Within minutes the skies morph from bleak and windswept, foggy and damp to bright and crisp – Dartmoor’s infamous fickle weather can bring all four seasons to our doorstep in one day. At more than 368 square miles, Dartmoor National Park is one of the largest and wildest areas of open county in the South of England. With it’s ancient woodlands, high granite tors and vast tracks of rolling woodland, Dartmoor may as well have been plucked right out of a fairy tale. Dartmoor offers so much to do and see over its vast landscape. It is the perfect place to enjoy wild open spaces, dramatic tors and wooded valleys, rushing rivers and wildlife as well as the wonderful towns and villages. Read on to find out some of the best places in Dartmoor to spend your time in this last month of summer.
By Nimra Imran
Castle Drogo to Fingle Gorge:
This two hour round trip takes you past a dramatic castle and through an oak lined gorge to an ancient stone bridge and traditional pubs – some of the classic Dartmoor sights.
The hike along the river Teign starts at Castle Drogo, a fortress completed in 1930 and the last great castle to be built in England. From here the routes to Fingle Gorge are clearly signed.
Walk one way along Hunter’s Path, which traces down thespectacular wooded riverbank, where the kingfishers and woodpeckers dart between shaded pools, and trout, and salmonand otters flourish in the clear water.
The jumble of boulders that make up Hound torprovide one of the most easily accessible and expansive viewpoints in Dartmoor.
Supposedly the inspiration for Connon Doyle’s moorland classic, the Hound of Baskervilles, the tor is a gentle half mile walk from it’s carpark along grassy paths and dells. Look out for the letter boxes, grown up treasure trails – hidden between the crevices. At the top, you can see the rough peaks of several other tors, as well as Wildcombe in the Moor and Bowman’s Nose. Tothe southeast of the tor are the remains of a medieval village.
The Mad Axeman, Frank Mitchell, and the Acid Bath Murderer were both inmates at this granite prison in the mist wreathed town of Princetown.
Once a byword for the most violent crimes, Dartmoor – now Category C – has a museum for the for the macabre minded, featuring makeshift weapons and confiscated escape gear.
Most shocking is a razor mounted on the tip of a toothbrush and vicious knuckle dusters made of 6 inch nails. Most amusing is perhaps the time honoured classic of knotted bed sheets, once used in an escape attempt.
Dubbed the gateway to the moors, it is elegant town makes a good base for exploring the northern regions. Its fortunes were founded on cloth and mining; it is one of Dartmoor’s four stannary towns where tin was brought to be taxed. Its fine slate hung frontages house a prosperous looking selection of antiques shops, delis and cafes.
What Bovey Castle lacks in heritage – it is actually not a castle at all – it makes up for it in its breadth of facilities and superb views.
Set on a private sporting estate, it has an eighteen hole championship golf course, indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, fly fishing lake, croquet lawn, children’s play ground and an archery arena.
Bovey Castle is popular with families but still large enough for couples to find a cosy corner. Huge stone fireplaces ornate panelling and squishy sofas make it one of the most comfortable places in Dartmoor to while away an afternoon playing backgammon or reading the Sunday paper.
Haytor is probably the most visited tor on Dartmoor, its huge granite mass is and has been depicted on numerous postcards, sketches, paintings and photographs. It is perhaps the most visited toron Dartmoor – this is not only due to the fact it is highly accessible but also because of the gigantic masses of rock which crown its summit, the largest piles, which taken as a whole upon the moor are unmistakable.
Haytor consists of two distinct tors; the highest, the first tor you reach, can be climbed using steps and grab irons whilst the lower tor is more of a challenge. From the summit rocks of Holwell Tor from where there is an excellent view of Becka Brook Valleyand the surrounding countryside.
Canonteign, home of England’s Highest Waterfall (220ft), is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty and offers a breathtaking mix of waterfalls, lakes and cascades, surrounded by a spectacular rock formations in a magnificent woodland setting.
There is something to interest all at Canonteign, children and adults alike will enjoy the ambience and the experience that is unique to this special attraction. Canonteign Falls is a magnificent example of a Victorian folly set in a magical natural paradise. The waterfalls themselves descend for over seventy miles, making this oneof the most breathtaking attractions in Devon and providing a wonderful day out for all the family.
The Meldon Viaduct was built in 1847 and spans 165 meters over the remains of mineral mines. The views from the viaduct span across to Meldon Dam and reservoir to the South West. The views of this dam almost 50 meters high are as impressive as the original engineering feat. Down the valley is Meldon Pool – the old limestone mine that still has two lime kilns.
The trip up to this sort is worthwhile purely for the view of Dartmoor from such a well placed vantage point. Whether you’re inspired by industrial history or natural beauty, you will not be disappointed.
The combination of unique geology, water and climate change has fashioned the deepest river gorge in the South West, providing a truly breathtaking experience which has been enjoyed since Victorian times. You can explore the gorge with a choice of adventurous walks from one to three miles.
Throughout the seasons there is an abundance of wildlife and plants to see, from woodland birds to wild garlic in the spring and fungi in the autumn. There are car parks and tea rooms at either end of the gorge. There are a range of events planned throughout the year. With strenuous walking, rugged terrain and vertical drops, this adventure is not for the faint of heart.