Dartmoor lies in the southwest of England, a significant part of the county of Devon. Myths tell us that this land is laced with mystery, even haunted. There is one way to know this for sure – experience it. See for yourself the wild and natural beauty available here. But the real experience of Dartmoor is in the ineffable feeling it inspires – that of raw and untamed wilderness. This article attempts to express the distinct atmosphere of this place and outlines specific places to go – where there are mystical moments to be captured.
The Moor Itself
The real purpose of Dartmoor is to be walked. A hiker’s dream. On this raw and untamed land, you travel endless, ancient routes and pave new ones. Dartmoor offers a rare gift to travelers. You can get lost in this place and use skill and stamina to navigate your way. You will encounter a range of landscapes; bare dry land, surprisingly powerful streams, grasslands home to grazing animals and rocky outcrops. Be prepared – this is no series of paved footpaths. Bring a compass and a map. Lost and wandering hikers are not an uncommon sight on Dartmoor.
If you’re not interested in hiking in England, there are also opportunities to go cycling and even horseback riding. For the most epic way of journeying across Dartmoor, you can pay reasonable prices for a horse ride across the wilderness. For even more adventure, you can go white water rafting on the River Dart. These raging waters offer a thrilling journey – in group trips for beginners or individual kayaks for the experts. Whichever way you choose, the freedom provided by traveling this place is truly unmissable.
For accommodation on Dartmoor, there are various hostels and camping barns accommodating wandering hikers. For the full authentic experience, wild camping allows you to become immersed in the magical night of the moors. Sleep under the stars but beware of the unpredictable natural elements. Be sure to experience this – wild camping is permitted as long as you are out of sight of roads and houses.
Widecombe in the Moor
If you are looking for some civilization in the midst of Dartmoor, the closest thing you will get to a built-up area is Widecombe in the Moor. Be sure to visit the local pub. Sit outside on a summer’s with chickens and ducks in the beer garden. Or, take shelter from the harsh moorland winds in the cute and cozy interior in the winter. In the endless expanse of the moorland, it can be refreshing to have this village in sight. The tower of the village church stands strongly as a landscape of the moor; a definitive shadow in an evening Dartmoor silhouette.
Dartmoor ponies are a quintessential symbol in the moorland image. In Widecombe, they roam the village green, grazing in front of the old and local buildings. Be sure to take a camera to this typical English scene and capture the distinct, authentic picture. In the true tradition of Dartmoor, there is an annual festival celebrating the traditional folk heritage of the area. To witness the olden customs of Devonshire life, stick around for this festival and join in the ancient traditions so intrinsic to the land.
Adding to the eerie mystery, scattered around the moor there are prominent rock outlets. They catch the mist in hidden crannies between the stones. These tors are places to explore and fully embrace the raw and rough nature of Dartmoor. You can have fun climbing them on lower and easier paved routes. Or, the steep sides of these tors offer the perfect challenge for serious climbers. Either way, you can experience panoramic views from the top. The definition of the sublime, Dartmoor presents a threatening beauty, so epic and mysterious in its character, you cannot help but become immersed in wonder and awe.
Looking for the perfect place to go hiking in England? Dartmoor is the place to go, and the tors are the landmarks to guide you. Go between them and visit each one – climb them for the full achievement. Dartmoor is comparative to the impressive nature of the Scotland Highlands that so famously draw hikers and tourists. These are the highlands of England. The rugged essence of the moors, revealed by the tors that protrude from the land here, hold the same resilient disposition.
Impressively standing from a height over Dartmoor, Castle Drogo is a modern day castle. There are many, many castles to be found in England, but this one is different. One of the least historical buildings in this area, the local village houses are older than this familiar landmark. There is something greatly appealing about the place. A stately home rather than an ancient monument, it is the perfect example of a new-moneyed garnishing of traditional English architecture. Built in the early twentieth century, it presents the original blend between medieval splendor and an idyllic country home.
This area of Dartmoor provides a dynamic landscape. Rather than the typical moorland, green hills and gorges fill this space. A cyclical walk takes you down from the castle to a small river indenting the bottom of the valley. Stop at the pub on the bridge for a rest. Or, continue walking along the water and find a quiet picnic spot among the riverside trees. There is less open moorland and more peaceful and quiet woodland – less gloomy, more tranquil. Climb back up the valley for magnificent views of the local scenery. For a change from the expansive wilderness, visit the pristine and tamed castle gardens. Walk among the perfect and precise flowerbeds that exist in opposition to the untamed moorland that lies beyond the castle gates.
Over 300 miles of vast moorland, Dartmoor is home to pure, unspoiled wilderness. A place to be immediately explored, it is dramatically beautiful in a way comparable only to a rough, remote type of nature not often found in England. It inspires freedom and adventure. Experience for yourself the untameable beauty. The only route to take when hiking in England – be brave and step into this wild place.