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20 Great Days Out in Dartmoor

great days out in dartmoor

This post is about some great days out in Dartmoor, with its sprawling granite tors, wild ponies, and hidden valleys. Whether you crave an adrenaline-filled adventure, a leisurely family stroll, or a deep dive into history and mystery, Dartmoor’s diverse landscape has something for everyone. From exploring ancient ruins to picnicking beside cascading waterfalls, this untamed wilderness promises a day to remember. So, lace up your walking boots, pack a sense of adventure, and get ready to discover the magic of Dartmoor.

These suggestions are just that – ideas for you to work with. They are in no order of preference and if you can think of places to be added, do let us know in the comments below.

Lydford Gorge: A Journey Through Time

lydford gorge waterfall

Lydford Gorge plunges you into a dramatic natural wonderland carved by the River Lyd over millennia. This horseshoe-shaped gorge boasts towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and hidden grottoes, all shrouded in an ancient atmosphere. Follow the well-maintained wooden bridges and pathways that weave through the gorge, taking in the captivating views and listening to the thunderous roar of White Lady Waterfall, the highest in England. Be sure to explore the spooky Devil’s Kitchen, a cavern rumored to be a hiding place for outlaws, and venture into the atmospheric Lydford Castle, a Norman stronghold with a fascinating and sometimes gruesome history. Lydford Gorge offers a captivating mix of natural beauty, historical intrigue, and a touch of mystery, making it a perfect day out for adventurers and history buffs alike.


Buckland Abbey: Where History and Nature Collide

exterior buckland abbey

Buckland Abbey, shrouded in the idyllic beauty of the Tamar Valley, is a captivating fusion of historical significance and stunning natural surroundings. This former Cistercian monastery, partially in ruins, offers a glimpse into the lives of medieval monks. Explore the atmospheric cloisters, the impressive abbot’s house, and the fascinating abbey church, all testaments to the architectural achievements of the past. Buckland Abbey boasts not only rich history but also beautiful formal gardens, perfect for a leisurely stroll. Wander through the vibrant Victorian borders, the peaceful monk’s garden, and the productive orchard, each offering a unique perspective on the abbey’s connection to nature. Beyond the abbey walls, explore the expansive deer park, a haven for wildlife, and soak in the breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Buckland Abbey provides a delightful day out for history enthusiasts, garden lovers, and anyone seeking a peaceful escape in a picturesque setting. When here, you shold take a look at some of the great things to do in Tavistock too.


dartmoor ordnance suvey map

The Dartmoor OS Explorer Map (OL28) is your essential companion for navigating Dartmoor National Park. Detailed and waterproof, it reveals a network of trails for walking, cycling, and horseback riding. It pinpoints pubs, visitor centers, and historical sites, ensuring you get the most out of your Dartmoor adventure.

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Castle Drogo: A Fairytale Fortress

Castle Drogo from Sky

Atop a windswept hill overlooking the vast expanse of Dartmoor, Castle Drogo stands as a magnificent testament to Victorian ambition. Completed in 1930, it’s the last castle to be built in England and boasts a unique blend of Gothic and Arts and Crafts styles. Explore the grand halls adorned with intricate woodwork and stained glass, marvel at the panoramic views from the rooftop terrace, and lose yourself in the fascinating story of its eccentric architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. Venture into the servants’ quarters below stairs for a glimpse into the daily life of the castle’s inhabitants. Castle Drogo offers a captivating glimpse into a bygone era, perfect for history buffs and anyone seeking a touch of fairytale grandeur on their day out in Dartmoor. This is certainly on of the best castles in Devon.


Dartmoor Prison Museum: A Haunting Glimpse into the Past

dartmoor prison museum gates

Step back in time and delve into the fascinating, and sometimes harsh, realities of Dartmoor’s penal history at the Dartmoor Prison Museum. Housed within the walls of a former Victorian prison, the museum offers a unique opportunity to explore the lives of prisoners and prison officers through interactive exhibits and historical artifacts. Learn about the harsh conditions faced by inmates, the grueling prison routines, and the stories of famous prisoners who once walked these halls. Explore the solitary confinement cells, the exercise yards, and the original prison chapel, each offering a tangible connection to the past. The Dartmoor Prison Museum provides a thought-provoking and often unsettling experience, perfect for those interested in social history and true crime.


Widecombe in the Moor: A Charming Village Steeped in Tradition

Widecombe in the moor

Nestled amidst rolling hills and dotted with traditional thatched cottages, Widecombe in the Moor offers a quintessential Dartmoor experience. Wander down the narrow lanes lined with local craft shops, pubs serving hearty Devonshire fare, and historical landmarks like the 14th-century Church of St. Pancras, renowned for its annual gugganing ceremony. Explore the Widecombe in the Moor Museum to delve into the rich history of the village, from its agricultural roots to its role in smuggling activities. Take a leisurely stroll along the River Dart, enjoying the picturesque scenery and abundant wildlife. Widecombe in the Moor offers a charming escape for those seeking a taste of traditional village life, beautiful scenery, and a touch of local history.


Dartmoor National Park Authority Visitor Centre: Your Gateway to Adventure

dartmoor national park visitor centre

The Dartmoor National Park Authority Visitor Centre serves as a fantastic starting point for your exploration of the park. Located in Princetown, a former prison town, the visitor center provides a wealth of information on Dartmoor’s diverse landscapes, rich history, and exciting outdoor activities. Interactive displays showcase the park’s geology, wildlife, and archaeological significance. Expert staff are on hand to answer your questions, recommend hikes and trails suited to your abilities, and offer advice on making the most of your time in Dartmoor. The visitor centre also boasts a well-stocked shop filled with walking maps, guidebooks, local crafts, and souvenirs. For those seeking an introduction to Dartmoor’s wonders and a helping hand in planning their adventure, the Dartmoor National Park Authority Visitor Centre is an essential stop.


Walking on Dartmoor” is a comprehensive guide featuring 40 routes in Dartmoor National Park. The book includes detailed maps, route descriptions, and insights into local history and wildlife, making it ideal for both casual walkers and seasoned hikers seeking to explore this stunning area of natural beauty.

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walking on dartmoor

Hound Tor: A Landmark Steeped in Legend

hound tor medieval village

Rising like a giant on the north western edge of Dartmoor, Hound Tor is a granite tor steeped in history and shrouded in local legend. This iconic landmark, believed to be a Bronze Age settlement, offers panoramic views across the rugged moorland. Climb the rocky outcrop and explore the hut circles, stone rows, and burial chambers, remnants of a bygone era. Hear the whispers of myths and folklore surrounding the site, from tales of spectral hounds to stories of hidden treasure. Hound Tor is a must-visit for those seeking a dose of Dartmoor’s wild beauty, ancient history, and a touch of the mysterious.


Dartmoor Pony Hertiage Trust: A Meeting with Dartmoor’s Wild Ponies

dartmoor pony heritage trust

For a truly unique experience, head to the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust. This specialist centre offers a chance to learn about Dartmoor’s iconic wild ponies, a breed with a rich history and deep connection to the landscape. Meet the friendly resident ponies, discover their role in shaping the moor, and gain insights into their ongoing conservation efforts. The centre also provides opportunities to witness traditional Dartmoor pony training methods and learn about the challenges and importance of managing these free-roaming herds. The Dartmoor Pmny Heritage Trust is a perfect stop for animal lovers, families, and anyone curious about these fascinating creatures that embody the spirit of Dartmoor.


Haytor Granite Tors: Breathtaking Panoramas and Historical Significance

haytor

Haytor, a collection of dramatic granite tors, is a must-visit for anyone seeking breathtaking views and a taste of Dartmoor’s geological history. Hike to the summit and be rewarded with panoramic vistas that stretch across the entire national park, encompassing rolling hills, hidden valleys, and distant tors. Explore the exposed granite outcrops, remnants of an ancient mountain range, and learn about the area’s fascinating geological story. Haytor also boasts historical significance, evidenced by the presence of Bronze Age settlements and medieval crosses. This iconic landmark offers a perfect combination of stunning scenery, historical intrigue, and a quintessential Dartmoor experience.


Canonteign Falls: A Cascading Jewel Amidst Wooded Beauty

Canonteign Falls view

Nestled within the private Canonteign Estate, Canonteign Falls offers a hidden gem for those seeking a picturesque waterfall adventure. Surrounded by lush woodland and cascading down a series of rocky steps, this waterfall creates a scene of natural beauty. Follow the well-maintained paths that lead through the estate, offering glimpses of the cascading water and the opportunity to explore the surrounding woodland. Enjoy a picnic lunch in this scenic location, listen to the calming sound of the falls, and soak in the tranquility of the natural environment.  Note: Limited access may apply, so be sure to check the Canonteign Estate website for information on visiting Canonteign Falls.


Dartmoor Zoo: A Close Encounter with Wildlife

dartmoor zoo

For a fun-filled family day out, head to Dartmoor Zoo. This award-winning zoo provides a chance to see a variety of exotic and locally native animals in spacious enclosures designed to replicate their natural habitats. Come face-to-face with majestic big cats, playful primates, and fascinating reptiles. Learn about the zoo’s conservation efforts and witness animal feeding demonstrations. Dartmoor Zoo also offers exciting talks and interactive experiences, making it a perfect place to educate and entertain children of all ages.


Museum of Dartmoor Life: A Journey Through Dartmoor’s Rich History

museum of dartmoor life

Step back in time and delve into the social and cultural heritage of Dartmoor at the Museum of Dartmoor Life. Housed in a historic 19th-century mill, the museum showcases a collection of artifacts, exhibits, and displays that tell the story of the people who have lived and worked on the moor for centuries. Explore the traditional farming practices, domestic life, and local industries that have shaped Dartmoor’s unique character. Learn about the challenges and triumphs of Dartmoor’s inhabitants, from the harsh realities of farming life to the ingenuity and resilience of the communities. The Museum of Dartmoor Life offers a captivating glimpse into the heart of Dartmoor and its people.


Finch Foundry: A Legacy of Industrial Heritage

finch foundry

Uncover a fascinating piece of Dartmoor’s industrial past at the Finch Foundry. These preserved ruins were once a thriving iron foundry, operational for over 200 years. Explore the atmospheric remains of the blast furnaces, hear the stories of the foundry workers, and learn about the importance of iron production in Dartmoor’s history. The Finch Foundry offers a glimpse into a bygone era of industrial ingenuity and provides a unique perspective on Dartmoor’s multifaceted heritage.


Warhorse Valley: A Sanctuary for Rescue Animals

warhorse valley

Warhorse Valley offers a heartwarming experience for animal lovers. This rescue center provides a safe haven for a variety of animals, including horses, donkeys, sheep, and even some more exotic creatures. Meet the rescued residents, learn about their stories, and witness the dedication of the staff who care for them. Warhorse Valley often welcomes volunteers and offers opportunities to interact with the animals in a supervised setting. This sanctuary provides a chance to connect with animals in need, learn about responsible animal care, and support a worthy cause.

Avon Dam: A Picturesque Spot with Outdoor Activities

avon dam waterfall

Avon Dam, nestled amidst rolling hills and surrounded by scenic countryside, offers a delightful escape for nature enthusiasts. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the dam wall, taking in the panoramic views of the shimmering reservoir below. For the more adventurous, there are opportunities for cycling, kayaking, and fishing on the reservoir (be sure to check for any permit requirements). Avon Dam also boasts a network of well-maintained trails that lead through the surrounding countryside, perfect for a hike or a peaceful ramble.


Tavistock Abbey: A Whispering Legacy of Faith

tavistock abbey

Delve into the rich religious history of Dartmoor at the ruins of Tavistock Abbey. Once a powerful Benedictine monastery, the abbey’s remnants offer a glimpse into its architectural grandeur and a poignant reminder of its turbulent past. Explore the atmospheric ruins, including the impressive gateway, the chapter house, and the abbot’s lodgings. Learn about the abbey’s role in medieval society, its impact on the local community, and the dramatic events that led to its dissolution. Tavistock Abbey provides a captivating historical experience for those interested in religious architecture and the stories of the past.


Burrator Reservoir: A Haven for Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation

Burrator Reservoir dam

Burrator Reservoir, a sprawling expanse of water surrounded by rugged moorland, offers a scenic backdrop for a variety of outdoor activities. Go for a refreshing hike or bike ride along the reservoir’s perimeter trail, enjoying the panoramic views and spotting a variety of birdlife. For keen anglers, Burrator Reservoir boasts a healthy population of fish, making it a popular spot for fishing (permits are required). Burrator Reservoir is also a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, recognized for its ecological importance.


Buckfast Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary: A Glimpse of Enchanting Creatures

indoor at Buckfast Butterfly Farm and Dart Otter Sanctuary

For a delightful family day out, look no further than the Buckfast Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary. Step into a vibrant world filled with hundreds of free-flying butterflies from across the globe. Wander through the humid glasshouse, marvel at the colorful wings fluttering around you, and learn about the fascinating lifecycle of these delicate creatures. The otter sanctuary provides a chance to witness these playful mammals swimming and interacting in their enclosures. This captivating attraction offers a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages.


Stover Country Park: A Playground for All Ages

stover country park

Stover Country Park offers a delightful escape for families and outdoor enthusiasts seeking a mix of recreation and relaxation. This sprawling park boasts expansive green spaces, perfect for picnics, games, or simply basking in the fresh Dartmoor air. Explore the network of walking and cycling trails that wind through the park, offering scenic views of the surrounding countryside. Children will have a blast on the adventure playground, complete with climbing frames, swings, and slides. For a touch of history, delve into the remnants of Stover House, a grand 18th-century mansion with a fascinating past. Stover Country Park provides a fun-filled day out for all ages, with something to keep everyone entertained.


House of Marbles: A World of Wonder Where Play Never Ends

kiln at house of marbles

Nestled just outside Stover Country Park lies the House of Marbles, a unique attraction that will ignite the imagination of children and adults alike. This emporium boasts the largest collection of marbles in the world, with an astonishing array of colors, sizes, and materials. Explore the fascinating exhibits that delve into the history and cultural significance of marbles throughout time. Witness the mesmerizing giant marble runs, some even interactive, and be captivated by the intricate craftsmanship of the glassblowing demonstrations. The House of Marbles also houses a variety of shops offering an eclectic mix of toys, games, gifts, and local crafts. This treasure trove of wonder provides a truly memorable experience for anyone who enjoys a playful and nostalgic escape.

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