This pretty stannary town is crammed with cafes, tea rooms, farm shops and delis. Check out Blacks for great light lunches and local farm produce, Moorland Dairy for delicious local ice-cream and Jaded Palates for a handpicked wine selection. Half-day closing on Wednesday afternoons.
One of the most complete examples of the moor’s prehistoric settlements, Grimspound is a stone enclosure littered with the leavings of 24 Bronze Age hut circles. First settled about 1300 BC, the village’s stone perimeter wall is thought to have stood at 1.7 metres high in places.
Described as ‘Selfridges’ food hall in the middle of a farm’, Darts Farm has done so much to promote regional produce it's something of a legend in the south-west. Our favourite stall is the Fish Shed - a restaurant, fishmonger and take-out place rolled into one: the fish are caught that day.
An impressive Norman stronghold laid waste by Henry VIII, and one of the largest castle ruins in the south west, Okehampton Castle is mentioned in the Doomsday book.
DARTMOUTH & SALCOMBE
Both undeniably pretty, these two sailing towns on Devon's south coast are fabulous places to wander through. Dartmouth is a gem, with ancient narrow streets, boutique shops, art galleries and delicatessens. A cobbled market place has colourful stalls and farmers markets supplying local produce. In Salcombe, the pastel coloured houses, steep streets and sandy coves of this boating town attract ‘up country’ yachtie visitors.
Exeter, Devon’s congenial capital, has a fine Norman cathedral, a flourishing university, pretty Georgian streets, a few Roman ruins and a 14th century network of underground passages. The quayside has been attractively renovated, with antique and craft shops, cafés and pubs.
Dubbed the gateway to the moor, Ashburton is an elegant town whose fine slate-hung frontages house a well-to-do selection of delis, cafes and restaurants, most notably the Agaric Restaurant, the Fish Deli and Ashburton Deli. It's also a great place to stock up on antiques.
The Mad Axeman, Frank Mitchell and the Acid Bath Murderer were all inmates at gothic Dartmoor Prison in mist-wreathed Princetown. It has museum for the macabre-minded, featuring makeshift weapons and confiscated escape gear. including the time-honoured classic of knotted bed sheets.
Built in 1812 as the holiday home for the Duchess of Bedford, Georgiana Russell, this is a wildly romantic verdantly-gardened Eden. The hotel’s romantic Grade-1 listed gardens, with shell houses, grottos and hidden glades, are perfect for a romantic tête-à-tête.
Buckfast Abbey. Built by six monks between 1907-1938 on the foundations of the former abbey that was disbanded in 1538 on the orders of King Henry V111.
Tavistock is the birthplace of Sir Francis Drake, and the UK's best market town according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England. What marks it out is its food. Country Cheeses showcases hundreds of the West Country's finest, and Crebers Delicatessen are both award winners. The farmers’ market fills elegant Bedford Square on the second and fourth Saturday of every month.
THE WAR HORSE TRAIL
Spielberg's blockbuster was filmed on Dartmoor. You can follow the trail by visiting Ditsworthy, Sheepsworthy, Warren House, Ringmoor Down, Combestone Tor, Haytor, Bonehill, Hexworthy Bridge and Cadover Bridge.
WIDECOMBE IN THE MOOR
This remote 13th century village (above) is one of the moor's most picturesque. It has a lovely church, National Trust shop selling super-soft wool blankets and the tiny Rugglestone Inn, which has flagstone floors, open fires and Dartmoor and Butcombe Best Bitter poured straight from the barrel.
The last castle built in Britain, Lutyens-designed Castle Drogo, about a ten-minute drive from the cottage, is a quasi-mediaeval granite pile housing a remarkable collection of venerable artefacts, such as 17th-century tapestries. One of our favourite walks, through Fingle Gorge, starts here.
Agatha Christie’s holiday home on the River Dart, is much as it was when the crime writer stayed here seeking inspiration. The house has a beautiful setting on the River Dart and gardens: don’t miss the peach house, winery and fernery. The ferry up the River Dart is a romantic way to arrive.
One of the oldest family seats in Devon, Powderham Castle near Exeter belongs to the Earl of Devon and is set in its own deer park.
The estuary-side town of Topsham is a delight: its narrow lanes wind towards the harbour, which is ringed with restaurants, pubs and antique shops. Other attractions include an appealing run of 18th-century Dutch-style gabled houses, a long riverside strand, huge antiques market on the quayside and the frilly Georgian Tea Rooms which are consistently voted the best in Devon.
MUSEUM OF DARTMOOR LIFE
Housed in a former granary, Okehampton's Museum of Dartmoor Life is a great starting point for history buffs. Fronted by a Victorian cobbled yard, it’s home to three floors of exhibits charting the social history of the moor from prehistoric times.