Let Dartmoor’s natural beauty beguile you. Credit: Shutterstock

Dartmoor: A Regional Guide

With a rich history and unique landscape, this English National Park is a treat for all

Situated between Exeter and Plymouth lies the region of Dartmoor, a 369-square-mile stretch of National Park in the southwest of England that boasts unique flora and fauna as well as rolling hills, enchanting lakes, and woodland thickets. The rich topography has beguiled travelers and locals for centuries—humans have lived on the land since the Neolithic times—and many an author has set their thrilling tales on the scenic moors and bogs. 

However, there’s more to this National Park than the views. Dotted throughout Dartmoor are unspoiled villages, modern towns and cozy boltholes that are just waiting to enchant you.

Discover what to do in Dartmoor with our regional guide that covers where to eat, what to do and where to rest your head at night. 

Eat 

Throughout Dartmoor, there are plenty of independent eateries serving British staples that will keep you sustained. The Cafe on the Green in Widecombe-in-the-Moor is a perfect example. Operated by Becca Cherrett and Jamie Holliss since 2018, the couple made it their mission to create an inviting haven for weary wanderers. The decor is fresh with exposed brick and one-off antique pieces but is still inviting thanks to the log-burning stove. The menu is a modern approach to classic brunch and lunch options. Try the smoky halloumi and mushrooms on toast for a break from the usual full English breakfast.

The United Kingdom is famous for its indulgent meal: the afternoon tea. However, in the southwest, cream tea reigns supreme. More of a sweet afternoon treat than a full-on meal—think traditional scones, clotted cream, jam, etc.—it is beloved throughout Devon and Cornwall. For a truly scrumptious version, head to the Badgers Holt Tea Rooms. Near the beauty spot of Darmeet, Badgers Holt is an airy eatery, serving top-notch takes on traditional snacks. For under 10 British pounds, you can enjoy a plain scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam (build it the Devonish way by putting the jam on last) and a cup of tea or coffee.

For a more refined meal, make a beeline for the Two Bridges Hotel, situated in the heart of Dartmoor. The restaurant is considered one of the best in the region and has been awarded the Two Rosette award from the AA. A more formal affair, you’ll find local produce that’s been cooked lovingly, such as the Howells of Tavistock cracked black pepper sausage with creamy mashed potato. With its dedicated service and stunning views of the moors, it’ll be a dining experience that’ll remain with you long after the last bite. 

Play 

Dartmoor might be a National Park, but there’s more to do here than just long walks in the countryside. Throughout the region, museums and galleries with a focus on the area’s history and culture, both past and present, abound. In Okehampton, a market town on the outskirts of Dartmoor, is the Museum of Dartmoor Life. Here you can discover what life was like from the Bronze age—the museum has built a replica hut from the time—to how the area transformed during the Industrial Revolution leading right up to modern day. Full of fascinating human history, it’s also a great spot to visit if rain stops play.

There might be more to Dartmoor than walking, but it would be a disservice to the region if you didn’t get out and explore—either by foot or bike. There are myriad paths, with different levels of difficulty, so you’ll find the right expedition for your needs. A good beginner’s walk is the loop around the Burrator Arboretum & Nature Reserve. In just under a mile, you’ll discover several types of trees, including broadleaf and coniferous, hear the sounds of native birds and come across the babbling Narrator Brook.

One of the biggest joys of the area is the Dartmoor ponies, who have lived on the land since at least 1012 AD. During the 1800s, the wild horses were tamed and used to help transport granite. Now, they’re looked after by locals but mostly roam free on the National Park’s great expanse. If you plan to walk throughout Dartmoor, you’re sure to come across them.

Stay 

The White Hart Hotel 

In the charming village of Moretonhampstead, you’ll find the dog-friendly White Hart Hotel. The old posting house dates back to 1639 and is now a Grade-II listed building. Traditionally decorated, the bedrooms are simple but have tartan accents that create a homey feel. There’s a popular restaurant serving seasonal and local food and ales, in a relaxed setting that is soundtracked by a roaring fire.

The Bedford Hotel 

The Bedford Hotel is a luxurious manse built on the grounds of an ancient Abbey in Tavistock. Named after the Duke of Bedford, the original inn dates back to 1719. The plush decor feels akin to a grand country estate of that era, so expect lived-in chesterfields and ornate paintings and artifacts throughout. All bedrooms are lavish, with some offering four-poster beds and whirlpool baths.