Hiking on Dartmoor

Dartmoor National park an area of over 250 sq. miles of open moorland with a sprinkling of small villages, farms and river valleys. The Moor is bisected by two main roads into the Northern and Southern Moors. The Northern Moor is more isolated and austere and parts of it are used by the Army as troop training grounds.

Dartmoor is one of the few real wildernesses left in England. Although it is not mountainous, the exposed moorland is primeval, bleak and remarkably free from human interference – although many have tried to tame it. The elements can be strong over Dartmoor, with mist, rain and bitingly cold keen winds being all too common. Dartmoor is a mound of granite which doesn’t drain very well. It is a wet place, with blanket bogs on the higher points and boggy mires where drainage is impeded in the valleys. Prehistoric remains abound.

Walking on Dartmoor is excellent. Different tastes and experiences are catered for. For the less demanding walker there are car parks from which brief, pleasant excursions can be made. For the more hardened explorer many miles over hard ground can be tramped in challenging conditions.

On a sunny summer’s day, the going can be easy with superb views to be had. In winter, the moor is often unforgiving and harsh and just a little bit dangerous. Map and compass skills are important as weather conditions can quickly change and thick mists may envelop the isolated walker. Getting back safely can then become a very real challenge. Dartmoor mists are infamous.

Blackpool Sands

Blackpool Sands beach is frequently cited as the best beach in Devon, and with good reason. In addition to its sheltered south coast location it has a certain Mediterranean feel to it. This could be down to the crystal clear water, crescent of golden sand or the pine trees which cling to the hillside behind, but given a sunny summer’s day and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d landed in a different country!

As a frequent recipient of the much coveted Blue Flag Award, you can be sure of the full range of facilities at Blackpool Sands. You will find toilets, disabled facilities, showers and the beachside Venus Beach Café, all of which are privately owned and managed.

This is a great family beach too. Safety is assured by the seasonal lifeguard service, whilst younger kids will enjoy the supervised sandpits. For those demanding a bit more than just soaking up the sun and taking int he view there are plenty of watersports on offer. The snorkelling is good and equipment can be hired along with surf skis and kayaks.

Of course nowhere is absolutely perfect and if we were to have one gripe about Blackpool Sands it would be the very sand itself; it is a little on the coarse sand.

Berry Pomeroy Castle

Tucked away in a deep wooded valley, Berry Pomeroy Castle is the perfect romantic ruin with a colourful history of intrigue.

Within the 15th-century defences of the Pomeroy family castle, looms the dramatic ruined shell of its successor, the great Elizabethan mansion of the Seymours. Begun in around 1560 and ambitiously enlarged from around 1600, their mansion was intended to become the most spectacular house in Devon, a match for Longleat and Audley End. Never completed, and abandoned by 1700, it became the focus of blood-curdling ghost stories, recounted in the audio tour.

The location of the castle makes it ideal for walkers who can explore the nearby beautiful woodland or you can enjoy a light lunch, home made cake or restorative cup of tea in the cafe. Within a short drive are Totnes Castle and Dartmouth Castle, making it an ideal day out for families.

The Castle Café (not managed by English Heritage) is open daily 10am – 5pm from June-October, then Sat-Sun from Nov-March. Enquiries: 01803 849473.

Don’t Miss

  • Audio tour that brings the castle to life
  • Stories of ghostly happenings
  • Beautiful grounds and woodland views