A Dartmoor driving trip offers a wealth of experiences to enjoy in the moorlands of southern Devon. It will take you through national parks, prehistoric villages. Cosy pubs and taverns are found across this classic English countryside.
North Bovey toward Princetown
Start on the south-eastern side of Dartmoor National Park, in the town of North Bovey. The village dates back to the 13th century, a pretty parish that’s just over 10 miles from Exeter. This is an area rich in Bronze Age artefacts. The first part of your road trip will provide intriguing insights into this historical period in the UK. Bovey Castle, a Grade II listed building is one of the town’s attractions, as is the old granite parish church.
After, go from North Bovey drive out towards Princetown, following the B3212. Stop off in Tavistock, most notable for its 19th-century architecture and its Victorian Pannier Market. Before you reach Princetown, turn off the main road and head to Grimspound. It is about 10 miles away. You’ll find the well-preserved remains of a prehistoric village on the moor. The moor was settled for the first time around 1300 BC. What’s left is an enclosure of stones surrounding Bronze Age roundhouse-style huts. There is no entry fee, and the site is open throughout the year.
Warren House Inn and Postbridge
Your next stop once you leave Grimspound should be Warren House Inn. It is the highest altitude pub in southern England. Because of this on particularly rainy days it is virtually cut off from the countryside below. You can warm yourself at the fire that, legend has it, has been burning continuously for over 150 years.
After Grimspound take a short 5-mile drive to Postbridge. The town is known for its Medieval clapper bridge. You can park your car here and explore the hiking trails that take you past Bronze Age archaeological sites and Medieval ruins.
Witstman’s Wood and Dartmeet
From there, drive to Wistman’s Wood. It’s like walking through an ancient enchanted forest. It is filled with the dwarf oak trees used to proliferate the Dartmoor area in olden times. Once done with the forest, travel a little further and you’ll reach Princetown itself. Visit the site of Dartmoor Prison, where you can visit its fascinatingly macabre museum. The total distance from Tavistock to Princetown is about 13 miles.
For some respite head back into nature by visiting Dartmeet, an ancient system of fields connected by a bridge built in the 18th century, at the confluence of the East and West Dart rivers. Nearby take the 11-mile drive to Buckland in the Moor. It is a tiny town known for its ancient church and the 10 Commandments are carved into a rock on the hill outside the hamlet. It’s also a great place to stretch your legs and go for a short walk along one of the trails in the area.
Ashburton and Hound Tor
After about 4 miles further driving, a stop at Ashburton will be well worth your while. Next up is the jewel of the Dartmoor area, Widecombe in the Moor. This little town is famous for its St. Pancras church. With an imposing tower over 120 feet high, it has earned it the nickname of the Cathedral on the Moor. You can also have a bite to eat at Rugglestone Inn, established in the 14th century. You’ll find it in the main square of the town. You’ll now have travelled another 11 miles from Buckland.
Head off to Hound Tor, about 3 miles away, one of the best viewpoints in Dartmoor. It’s a mound of large boulders with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. The landscape inspired The Hound of the Baskervilles – a famous Sherlock Holmes novel. To get there you’ll park in the car park and walk for about half a mile. You can look out across the two other prominent tors in the area, Bowerman’s Nose and Widecomb-in-the-Moor, and you’ll also be able to see the ruins of an unnamed medieval Dartmoor village. On your way down the other side, make a stop at Becky Falls.
This route will have taken you in a wide circle around and through the Dartmoor area, taking in all the main attractions in the vicinity. One word of caution worth passing on is that there aren’t many petrol stations in the area – Ashburton is the best place for you to fill up during your trip make sure you don’t run short. You should also drive carefully and a little bit slower than usual, as there are lots of animals like sheep, cows, and horses that regularly cross the roads in the area. Be prepared to stop for oncoming traffic because some of the roads in the area are quite narrow. Perhaps reverse to create room for you to pass each other.