THINGS TO DO NEAR NORTH BOVEY
Only got time for a short break? You won’t want to spend it in the car, then. Here are the best things to do within a 20-minute drive of the cottage.
THINGS TO DO IN NORTH BOVEY
Ok, so it’s not actually a castle, but what Bovey Castle lacks in heritage, it makes up for with quantity of facilities and sweeping views. Set on a private sporting estate just up the river from North Bovey, this luxury hotel has an 18-hole championship golf course, indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, fly-fishing lake, croquet lawn and archery arena. Huge stone fireplaces, soaring ceilings, ornate panelling, squishy sofas and terraces with epic views make it one of the grandest places on Dartmoor to whirl away a lazy afternoon. As a guest of Moorland View, you have complimentary membership, with up to 25% off spa treatments, food and drink. The 20-minute walk along the river, across old stone bridges and through woodlands, is beautiful.
The Ring of Bells
Our friendly village pub, The Ring of Bells, has recently reopened after being destroyed in a fire, with a like-for-like restoration that has melded medieval features with a fresh, modern feel. Cosy up next to one of the log-burning stoves; or on a sunny day, have a pint in the pretty pub garden. The food is sublime: Dartmoor-bred lamb and beef, fish landed in Brixham, and it serves Dartmoor ales straight from the cask. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with the locals, including sheep shearers, rat catchers and farmers.
For a heady shot of invigorating country air and instant perspective on your surroundings, take the two to three-hour walk up Easdon Tor, the hill you see from the main bedroom window in the cottage. From the top you’ll see 360-degree views of Dartmoor and be kept company by wild Dartmoor ponies who come here to graze.
Bovey Castle has a free hawking display every morning at 10am - well worth getting out of bed for. If you've always fancied yourself as a falconer, Dartmoor Hawking's Experience Day provides the chance to handle these powerful birds. Their Owl Experience is a tamer, hands-on introduction to birds of prey.
Qualified Dartmoor guide and North Bovey resident, Debbie Jenkins, offers private hikes along old pack-horse tracks to ancient remains, stone circles, tin mines and tors. She’ll give you a history of Dartmoor as you go and point out hard-to-spot wildlife. Cost: £12 per hour (minimum two hours); £45 for a half-day, £80 a day. Details: 01647 440053.
Walk to Lustleigh Cleave
Everywhere you turn in the little village of Lustleigh you’re offered a postcard perfect view, from the ancient church to thatched cottages to the rolling hills of the surrounding Wrey Valley. You can walk there from the cottage if you’re feeling energetic, a hike of about an hour and a half. Afternoon tea at the Primrose tea rooms offers all the scones, cream and loose-leaf tea your heart could desire. From Lustleigh you can make a wonderful circular walk up into Lustleigh Cleave, a deep cleft of trees, tors and tumbled boulders. Reward yourself afterwards with a drink under the oak beams of the 15th-century Cleave Inn.
THINGS TO DO IN MORETONHAMPSTEAD
Dine at The Horse
Heralded as a ‘genuine slice of foodie heaven’ by the Michelin guide, The Horse is one of our best local restaurants. Brixham crab, lobster, scallops and wild Cornish sea bass are favourites, as is Moreton lamb, Devon Ruby beef and locally-reared rare-breed pork. The pizzas are the best we’ve ever tasted. It’s all served up in a lovely contemporary setting, with a pretty walled courtyard for dining al fresco on summer evenings.
Try your hand at artisanal Dartmoor skills
The Dartmoor Artisan Trail is a new arts and craft trail that takes in the moor’s finest artisans, including blacksmiths, shoemakers and cider makers, and many off them work in the craft town of Moretonhampstead. Watch them work, or have a go yourself on one of their mini courses.
THINGS TO DO IN CHAGFORD
This pretty stannary town is crammed with cafes, tea rooms, farm shops and delis. Check out Blacks Deli for local produce, Jaded Palates for fantastic wines and West Country gins and Artisan for locally-made leather goods and crafts. The town has half-day closing on Wednesday afternoons.
Have lunch at the Birdcage, Chagford
The Birdcage is a pretty little cafe on Chagford’s main square serving delicious lunches, as well as great breakfasts.
Dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant, Chagford
Gidleigh Park is a grand Tudor-style country manor hotel, set in 107 acres of Dartmoor woodland outside Chagford. Creative menus are delivered with pin sharp accuracy, and there’s a 50-page wine list to choose from. Well worth the £100+ price tag. Work up an appetite with a walk around the grounds.
Swim in a stream-fed pool
Just a ten-minute drive from North Bovey, Chagford Pool can't be far from heaven. Swallows nest in the changing rooms and dive-bomb the swimmers, and with the sound of the river Teign running past stepping stones, it's as relaxed as a swimming pool gets. It’s river fed, so is chilly.
THINGS TO DO NEAR HAYTOR
Take in a view
Haytor is one of Devon’s most famous views: on a clear day you can see the coast, the Teign estuary, the moors and rolling countryside in between. The Rock Inn in Haytor Vale is a good option for food afterwards.
One of the most picturesque of the area’s waterfalls, Becky Falls are wide and gentle rather than tumultuous. There’s a woodland café, and a little zoo provides furry friend encounters with meerkats and goats.
Ullacombe Farm Shop
Ullacombe Farm Shop, on the way to Haytor, sells plenty of locally made produce, from chilli chocolate to cheeses. There’s also a teashop selling superb farmhouse cakes.
OTHER THINGS TO DO
With clear, dark nights, Dartmoor is a fantastic place to view the night sky, with the Milky Way often clearly visible. Grab a picnic rug (there’s one in the cottage), torch, blanket and bottle of wine and head to the top of Hound Tor, one of the most atmospheric and easily accessible spots to stargaze.
Take a tour of Britain’s last castle, Drewsteignton
Lutyens-designed Castle Drogo is a quasi-mediaeval granite castle that was the last to be built in Britain. Inside is Drewe's remarkable collection of venerable artefacts, such as 17th-century tapestries. The views of the Teign Gorge and Dartmoor are magnificent, and there’s a stunning walk along Fingle Gorge from the grounds. It’s currently undergoing restoration – please check their website for latest progress.
Walk a Dartmoor gorge
Taking in a fairytale castle, oak-lined gorge, ancient stone bridge and traditional pub, this two-hour walk along the Teign River is classic Dartmoor. Hunter’s Path runs higher up the valley, while Fisherman’s Path traces the spectacular wooded riverbank path, where kingfishers and woodpeckers dart between shaded pools, and trout, salmon and otters frolic in deep, clear waters. The small rocky beaches are perfect places for picnics and toe-dipping. Look out for glimpses of Prestonbury Castle Iron Age hill fort on the other side of the valley. At the bottom of the gorge is the age-old Fingle bridge, which has recessed buttresses for packhorses to pass. Behind it is Fingle Bridge Inn, which serves a mean cream tea and has a pretty terrace overlooking the river. In spring, the woodlands here are carpeted with bluebells and daffodils. Park at Castle Drogo, Drewsteignton, or by the Mill End Hotel and walk from the other direction.
Follow in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes
The jumble of boulders that make up Hound Tor, on the road to Widecombe, provides one of the most easily accessible and expansive viewpoints in Dartmoor. 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.
Visit a Bronze Age village
One of the most complete examples of the moor’s prehistoric settlements, Grimspound is a stone enclosure littered with 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. 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 inwhich Sherlock Holmes spent the night in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Free, and open all year round.