As of April 2019, I’ve lived on Dartmoor for three years - I absolutely love it here, the awful weather and all. But on a beautiful day, it doesn’t get much better than this! I’m constantly out discovering new places with my two boys, 4 and 7. Recently I asked friends what their favourite things were to do with their children on Dartmoor and I came away with an amazing list of ideas. I thought perhaps I should write a blog to share some of these ideas with people visiting or for locals out exploring and looking for something different. There’s definitely lots to keep everyone busy.
Tors in all their varying shapes and sizes are just amazing, and children LOVE to climb them. They are all fun to climb, so just pick one. Haytor and Hound Tor are particular favourites, with the latter being a little less busy. I also love Bellever Tor with flatter tops which are good for picnics, and Bowerman’s Nose is a really fun iconic spot. Another stunning spot is Bohehill Rocks overlooking Widecombe in the Moor. If you’re feeling particularly energetic you can continue up to Bell Tor, Chinkwell Tor and Honeybag Tor. There’s lots to do and see in the village too with a working forge and The Church House NT. There’s a good selection of pubs and restaurants too.
You could do a little letter boxing too while you’re out climbing tors - look for little hidden boxes. When you find one, stamp it or leave a little note or a treasure for the next person. Or maybe bring a kite to fly when you get to the top. And as a little added surprise, take a treat to share when you get to the top and enjoy the view.
The weather on the moors can be quite unpredictable, so it’s always good to be equipped with a map, snacks and warm clothes just in case!
Now this one may not sound like fun, but trust me, children love these places!
Scorhill Stone Circle is a great place with lots of adventures to be had. First find the stone circle!!! It’s pretty big, so you can’t miss it when you know where to look. Head down to the river and the clapper bridge from the Scorhill car park. Before you get to the bottom and as the ground starts to even out, look to your right and you should see it. Once you’ve enjoyed the stone circle, there are two clapper bridges to walk over and if you can find it, clamber through the Tolman (huge rock with a hole in). http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/tolmen.htm
My boys also love Grimspound. The first time I took them it was pouring with rain and they still had fun. They found the ancient settlement fascinating, even my 3 year old (at the time). They enjoyed trying to work out where the main entrance to the settlement was, how high the walls might have been and then they each chose their own hut to live in! Plus the views on the Postbridge to Moretonhampstead road are pretty special, especially in August when the heather is in bloom.
The Woodland Trust and National Trust have upgraded the cycling track between Clifford Barton and Fingle Bridge, so you can enjoy a lovely cycle to the Fingle Bridge Inn for lunch! And with Castle Drogo NT nearby too, there’s plenty to do in and around Fingle Woods.
Cycle along the Granite Way from Lydford to Okehampton and stop for cream tea at the old station tea room in OKehampton for a break. This is a new, truly spectacular and mostly traffic free cycle route with fantastic views of Dartmoor and the surrounding countryside. The route is part of the National Cycle Network 'Devon Coast to Coast' Route 27.
Where to start!? There are so many wonderful walks on Dartmoor. If you are visiting Dartmoor with lots of walking in mind, the Ordnance Survey Dartmoor Great Short Walks for all the family is really good featuring 20 walks from 2-6 miles long.
One of my all time favourites is the iconic Wistmans Wood walk - a magical ancient woodland of stunted oaks. Park at the car park just opposite The Two Bridges Hotel (or at The Two Bridges). From the car park go through the gate and follow the path, you can’t really go wrong, but have a map with you just in case! It takes 45 mins in each direction to get to the wood with small children. There is a longer circular walk of 4.5 miles/7.2 km which crosses the river too. If you are in need of a Devon cream tea after your walk, I highly recommend having a Devon Cream Tea at Prince Hall Hotel just down the road. The cream tea is amazing, it’s very relaxed, dog friendly and the view is beautiful.
Another walk in the same area is the Bellever Tor and forest loop. Park at the car park in Postbridge, either the Dartmoor National Park car park, or the Bellever Tor car park (free) which is just a bit further along the road and then first left. From Bellever Tor car park go through the gate and follow the path up to Bellever Tor. You will then need to backtrack a bit and take a right at the crossroad. Drop down to Bellever Forest where there is a beautiful river to paddle and swim in. There are two routes back, either along the road or up into the Wildlife Trust meadows on the opposite side of the road.
There are some lovely walks out of National Trust Castle Drogo too.
And if you are ever visiting around mid-May, the bluebells at Emsworthy Mire Wildlife Trust are spectacular - although it’s an enjoyable walk anytime.
5. WILD SWIMMING
Not for the faint hearted! It’s not exactly warm, but children love splashing around in water no matter what! You’ll find all sorts on the moors - pools, streams, rivers and muddy bogs!! Here are a few spots by the water:
Swim in the Dart at Hexworthy
Paddle at Badger’s Holt followed by lunch at the cafe
Paddle and swim in the Dart at Bellever Forest
Swim int he Teign at Salmon’s Leap beneath Castle Drogo.
My boys love visiting both Haytor Quarry and Foggintor quarries. Since being abandoned, these quarries have filled with water and are lots of fun to explore. From Haytor Quarry you can also follow the Templer Way which leads all the way to Teignmouth (you don’t need to go that far - it’s just fun to follow the old tracks for a bit and enjoy the scenery).
7. ICONIC VILLAGES
Dartmoor has lots of these!
Lustleigh is your picture perfect village with all it’s lovely thatch cottages. There is a lovely village orchard with a leat (man made stream) running though it and a playground. Ideal for picnics. There’s a good pub and a tea room. There are lots of amazing walks out of Lustleigh also, including a number of variations on the Lustleigh Cleave circular walk. Parking can be a bit tricky in the busier months.
Widecombe in the Moor is just gorgeous and the drive there is just as much part of the experience.
Chagford, with it’s pubs and shops is a great place to have a wander and a snippet of Dartmoor life.
Sticklepath is an interesting place to stop at, especially Finch Foundry NT which still has a working forge run by water wheels. It’s fascinating for big and little people alike. You can watch the resident forger making snails, fish bottle openers and leaf keyrings (which make lovely little gifts). There is also a circular walk to do along the river. And if you are in the area, Belstone is a lovely village to potter around too.
I hope you’ve found this blog post useful. Happy exploring!