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Gidleigh, A Quintessentially British Village in Dartmoor: History, Castle & Church

Gidleigh guide: Best things to do in Gidleigh, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England
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Charming and inviting, Gidleigh is tucked in a quiet part of Dartmoor that few venture into. Located on the outskirts of Dartmoor, the village is surrounded by woodland and lies in the surrounding hills of the Stannary Town of Chagford.

The area is perfect if you love hiking, wandering through small villages or visiting ancient places of worship. Nearby, you’ll find Castle Drogo (the last castle built in England), Okehampton (a beautiful town with castle ruins), and the picturesque villages of Murchington and Wonson.

Gidleigh guide: Best things to do in Gidleigh, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England: post boxGidleigh guide: Best things to do in Gidleigh, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England: 15th century church, 13th century castle, woodland walks and mariners' way.

Gidleigh Village

Located in the heart of Dartmoor National Park, on the fringes of Chagford town, you’ll find a pretty village where the snowbells bloom and walking trails are abundant. Gidleigh village may not have much by way of attractions (there isn’t even a village shop, but there is a village hall), but it is still well worth a wander through if you love centuries old architecture, thatched cottages and wish to see a typical Devonian settlement.

Gidleigh guide: Best things to do in Gidleigh, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England: village centre

Holy Trinity Church

Hut circles and evidence of mankind during Neolithic times is apparent in Gidleigh and upon the nearby hill of Scorhill. But the oldest building in the current settlement has got to be the quaint 15th- or perhaps 16th-century church sitting squarely in the centre of the village.

Gidleigh guide: Best things to do in Gidleigh, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England: holy trinity church

The site was undoubtedly home to an earlier Norman church which was rebuilt towards the end of the middle ages for sturdiness and an ever-increasing population. The current church is simple and quaint; services are held here on a regular basis and it’s often possible to enter the place of worship during non-service hours.

Gidleigh guide: Best things to do in Gidleigh, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England: holy trinity 15th century church

Gidleigh Castle

The name ‘castle’ is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to Gidleigh Castle. After all, while the village is home to a grand country mansion turned luxury hotel, by way of Gidleigh Park, Gidleigh also is home to a ‘castle’ dating back many centuries.

Thought to have originated as a small and fortified manor house in the 14th or 15th century, Gidleigh Castle is today situated on private land next to the Parish Church. There is little to see and all that remains of the original building is a crumbling tower.

 Gidleigh guide: Best things to do in Gidleigh, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England: gidleigh castle

Mariners’ Walk

When it comes to hiking in England, few places offer more interesting and more varied trails than the SouthWest counties of Devon and Cornwall. From hiking across grassy plains to navigating twisting turns around breathtaking coastal paths, there are plenty of routes to be walked.

The small but pretty village of Gidleigh is located along the Mariners’ Walk. This trail runs from Bideford in the North, to Dartmouth in the South. The tradition tells that sailors would traverse between the North and South Devon walks in order to change ports, and therefore ships in the 1500s, 1600s, and 1700s.

In reality, such a walk is long, harsh and covers plenty of difficult terrain; spanning a total distance of seventy miles. Although it’s unclear that the route ever existed, the legend remains tantalising and adds to a plethora of myths that surround Dartmoor National Park.

Gidleigh guide: Best things to do in Gidleigh, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England: mariners' way walk

Gidleigh Woods and Walks

Nestled in its own wooded copse, the real draw of Gidleigh is its proximity to the High Moors (the open landscape of Dartmoor that you so often see on postcards), as well as all of the walking routes leading in and out of the Devonian village.

There are plenty of woodland walks surrounding the village, and the area is the perfect starting place for an all-day walk, culminating in a picnic lunch near to one of the many brooks and streams which populate the area. A hike up to nearby Scorhill to see some of Devon’s best preserved Bronze Age stone circles is well worth the steep ascent!

Gidleigh guide: Best things to do in Gidleigh, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England: snowdrops in gidleigh

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