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Dartmoor Prison Museum

dartmoor prison museum

Step Back in Time at Dartmoor Prison Museum

For a unique and fascinating day out, visit Dartmoor Prison Museum to discover the captivating history of one of the country’s most notorious jails. Located in Princetown in the heart of Dartmoor National Park, this small but intriguing museum provides a glimpse into life behind bars over the centuries.

With engaging exhibits and hands-on displays, the museum brings the grim reality of Victorian prison life vividly to life. It’s an exciting attraction for inquisitive minds that makes a novel day out for families. Here’s everything you need to know for an insightful visit to Dartmoor Prison Museum.

dartmoor prison museum gates

Getting There

The museum is easy to reach in Princetown, a picturesque Dartmoor village around 15 miles north-west of Plymouth.

If driving, there is free parking in the public car park opposite the museum.

Princetown has bus connections from Plymouth, Yelverton and Tavistock if you’d prefer to travel sustainably.

Opening Times

Dartmoor Prison Museum is open seasonally from early March to the end of October.

During the main season, the museum’s opening hours are:

  • 9.30am – 4.30pm Monday to Thursday
  • 9.30am – 4pm on Fridays to Sundays

It’s advisable to check the website before visiting as opening can be reduced outside of peak periods.

Tickets and Prices

Entry prices are:

  • Adults – £4.00
  • Children (3-18) – £3.00
  • Concessions – £3.00
  • Under 3 – free
  • Family (2 adults, 2 children) – £12.00

Tickets can be purchased on the door or online. Gift aid admissions and annual passes are also available.

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Top Things To See and Do

Some of the main prison exhibits and interactive displays your family can experience include:

  • The Strangeways Gallery – detailing the harsh conditions and brutal punishments prisoners endured, including floggings. Real artifacts like straitjackets are on display.
  • The Executions Display – covering the execution process and Dartmoor’s infamous role in preparing prisoners for their death. It’s creepy but fascinating!
  • The Walled Garden – breathe fresh air in the former prison garden and see replica cells in the old Blockhouse.
  • The Nursery – highlights the plight of babies born inside the prison to inmate mothers. A sensitive subject matter for older children.
  • Hands-on Exhibits – try out a prisoner’s hammock bed, explore the dark solitary confinement cell and listen to oral history recordings.
  • Gift Shop – browse prison-themed souvenirs like replica uniforms, tin cups and washboards. The shop also sells local crafts and books.
dartmoor prison

Further Prison History Insight

To delve deeper into Dartmoor Prison’s notorious past, join one of the museum’s in-depth guided tours. These take place daily at 11am and 2.30pm (extra tours during peak periods) and give a gripping overview of the prison’s entire history, from its inception in 1806 right up to the present day.

Tours take around 75 minutes and cost £7.50 per adult and £2 per child, in addition to normal admission. Advance booking is recommended.

Dartmoor Prison – at HM Pleasure

Dartmoor Prison: In Her Majesty’s Pleasure” offers a captivating exploration into the mysterious world of Dartmoor Prison. Authored by various contributors, this book delves into the rich history, untold stories, and unique aspects of the notorious penitentiary. From its construction in the early 19th century to its contemporary role, the narrative navigates through the prison’s evolution. The book sheds light on the lives of both prisoners and keepers, providing a comprehensive understanding of the institution’s impact on the local community and the British penal system. With a blend of historical research and vivid storytelling, it unveils Dartmoor Prison’s enigmatic past, making it a must-read for history enthusiasts and curious minds alike.

dartmoor prison book
Buy here

Facilities

The museum has toilets and a baby changing area on-site. The gift shop sells hot and cold drinks and snacks.

For meals, the village has pubs, cafes and takeaways a short walk away. Picnic tables outside the museum are great for eating a packed lunch.

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Make a Day of It in Princetown

Discover Dartmoor’s dark past and natural beauty by making a day of your family trip to Princetown. The fascinating exhibits of Dartmoor Prison Museum set the scene for adventures across the remote and rugged moorland that surrounds this picturesque village.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do I need to visit Dartmoor Prison Museum? – Generally, we say you should allow a couple of hours to get the best from the museum

Are dogs allowed? – Yes, dogs are allowed as long as they are well behaved and on a lead

Is the museum wheelchair accessible? – Yes, it is accessed via a ramp up to the front door but some exhibits and the toilet facilities are upstairs.

Other places to visit nearby

After exploring Princetown and the prison museum, head out onto Dartmoor itself. Follow one of the many walking trails around the village out onto the open moor to admire the sweeping views and famed tors. Let the kids climb over the granite outcrops and see if they can spot wild ponies!

  • Buckland Abbey – 700 year old Cistercian abbey now a stately home with oak panelled rooms and Elizabethan gardens.
  • Plym Valley Railway – Scenic steam train rides along the Plym Valley’s tranquil nature trails and riverside paths departing from Plymbridge.
  • Lydford Gorge – Dramatic gorge with waterfalls and lovely nature trails along the River Lyd. Managed by the National Trust.
  • Burrator Reservoir – Picturesque reservoir on Dartmoor surrounded by woodland, great for walking, cycling, fishing and boating.
  • Tavistock Abbey – Impressive ruins of a 961 AD Benedictine abbey. Interesting to explore for history enthusiasts.
  • Morwellham Quay – Living museum that recreates a Victorian port and copper mine. Ride the mine railway and explore the farm.
  • Plymouth Gin Distillery – Opportunity to learn about gin production and sample spirits at England’s oldest working gin distillery.
  • Buckfast Abbey – Working Benedictine monastery with medieval church and tranquil grounds. Homemade produce for sale.
  • Pennywell Farm – Family friendly farm with animal encounters, tractor rides, indoor play and more. Great rainy day option.

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