Rolling hills, quaint hamlets, and plenty of rain: these are just a few of the distinctively British traits of Eastern Dartmoor. A must-see region on any visit to Devon, here’s how to spend one day in East Dartmoor and a road trip itinerary that will ensure you see the best this edge of wild moorland has to offer…
One Day in Central & East Dartmoor tips & tricks
Service stations are few and far between when it comes to Dartmoor National Park, and so you’ll most definitely want to fuel up before embarking on the journey. There are two service stations in Bovey Tracey. Both have fuel which is, in general, priced at an average rate for the Devon region.
On this road trip, it’s also worth noting that the roads are often narrow in places, and it’s not uncommon to see plenty of potholes and grass growing in the middle of the lanes. Due to the nature of Dartmoor weather, its high altitude and proximity of the sea mean that the weather is often wet and conditions change frequently.
As such, I highly recommend bringing a raincoat and good, sturdy walking shoes (I personally use Berghaus Walking Shoes). When exploring the high moor, there is often no phone signal and if the mist descends, visibility can become pretty poor pretty quickly. As such, I recommend also bringing along a map (I have the Dartmoor OS Explorer Map) and compass.
Touted locally as the ‘gateway to the moor,’ Bovey Tracey is a traditional Devonian market town filled with independent shops and family-owned businesses. Highlights of this ancient settlement include the Devon Guild of Craftsmen (a destination which sells plenty of handmade locally produced crafts), and Cromwell’s Arch (all that’s left of a once thriving monastery).
Around a fifteen minute drive from the heart of Bovey Tracey, Lustleigh is often referred to as the ‘prettiest’ village in Dartmoor National Park, Lustleigh is great for keen hikers. Home to oodles of walking trails, one thatched pub (which started off life as a longhouse in the Middle Ages), and a tearooms known as ‘Primrose Tearooms,’ this is one of the best places to enjoy food while in Dartmoor.
A quaint hamlet with little by way of attractions, the charm of North Bovey lies in its secluded location and historic ambiance. Once in North Bovey, there’s a pub called the ‘Ring of Bells’ and an ancient church with a, particularly well-carved Rood Screen.
If you’re looking to stay over on Dartmoor National Park and fancy a little bit of luxury, then Bovey Castle is just the ticket. Once owned by the WH Smith family, today this luxury hotel is home to a spa, extensive golf course and country getaway just a couple of miles away from North Bovey.
For those who are interested in older history, specifically that of the Late Bronze Age kind, a visit to Grimspound is an absolute must. Now managed by English Heritage (who also happen to manage the abandoned medieval village of Hound Tor/ Hundatora), the ruins of 24 stone roundhouses housed within a larger enclosure date back to 1450–700 BC.
Warren House Inn
The lone silhouette of the highest pub in Southern England can be found on the road, somewhere between the town of Moretonhampstead and the hamlet of Postbridge. So secluded is this pub that during particularly bad weather, the building is cut off from the rest of the world. Nearby, phone signal is often hard to find.
Now a free house owned by the Duchy of Cornwall (Prince Charles, son of the Queen of England), local legend suggests that there is a fire in the pub which has been burning continuously for decades. In fact, it’s said that the flames have been roaring for well over one hundred and fifty years.
So if you want to experience a local legend for yourself, then head to the pub and see the legendary fire for yourself… With this in mind, it’s worth noting that I would not recommend eating at the pub (instead, head to Lustleigh tearooms or the Ring of Bells in North Bovey). Instead, enjoy a drink and continue on this road trip itinerary…
One of the more popular locations in Dartmoor National Park is Postbridge, a village and medieval clapper bridge dating back centuries. Once in one of the most remote areas of the National Park, today wider roads and ease of parking means that this is one of the few destinations on Dartmoor where larger buses and coaches can actually get to!
As such, if you want to capture the best views of the bridge, you’ll need to visit early in the morning mid-week. Better still, avoid peak season (July and August) and instead travel in the shoulder seasons to ensure you get the place to yourself. Nearby walking trails offer the chance to see plenty of medieval ruins, as well as older Late Bronze Age finds.
Read more: Postbridge & medieval clapper bridge
While the Clapper Bridge at Postbridge is well-known as the most famous medieval bridge on Dartmoor, what is less-known is that there is a second, equally as beautiful bridge of Bellever (of which no one is quite sure when the structure was installed) is also well worthy of a visit when on the high moors.
Unlike the other places which feature on this list, the Bellever area is not open moorland but instead an extensive forest. Here, coniferous trees pepper the landscape surrounding a granite outcrop known as ‘Bellever Tor’. Situated at 400 metres above sea level, the fairly steep hike to the top offers stunning vistas over the surrounding landscape.
Read more: Bellever Tor, Village & Clapper Bridge
Widecombe in the Moor
With a church which is often dubbed the ‘cathedral of the moor’ thanks to its dizzying heights, Widecombe-in-the-Moor is one of the quaintest villages Devon has to offer. Highlights of the settlement include admiring the ornate carvings of the St Pancras Church and stopping off to enjoy a pint of locally brewed beer at the thatched pub, the Rugglestone Inn
Buckland in the Moor
Thatched cottages and meandering streams: Buckland in the Moor is one of those places which remains frozen in time (there’s literally no mobile signal here!) Best seen on a sunny day as the trees surrounding the village can make the houses, lanes, and solitary church seem gloomy on a miserable day, no visit to East Dartmoor would be complete without a trip here.
As my Year 8 Geography informed myself and my fellow students when we were in Secondary school, ‘Haytor is a Honeypot’, meaning that tourists are attracted to the iconic Dartmoor destination. And it’s true: the rocky granite outcrop of Haytor, and the adjacent village of Haytor Vale draw in the crowds like no other place on the moors.
Watch any documentary about Dartmoor and the iconic rocks of Haytor will likely be featured. Best-seen earlier in the day when there are fewer visitors around, once there you’ll surely spot some of the Dartmoor ponies which are so iconic. While at Haytor, there’s also often an ice cream van in the lower car park and an information centre where you can learn more about the National Park.