Beautiful Devon in south-west England is an ideal place to take a holiday, as there’s something to do for people of all ages – the county offers a combination of picturesque countryside, breathtaking coastlines, modern shopping centres and ancient ruins.

One of Devon’s finest attractions is Dartmoor National Park, where its wild, open moorlands and deep river valleys are home to plenty of rare wildlife. It’s a unique place which is especially great for people who enjoy walking or cycling.

Dartmoor

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History

Dartmoor covers an area of 368 square miles. It was designated a National Park of England and Wales in 1951. Initially, Dartmoor National Park was managed by a committee of Devon County Council for 23 years. During this time, a number of developments were approved, including the construction of the Avon Dam Reservoir in the mid-1950s and the Meldon Reservoir in 1972.

Three full-time park wardens were appointed in the 1960s, aided by several voluntary wardens, who were on hand to help visitors to the park. The Local Government Act 1972 established a separate National Park Committee for each park.

Dartmoor National Park Committee appointed its first leader in October 1973 and took over the management of the park in April 1974. The committee’s first job was to draw up a new management plan that was published in 1977, with a goal of making the park as tidy and enjoyable as possible.

The plan was reviewed and updated in 1983 and 1991 and the committee decided to purchase more land from local landowners to use it for the public good. It had already bought the 1,040-acre Haytor Down in 1974, part of Holne Moor in 1975 and White Wood in 1976.

The Environment Act 1995 made the National Park Authority an independent, freestanding, local authority from 1st April 1997. It is tasked with conserving and enhancing the area’s wildlife, natural beauty and cultural heritage.

It must also promote opportunities for the public to enjoy the park’s attractions, meet its socio-economic duties and look after the economic and social wellbeing of the communities within the area. More than 34,000 people live within the national park, while more than 2.2 million people visit it annually.

 

Main attractions

Dartmoor National Park is one of Devon’s main attractions, which is no surprise since it offers a multitude of things for people of all ages to see and do.

Visitors are urged to “get active” on Dartmoor by participating in a host of outdoor activities, including walking, cycling, discovering nature, participating in various events, sampling the local cuisine and touring the visitor centres.

They also have the chance to discover Dartmoor’s archaeology, volunteer to help with a local project, simply enjoy Dartmoor’s natural beauty, or go on the top 10 tors tour.

Dartmoor is famous for its tors, which are large, freestanding rocks that rise sharply from the surrounding gentle slope of a hill. Among the most well-known are High Willhays Tor and Yes Tor, in the north-west of the national park, above Okehampton.

High Willhays is 621 metres above sea level and is Dartmoor’s highest tor. Both tors are located on the same broad ridge and walkers usually visit them both together.

 

Outdoor activities

Other activities include horse-riding, camping, canoeing, climbing, geocaching and flying drones and model aircrafts.

Dartmoor has many camping opportunities, including sites for visitors who are looking for a wilder stay, rather than staying in a traditional B&B or hotel. There are rustic camping barns, friendly farm campsites, isolated bunkhouses, hostels, huts and pods, where tourists can view the night sky over Dartmoor and enjoy the tranquillity.

Increasing numbers of visitors are enjoying the National Park in their motorhome or campervan, while the Dartmoor walking expedition permits people to backpack camp for up to two nights in open moorland.

Dartmoor offers a variety of challenging routes and bouldering opportunities for climbers who do not wish to ascend above four to five metres. This can be achieved without the use of harnesses or ropes and tests participants’ strength and techniques. For beginners, there are experienced activity providers on hand who will take you on an organised climb.

For more tranquil outdoor activities, wildlife walks will enable visitors to get up close and personal with a variety of creatures, including woodland birds and rare butterflies, while enjoying different habitats and seeing some of the most beautiful wildflowers in the UK. Feel at one with nature, as you immerse yourself in the heather-covered moorlands and wooded river valleys.

Experience a selection of high-quality restaurants, cafes, tea rooms and top pubs, where the food is prepared using local produce. There are also plenty of dog-friendly places to eat, so your four-legged friend won’t be left out. You can buy tasty food to take home at Dartmoor’s farmers’ markets and, of course, you must indulge in a traditional cream tea.

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