Best Places to Visit in Dartmoor

Best Places to Visit in Dartmoor

One of the South West’s beautiful moors, Dartmoor National Park exudes a unique appeal. Painted with wildly romantic scenery, its miles of moorland are decorated with the gorgeous sunset hues of yellow and purple flowers and crested with rocky tors that nudge the sky. A wonderful place to explore from the blossoming of spring to the slowing of winter, it beckons with countless places to see, things to do, and ways to fall in love with its breathtaking beauty.

Whether you’re being introduced for the first time or the fifteenth, here are some of the best places to visit in Dartmoor for spellbinding getaways in this most magical pocket of the UK.

Buckfast Abbey

A view of Buckland Abbey in Buckfastleigh on a sunny day 

Buckfast Abbey in Buckfastleigh has a history stretching back over a thousand years, making it one of the best places in Dartmoor to go to retrace the footsteps of time. First built as an abbey for Benedictine monks in 1018, it experienced a tale of varied fortunes over the centuries before eventually being left to ruin after King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Today, the buildings you see are fine examples of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century architecture embodying both period and contemporary design and are wonderful places to visit.

Full of intrigue and radiating calm, Buckfast is renowned for its ornate decorations, Romanesque metalwork and stunning glass windows. Meanwhile, outside, its green spaces include a Sensory Garden, Lavender Garden, and Physic Garden and make for peaceful places to stroll. For further monastic discovery in Dartmoor, take a trip to the Grade I listed Buckland Abbey in Buckland Monachorum, near Yelverton, and continue your journey through the ages.

Lydford Gorge

A tree-lined river running through the middle of Lydford Gorge near Tavistock in Devon

Delve into the deepest river gorge in the South West and uncover a world of enchantment at Lydford Gorge. Located near Tavistock, this leafy idyll is home to a steep-sided gorge in Dartmoor’s western reaches and beckons for outdoor reveries. Showcasing a thirty-metre-high waterfall, glassy pools, swirling eddies, and silvery streams all encompassed by ancient oak woodland, it’s a truly magical place to explore. Head over and pick up the three-mile Lydford Gorge Trail to see the White Lady waterfall and Devil’s Cauldron whirlpool. Later, to refuel with some delectable bites, choose from one of the two National Trust tearooms and treat yourself to a delicious reward.

Wistman’s Woods

The moss-covered boulders and lichen-swathed trees of Wistman's Wood in Dartmoor

Wistman’s Woods is perhaps one of the most well-known places to visit in Dartmoor, adored for its timeless, ethereal aesthetics. A designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, it is characterised by swooping trees and moss-covered boulders that knit together in an emerald tapestry and evoke scenes reminiscent of childhood fairytales. So beautiful and fragile are its delicate ecosystems that there is no path through the woodland itself anymore, but there are lovely trails that take you all around the tangled edges of Wistman’s for a chance to absorb some of the wood’s captivating atmosphere, whilst protecting its endangered habitats.

Fernworthy Reservoir

An aerial view of the glassy waters of Fernworthy Reservoir near Chagford on a balmy evening

One of the most beautiful lakes in the South West, Fernworthy Reservoir near Chagford is a stunning, glass-topped jewel. Set within the heart of Dartmoor National Park, it is surrounded by incredible landscapes composed of wildflower meadows, lush woodland, and open moorland. With unrivalled natural appeal, it makes for a welcome place to wander with picnic areas and surfaced trails, including nearly a mile of wheelchair and buggy-friendly paths. Pull on a pair of walking shoes and head out into the fresh air, taking as much or as little time as you please. As you go, keep an eye out for the Bronze Age hut circles, stone cairns, and submerged clapper bridges that can be seen in and around the reservoir.

Canonteign Falls

One of the mini waterfalls found within Canonteign Falls in Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor National Park is a place of natural drama and jaw-dropping attractions - none more enthralling than the family and dog-friendly Canonteign Falls. One of the best places to visit for doses of wilderness, this award-winning, ninety-acre attraction sits on the edge of Dartmoor, close to Exeter, and awaits with a wealth of things to see and do. Combining the artistry of Mother Nature with some extra fine-tuning from human hands, it features both natural and manmade waterfalls hugged by fern gardens and lakes. Particularly exciting for little ones, it also has a fabulous children’s playground with trampolines, a wooden galleon, zipwire, mini assault course and a wicker T-Rex.

Bellever Forest

Dartmoor ponies grazing on short grass between the trees of Bellever Forest in Dartmoor

Escape the ordinary and immerse yourself in the spellbinding sanctuary of Bellever Forest. A picturesque area of sprawling woodland in Devon, Dartmoor’s Bellever is a dreamy destination for woodland walks and beckons for relaxed ambles throughout the year. Spend time following its weaving trails, wending past the towering trunks of evergreens before picnicking along the banks of the East Dart riverbank. Along the way, you may get a chance to see some of the resident Dartmoor ponies who graze within the forest. A protected breed, Dartmoor ponies play an important role in controlling the forest’s leafy vegetation and creating diverse grassland areas for other species of wildlife.

Dartmoor Zoo

A beautiful leopard at Dartmoor Zoo

Dartmoor Zoo started life as a private collection of exotic animals in the 1960s. Over the years, it was left to fall into disrepair, until Benjamin Mee decided to rebuild and re-open it in the early 2000s. It was this incredible story of Benjamin and his family that inspired the novel and film, We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. Today, the zoo, which was donated to the Dartmoor Zoological Society charity by the Mee family, is now a fantastic family-friendly visitor attraction and centre for education and conservation. Home to all sorts of beautiful wildlife species, from adorable wallabies to regal tigers to colourful iguanas, it is sure to captivate all generations.


A view of Haytor and the surrounding landscapes of Dartmoor National Park beyond

One of the best places to watch a sunrise in South Devon, Haytor is found on the south-eastern hem of Dartmoor and stands at 1,500 feet high. Affording far-reaching panoramas across Dartmoor and its surrounding landscapes, it presents spectacular views that can extend as far as the South Devon coast on clear days. Pay a visit to the National Park Visitor Centre at Haytor and pick up a map to make the most of the unmissable walking opportunities. For added interest, you can also follow a guided six-mile audio walk up to the top of the tor to enjoy a different perspective on the landscape and learn about fascinating archaeological sites en route.

Castle Drogo

The pretty gardens of Castle Drogo, one of the best places to visit in Dartmoor

The National Trust-run Castle Drogo is a family home, country house and mixed-revivalist castle overlooking the Teign Gorge in Dartmoor. A fusion of styles, it melds period architecture with innovative modernism to create a truly unique attraction. For an unforgettable day out in Dartmoor, make your way over to this family and dog-friendly castle and lose yourself to its eclectic array of things to see and do. Inside, tours of the house reveal a number of intriguing rooms, including an impressive library and billiard room, a drawing room hung with Venetian chandeliers, and a kitchen filled with curios, including 374 copper jelly moulds. Outside, manicured gardens and miles of woodland paths await, perfect for leisurely strolls before a trip to the onsite café.

Widecombe in the Moor

The village of Widecombe in the Moor in Dartmoor with its famous church and pretty cottages on a blue sky day

Widecombe in the Moor is a picture-perfect village in Dartmoor that is adored for its nostalgic aesthetics, beautiful cottages, and Grade I listed Church of St Pancras. Known as the Cathedral of the Moor, this famous church dates back six hundred years and is topped by a proud 120-foot tower that pierces the skyline of the valley. One of the prettiest villages in Dartmoor, Widecombe in the Moor is also home to a collection of shops and eateries, including the ever-popular Rugglestone Inn, the fourteenth century Old Inn, and one of the best hidden cafés in Devon, The Café on the Green. Head over to stretch your legs around the Widecombe Village Trail or one of the many beautiful footpaths and trails nearby to work up an appetite, before settling down for well-deserved replenishment.  

Looking forward to discovering beautiful Dartmoor? Take a look at our luxury cottage collection.

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