest Youth Hostel accommodation in Devon. If you park in the car park on the right and then take a short walk you will come to a beautiful picnic spot right by the river with stepping stones which you can cross to get to the other side. It is very popular in the summer for swimming as the pool is quite deep. If you prefer some exercise then there are a host of paths through the coniferous plantation and Bellever Tor is about a mile away.
Princetown is home to the famous Dartmoor Prison. However, the village has its origins in 1785 when Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, Secretary to the Prince of Wales leased a large area of moorland from the Duchy of Cornwall estate hoping to convert it to good farmland. He encouraged people to live there and suggested a prison was built there. He called the village Princetown after the Prince of Wales. Princetown is the highest settlement on the moor and one of the highest in the United Kingdom at around 435 metres (1,430 feet) above sea level. The prison was built in 1806 to accommodate prisoners from the Napoleonic wars and to alleviate the overcrowding on the floating prisons at Plymouth. There is a prison museum which tells the complete history of Dartmoor prison to its present day as a Category C prison holding low category inmates.
Chagford lies on the Eastern edge of Dartmoor National Park and is close to the beautiful River Teign. An ancient stannary town it has many 15th and 16th century buildings with one of the most striking being the octagonal Market House right in the centre of the square. The character of Chagford is unique and always buzzing with life. It has an excellent shop Bowdens which is extremely popular and old fashioned in a charming way but sells almost everything you could wish for. There is also a bakers, butchers, newsagents, several good cafes and tea rooms, pubs and restaurants. From the bench next to the War Memorial in the churchyard there is an excellent view across the Teign Valley to the Teign Gorge and Castle Drogo the last castle to be built in England.
Dartmoor Zoological Park is located in Sparkwell, 32 miles from Little Hazelcott approximately 45 minutes drive away was the subject of a book and made into a film called “We bought a zoo”. The owner and former journalist Benjamin Mee wrote a book about his experience refurbishing and living at the zoo. The film rights were purchased by 21st Centry Fox and the film was released in the UK in March 2012. Dartmoor Zoological Park is a relatively small zoo at only 33 acres. It houses the usual array of big cats, monkeys, Dartmoor ponies, meerkats, otters and many more fantastic creatures. In 2013 the park became a charity and over the next 5 years plans to develop and on-site research centre for elephants. The zoo already works closely with Plymouth and Exeter universities along with a host of other institutions.
Plymouth – Plymouth is one of Europe’s most vibrant waterfront cities with a rich history and world class events. The Barbican is one of Plymouth’s most popular places to visit with quaint, cobbled streets, a picturesque harbour, marina and a wealth of independent shops, galleries, bars, cafes and restaurants by the water’s edge. It’s also home to the Mayflower Steps where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail on their voyage to the New World in 1620. Plymouth Hoe is where Sir Francis Drake is renowned to have played his last game of bowls before setting sail to engage with the Spanish Armada and also home to the iconic Smeaton’s Tower.
If you like to shop, the city centre features many independent retailers as well as national brands and high street names in its varied shopping areas. Regularly hosting outdoor markets visitors will often get to taste Devon’s fantastic local produce.
Plymouth is also home to the National Marine Aquarium and the Theatre Royal which hosts many productions following successful runs in London’s West End.
Exeter is an ancient city with a vibrant, modern feel. Pre-dating the arrival of the Romans in AD 50, the city's history is rich and long. This is reflected in its fascinating visitor attractions including its mysterious Underground Passages, award-winning Royal Albert Memorial Museum, magnificent Exeter Cathedral, Roman wall and historic quayside. Exeter is one of the few cities in the UK to offer free guided walking tours, on which you can discover centuries of fascinating heritage.
Exeter has a great mix of shops, with large High Street names mingling with independent shops in the city's distinct shopping quarters. With a huge range of independent specialist shops and boutiques offering unique one-of-a-kind items, as well as many well-known brands including John Lewis, Cath Kidston and The White Company all located within easy walking distance of each other, Exeter is the perfect shopping destination.
Exeter is also firmly on the map as one of the foodie capitals of the South West, from the weekly farmers’ market selling field-fresh produce to the celebrated Exeter Street Food Market, cosy cafes to fine dining in award-winning restaurants. The city’s location in the Heart of Devon makes it a melting pot for top chefs to create gastronomic delights with ingredients harvested from the surrounding coast and countryside.
Here in Exeter you’ll find a cultural scene that’s as varied and exciting as the city itself. Whether you’re a theatre lover, music buff, foodie or art enthusiast, Exeter’s packed calendar of events has something for everyone.
Exeter is passionate about its sport and is perfectly located for making the most of the great outdoors. As well as Sandy Park for rugby with the Exeter Chiefs being the 2017 Premiership Champions, there is St James’ Park for football and Exeter Racecourse for competitive racing throughout the National Hunt Season. The city is also home to the South West’s largest indoor climbing wall at the Quay Climbing Centre and Europe’s first Clip n’ Climb centre.
For even more ideas to make your stay on Dartmoor truly special hop over to the Visit Dartmoor website