The 8 Very Best Things to Do on Dartmoor

Things to do on Dartmoor
One of the many majestic Highland cows of Dartmoor

Dartmoor was one of the first National Parks designated in Britain. It’s a pretty big place that dominates almost a fifth of the county it sits in – Devon. Dartmoor also has over 10000 ancient sites within its 400 square miles. Because of the sheer size of Dartmoor, there are too many places to talk about, so we’ve brought you a list of our favourite things to do on Dartmoor, with a focus on where we go in Bumper.

Dartmoor is packed with places to go and things to do, especially if you like the outdoors. If you are planning a visit from further afield, give yourself plenty of time to get around and really soak up the best of what Dartmoor has to offer. Besides the outdoorsy stuff Dartmoor has to offer, one of the other things about Dartmoor, which is an absolute joy, is simply enjoying the drive.

You can drive for ages without having to stop at a set of traffic lights (although you might have to slow down for the odd wandering pony!), and because the roads are restricted in most parts to 40 mph, to protect the wildlife, you get to slow down and enjoy the views. Take the road from Ashburton to Princetown and then towards Plymouth for amazing vistas, rivers, streams, historic prisons and the famous Dartmoor ponies. You may even catch sight of a Highland cow.

8 Things to Do on Dartmoor National Park

1 | Go for a Paddle at Cadover

Cadover is an incredibly popular spot. It gets pretty busy during the summer months, so best to visit when it’s a little colder…or wetter! When you arrive, you’ll probably understand why it gets busy. It’s accessible, with close proximity to Plymouth and offers a few things to do. If you want to see the highland cows of Dartmoor, you might have a chance at Cadover. There’s a farm up the hill, which I can only assume is a cattle farm. Whether the Highland cows are owned by the farm or they just like to hang out with their cow cronies, I don’t know, but you might spot one if you visit here during quieter times.

Head towards Trowlesworthy Car Park, then head north, and you’ll come across the farm. But Cadover offers more than just the ability to have a paddle or see these majestic animals. You can sit and relax by the river with a picnic, or you can head south into the woodland and down towards Shaugh Prior if you’d like a bit more of a challenging day out. The walk to Shaugh Prior is not only challenging but offers incredible views of the gorge once you clear the woodland. If you want somewhere fairly lively, this is the place to be during the summer. You’ll find plenty of other people playing in the river and enjoying their picnics.

2 | Wander the Eerie Wistman’s Woods

Wistman’s Wood is an ancient oak woodland, one of only three on Dartmoor. It’s quite possible the wood still exists because it’s inaccessible to the roaming Dartmoor wildlife, such as ponies and cattle, which might otherwise graze here and destroy it. With its moss-covered rocks and ancient oak trees, it’s a bit of a mix between a fairy tale landscape and somewhere quite eerie.

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Can you spot the moss-covered tree that looks like a rabbit?

The walk is fairly easy, and it’s only just over a mile from the car park without too much of a gradient to walk. Make sure you have some grippy shoes to get over the slippery stones! It’s a pleasure to visit any time of year and you might even find you have the place to yourself on a dull winter day!

Parking can be a bit of a nightmare here because it’s one of the Dartmoor beauty spots, so either arrive early or be prepared to walk a little further. There’s a lay-by on the left as you leave the junction from Princetown that often has space if the main car park is busy.

3 | Enjoy the Views at Pork Hill

Pork Hill is a go-to spot for many. It’s accessible, has some decent walks, and has great views. It’s a fantastic place to open the van doors, get the coffee on, and simply relax. From here, you can see down into Plymouth Sound and right over onto Bodmin Moor. The views are quite spectacular.

The car park is often busy, probably because it’s so easy to access and it’s just up the road from Tavistock. Consider getting there earlier on a sunny day! One of the more interesting places to venture from Pork Hill is Windy Post Cross. Follow the tracks away from the car park, and as you go over the brow of the hill, you should be able to see it in the dip.

There’s usually some wildlife around here, too, plenty of cows, sheep and ponies. The water is also a drinking water supply if you are a bit parched and fancy a drink alongside the Dartmoor ponies! If you want to gain a bit more height, head out of the car park the opposite way to Windy Cross Post, cross the road and head up the hill towards Cox Tor. From there, you can do a nice loop to Roos Tor and back via Great Staple Tor and finish off with a Mr Whippy in the car park…the ice cream van is usually knocking around.

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Windy Post Cross

4 | Visit the Daddy Tor

Haytor is the daddy tor of Dartmoor and the most popular of all the tors on Dartmoor. It’s easy to see why – it’s massive, loads of fun to climb up, offers incredible views and even has its own quarry and a must of things to do on Dartmoor. As it happens, the quarry is quite well hidden, and if you don’t know it’s there like we didn’t the first time we visited, it’s really easy to miss! But don’t miss the opportunity to walk around it. It’s only small and leads you around the far side of Haytor, avoiding the steep hill if you walk from the bottom car park and don’t mind a longer walk!

There’s a pay-and-display car park near Haytor, but if you’re willing to walk a bit further, there are other options to park for free. But you’re doing a good thing if you pay for parking by helping keep this amazing place alive for people to come and visit. Dartmoor National Park Authority also hold volunteer days here where you can help with the conservation of Haytor. You can find out more about that HERE.

There are usually cows and Dartmoor ponies knocking around here, too. The last time we visited, one of the ponies was partial to a 99 with Flake! You are also likely to see some Highland cows around here. We’ve seen a couple of herds each time we’ve visited.

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A Dartmoor pony queuing for its 99 with Flake.

5 | Enjoy the Variety of Burrator Reservoir

I expect Burrator Reservoir to be one of the most popular places to visit in south Dartmoor. It’s easy to access and popular among walkers, cyclists and runners. It’s a pretty picturesque part of Dartmoor. Burrator contrasts heavily with the open moor and rugged tors that are peppered all over Dartmoor. Lots of Dartmoor is pretty bleak like a lot of moorlands often are. But the reservoir is surrounded by woodland and even has its own arboretum, which is full of weird and wonderful trees.

The reservoir has a road running around it. It’s about 3.5 miles around and fairly flat if you want to walk, cycle or run it. If you fancy something a little harder, park on the northeast edge of the reservoir at Norsworthy Bridge car park. Head towards the old Leather Tor packhorse bridge, cross it and head towards Leather Tor. It’s a fun scramble up the side, and it’s totally worth it once you’re at the top. It offers the best views of Burrator Reservoir and views beyond, to Plymouth Sound.

6 | Visit a World Heritage Site

The last of our things to do on Dartmoor is to visit Tavistock…a World Heritage site and the only town in Devon with such a status. It’s also the home of the cream tea and the birthplace of privateer Sir Francis Drake. If you haven’t been to Tavistock, it’s well worth a visit. Tavistock isn’t a huge town, but it is interesting and was awarded World Heritage Site status in July 2006. The award was due to the heritage of the Cornwall and West Devon mining landscape. There’s some really cool architecture, a viaduct, loads of independent retailers and a Wetherspoons that has an etiquette where queueing is the norm!

Visit the shop called ‘insideout’. It sells loads of quirky stuff we love. And if you like a gastropub, visit the Cornish Arms (ranked 16th in the Top 50 Gastropubs) for some decent grub! Tavistock also has a cool little market – Tavistock Pannier Market. It’s not open every day, so to check opening times, click HERE.

Just outside the market, on the high street, there are two other places you should visit. If you want to support independent retailers and want a taste of the area, these are for you. Palmer’s of Tavistock is a butcher who featured on Channel 5’s Walking Britain’s Lost Railways with Rob Bell. They sell the most delicious pies you can cook at home. Tavistock was also once famous for the export of rabbits.

So, if you visit Palmer’s at the right time, you will be able to get yourself a rabbit pie. And if you are partial to a tipple, try Carters Deli next door. They sell a selection of local food and drink, including beers from small breweries around West Devon and Cornwall.

If you’re after a walk, head to Scrubtor car park. If you hit it at the right time, you will be awarded some of the most incredible light you will ever see in a woodland. Beyond that, there are trails to walk and cycle and some history to absorb from the mining that used to take place in the area.

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The incredible light at Scrubtor car park, west of Tavistock

7 | Go Letterboxing

If you’re a keen walker or collector, this is one of the things to do on Dartmoor you simply can’t miss! If you don’t know what Letterboxing is, it’s orienteering (navigating between points) with treasure hunting for stamps. Letterboxing is a great way to get out to explore Dartmoor and improve your health and navigational skills while you’re at it! Letterboxing originated on Dartmoor in 1854 when a chap named James Perrott placed a glass jar inside a small cairn he’d set up at Cranmere Pool. The aim was to enable visitors to the lonely spot to leave their visiting cards.

Over the years, this developed into hikers leaving a letter or postcard inside various boxes around the moor, leading to the name ‘letterboxing’. These days, you will find stamps at some of the locations where you can stamp a book to mark you have been there. A modern-day version of Letterboxing is known as geocaching, where you use GPS and an app, instead of a map, compass and notebook, plus, it’s all over the world! To get involved with geocaching, click here and for more information on letterboxing and geocaching on Dartmoor, click here.

This one is for you if you’re after things to do on Dartmoor with dogs! but don’t forget to keep your dogs under control.

8 | Cycle Drake’s Trail

The last thing on our list of things to do on Dartmoor is to cycle or walk Drake’s Trail. If you’re visiting Tavistock and fancy getting your exercise on, Drake’s Trail is for you. It’s a 21-mile cycling and walking route between Tavistock and Plymouth. It’ll take you from the World Heritage Site right into Plymouth, through old railway tunnels, over viaducts, through (and over) woodland, past heritage railways and along the Plym Estuary. You might even get a smell of the delicious mint from the Wrigley’s factory as you pass through Plymbridge Woods. Beware, it’s mostly uphill until you reach Yelverton village, then it’s all downhill to the estuary! For more information on Drake’s Trail, click here.

If you’re after other traffic-free cycling or walking routes in the UK, check out our guides to the Monsal Trail and the South Staffordshire Railway Walk.

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2 thoughts on “The 8 Very Best Things to Do on Dartmoor

  1. Pingback: 10 Things to Do in Plymouth, England, England | The Bumper Crew

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