A Dartmoor Road Trip

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A SCENIC CAR DRIVE ACROSS DARTMOOR


This stunning road trip through Dartmoor National Park, in Devon, takes in epic views, prehistoric villages, an ancient Lord of the Rings-style woodland, lunch in a cosy Dartmoor pub, a traditional moorland village and intriguing Victorian prison museum.


Driving route: North Bovey - Grimspound - Wistman’s Wood - Dartmoor Prison Museum - Dartmeet - Buckland in the Moor - Ashburton - Widecombe in the Moor - Hound Tor - North Bovey


1. North Bovey - Grimspound

Fortify yourselves for this epic Dartmoor driving trip with a delicious farmhouse breakfast under the roof of your very own thatched holiday cottage, in the beautiful 13th century village of North Bovey. Moorland View is a luxury Dartmoor holiday cottage which sleeps four, and is available to rent from just £140 per night. Now you’re ready to set out on this stunning Dartmoor driving trip. From Moorland View, drive out on the B3212 towards Princetown, then take a slight detour to visit Grimspound, one of the most complete examples of the moor’s prehistoric villages. First settled about 1300 BC, Grimspound is a  stone enclosure littered with 24 Bronze Age hut circles with a stone perimeter wall thought to have stood at 1.7 metres high in places. The roundhouses were made from double granite walls with a rubble infill - a technique still used in dry-stone walling. The eerie setting was the model for the prehistoric hut in which Sherlock Holmes spent the night in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Free, and open all year round.

Grimspound

Grimspound

2. Wistmans Wood, Two Bridges

The next stop on your Dartmoor driving route is to Wistman’s Wood, a vestige of the prehistoric dwarf oak trees that used to cover Dartmoor. Here, a moss-covered, boulder-strewn woodland floor is dotted with stunted oaks furred with mosses and lichen. The easy one-hour return walk starts from the Two Bridges Hotel, near Princetown. Park at Two Bridges Hotel (PL20 6SW). Near Two Bridges, Princehall Hall Hotel serves delicious lunches and cream teas.

Wistman’s Wood

Wistman’s Wood

3. Dartmoor Prison, Princetown

The Mad Axeman, Frank Mitchell and the Acid Bath Murderer were all inmates at Dartmoor Prison, a grim, gothic jail in the mist-wreathed Dartmoor town of Princetown. Once a byword for the most violent offenders, the prison – now Category C – has a museum 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 six-inch nails. Most amusing is the time-honoured classic of knotted bed sheets, once used in an escape attempt. Also on display are leather-belted tunics, which were used for restraint, and a fading photo of a "mad cupboard", in which deranged prisoners were locked and doused with freezing water. Skip this part of the scenic drive if you’re squeamish - it’s not for the faint-hearted.

4. Dartmeet

Stretch your legs at this scenic spot where the East and West Dart rivers meet; nearby is an ancient field system and an 18th century bridge. A shallow section of water makes for ideal summer paddling round the scattered rocks.

Dartmeet

Dartmeet

5. Buckland in the Moor

The next stop on your pretty Dartmoor drive is this tiny hamlet, one of the most irresistibly pretty in Devon, with a gorgeous scattering of thatched cottages and an ancient church. Stroll across the hill above Buckland to find the ten commandments carved into an exposed rock.

6. Ashburton

Dubbed the gateway to the moor, Ashburton is an elegant town whose fortunes were founded on cloth and mining. It is one of Dartmoor’s four stannary towns, where tin was bought to be taxed – and its fine slate-hung frontages house a well-to-do selection of antique shops, delis, cafes and restaurants. Most notable of the latter is the Fish Deli and Ashburton Deli.

Ashburton

Ashburton

7. Widecombe in the Moor

This gorgeous moorland village is one of Dartmoor’s most beautiful sights and a highlight of any road trip across Dartmoor. Its church, St Pancras, has an immense 40m tower that has seen it dubbed the Cathedral of the Moor. Inside, search out the boards telling the fire-and-brimstone tale of the violent storm of 1638 – it knocked a pinnacle from the roof, killing several parishioners. As ever on Dartmoor, the Devil was blamed, said to be in search of souls. Stop for lunch at the character-packed 14th century Rugglestone Inn. With flagstone floors, open fires and Dartmoor ale poured straight from the barrel, it’ll want to make you want to move to Dartmoor immediately. There are two restaurants - one with an open log fire - and outside, over a small bridge, is a large sheltered garden with picnic tables and fabulous Dartmoor views. Look out for the National Trust shop in the main square selling beautiful homewares and woollen blankets (we buy all Moorland View’s blankets here).

Widecombe in the Moor

Widecombe in the Moor

8. Hound Tor - North Bovey

The penultimate stop on your Dartmoor driving itinerary is to the jumble of boulders that make up Hound Tor, one of the most easily accessible and expansive viewpoints in Dartmoor. Supposedly the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s moorland classic, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the tor is a gentle, half-mile walk from the car park along grassy paths and dells. Look out for ‘letterboxes’ – Tupperware boxes hidden by grown-up treasure trailers – hidden between the crevices. At the top, you can see the rocky peaks of several other tors, as well as Widecombe-in-the-Moor and Bowerman's Nose. Just southeast of the tor, are the remains of a medieval village. If you still have energy, stop off at impressive Becky Falls on your way back to Moorland View Cottage. Then curl up in front of a crackling log fire at Moorland View for a well deserved rest, or have a drink and dinner in our lovely village pub, The Ring of Bells.

Dartmoor Driving Tips

  • Petrol stations are few and far between on the moor. The closest fuel station on this road trip is in Ashburton.

  • Tempting as it may be to crank up your speed on Dartmoor’s wide open roads, sheep, wild horses and cattle are often on the road, so please drive slowly and carefully. Dozens of animals are killed each year by motorists.

  • In Dartmoor’s narrower lanes, it’s customary for the motorist closest to a passing place to reverse back into it. However, don’t attempt it if you're not confident at reversing - it’s easy to prang your car on the stone walls. Wait for the other motorist to reverse instead - then thank them profusely!

 
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DARTMOOR COTTAGE BREAKS

Book a luxury break in a stunning thatched Dartmoor holiday cottage.

 

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