Dartmoor National Park's Best Driving Routes

Dartmoor National Park's Best Driving Routes
Photo by Chris Gilbert / Unsplash

Dartmoor National Park is a perfect place for a car journey. You'll see beautiful scenes, picturesque towns, and old sites in South West England. As you drive, the stunning views and mix of nature and history will captivate you. Places like Grimspound with its ancient history and the famous Warren House Inn add to Dartmoor's magic. Each spot reflects a different aspect of Dartmoor that makes your trip not just beautiful but also culturally rich.

Visiting places like North Bovey and Tavistock shows you amazing buildings and lively markets. Don't miss Postbridge’s clapper bridge and Wistman’s Wood. Wistman’s Wood has ancient oak trees and feels like a fairy tale. But, drive carefully on the narrow roads and watch for animals. This way, your Dartmoor adventure will be safe and unforgettable.

Key Takeaways

  • Grimspound offers a glimpse into a prehistoric village settled around 1300 BC.
  • The Warren House Inn, with its legendary uninterrupted fire, is the highest altitude pub in southern England.
  • Dartmoor driving roads range from approximately 5 to 13 miles between charming towns and historic sites.
  • Known for its enchanting dwarf oak trees, Wistman’s Wood provides a magical forest walk.
  • Dartmoor Ponies roam free throughout the national park, adding to the scenic drives' charm.

Starting Your Journey at North Bovey

North Bovey is a beautiful place to begin your Dartmoor trip, just 10 miles from Exeter. This lovely village has a rich history. It's great for starting your adventure in Dartmoor National Park.

Historic Attractions in North Bovey

North Bovey is full of old-world charm. It's home to Bovey Castle, a Grade II listed gem. If history is your thing, check out the 13th-century parish church. It shows off unique architectural designs of old times. These places are just a taste of what Dartmoor’s routes have to offer.

Dining and Accommodation

Don’t miss local hospitality after a day of exploring. North Bovey has cozy thatched cottages to stay in. These let you live the rural English dream.

When it’s time to eat, try local pubs serving fresh food and ales. They make sure you start your journey full and happy.

North Bovey is more than a starting point. It brings history, a comfy stay, and great food. It's the gateway to the beauty of Dartmoor roads.

Exploring Grimspound's Prehistoric Past

Heading towards Princetown, you enter the world of Grimspound's ancient villages. This place dates back to 1300 BC. It features 24 hut circles and a large stone boundary. Here, you can imagine life during the Bronze Age, surrounded by Dartmoor National Park's beauty.

Grimspound is a key place to see in Dartmoor. It reminds people of Sherlock Holmes stories, especially "The Hound of the Baskervilles." It's free and open all year. A visit here gives a fascinating look at life from thousands of years ago.

The 'Villages of Dartmoor Driving Tour' has three parts. Each part takes you through different parts of the park:

  • Version 1 shows villages in the east of Dartmoor and more.
  • Version 2 goes across the north moor, through Sticklepath, South Zeal, and Princetown.
  • Version 3 tours the west, including Merrivale, Princetown, and Meavy.

On the tour, you come across beautiful spots like Venford Reservoir and Wistman's Wood. While enjoying Dartmoor, watch your speed because of the animals and small roads. Make sure to use passing places correctly. This makes exploring Dartmoor safe and fun for everyone.

A Stop at Tavistock and the Victorian Pannier Market

When you start your journey through South West England, Tavistock is a must-see. It's full of history and charm. The town shows off its 19th-century buildings, giving us a peek into its busy past.

The Victorian Pannier Market is a key spot. It shows off 19th-century design and is a lively place to shop. You can find local crafts, fresh food, and one-of-a-kind items. It's perfect for buying a souvenir or just enjoying the market vibe.

Founded in 974, Tavistock is full of history that you can feel. It became a market town in the 16th century after a big change. Later, in the 1800s, copper mining brought wealth and changes to the town, changes you can still see today.

Don't miss walking around the market. It changes themes daily, so there's always something new. You'll find all sorts of things to buy, from antiques to handmade goods. Tavistock is a great stop on your road trip.

After you've seen the market, try the local food at a nearby eatery. Tavistock's food reflects its rich history, mixing old and new flavours beautifully.

Attraction Description Distance from Tavistock
Victorian Pannier Market 19th-century market offering local crafts and produce Located in Tavistock
Grimspound Prehistoric village remains 13 miles to Princetown
Warren House Inn Highest altitude pub in southern England Accessible via Dartmoor trails
Postbridge Medieval clapper bridge and archaeological sites Located in Dartmoor
Widecombe in the Moor St. Pancras church, "Cathedral on the Moor" Approx. 11 miles via B3357

Discovering Princetown and Dartmoor Prison Museum

Driving through Dartmoor, you’ll find Princetown is both beautiful and filled with history. It's best known for the Dartmoor Prison Museum. Here, you can explore the stories of the prison from 1809. Learn about its famous prisoners and their escape tries. This museum adds insight to your Dartmoor National Park tour.

The Fascination of Wistman’s Wood

Not far from Princetown is Wistman’s Wood, a place of wonder. Its unique stunted oaks and thick moss are like something from a dream. Here, walking paths bring visitors close to Dartmoor’s natural beauty.

Legendary Warren House Inn

A Dartmoor visit must include the famous Warren House Inn. At 1425ft above sea, it's the highest inn in Southern England. Known for its continuous fire since the 1800s, it’s a warm pitstop in the moors. Stop for a drink or to hear stories, making it a must for Dartmoor explorers.

Route Distance (miles) Key Attractions
North Bovey to Exeter 10 Majestic countryside views
Tavistock to Princetown 13 Dartmoor Prison Museum, Scenic Moorlands
Grimspound to Postbridge 5 Prehistoric Village
Dartmeet to Buckland in the Moor 11 Picturesque landscapes, Dartmoor wildlife
Buckland to Widecombe in the Moor 11 Quaint cottages, St Pancras Church
Widecombe in the Moor to Hound Tor 3 Historical ruins, sweeping views

Midway Break at Dartmeet

On your way through Dartmoor National Park, stopping at Dartmeet is perfect for a break. It's located where the East and West Dart rivers meet. This area is both beautiful and packed with history, great for those wanting to relax and see the countryside up close.

Scenic Walks and Paddling

At Dartmeet, you'll find many activities perfect for a pause from driving. There are lovely walks through fields and by the river. In summer, the Dart rivers offer cool waters for a paddle, fitting well into your journey across Dartmoor.

The 18th-century stone bridge at Dartmeet is quite special, providing a glimpse into the past. Its open fields are ideal for stretching or a quiet picnic before you move on. It's a great stop, whether you're on a short drive or a long tour, offering a moment to enjoy the peace of the English country.

Nearby Accommodation Highlights
Gidleigh Park
  • 24 cozy and sophisticated bedrooms
  • Accommodation options such as Bel Tor, Dartmeet, and the Pavilion
  • 18-hole putting course
  • Fly-fishing on the North Teign River
  • Hiking trails, tennis court, croquet lawn
  • Dog-friendly rooms
Nearby Village: Chagford
  • 14th-century town with traditional shops and art galleries
  • Historic pubs like Three Crowns and Ring of Bells
  • Delightful tea rooms

Adding a layer of beauty and history to your road trip, Dartmeet is an essential stop. After your break, you might continue along the scenic routes or stay at places like Gidleigh Park. This small spot makes for a significant pause in your Dartmoor adventure.

Charming Buckland in the Moor

Buckland in the Moor is found in the calm beauty of Dartmoor. It's a place full of charm, with its old thatched cottages. The village gives a real feel for traditional English countryside life.

Exploring the Ancient Church

The ancient church is a top spot in Buckland in the Moor. Its history goes back to the 12th century. Not just a place to pray, it's a look into history with its old stone and peaceful grounds.

This church is a must-see because of its beauty and history. It offers a calm and beautiful break on your tour.

The Ten Commandments Rocks

The Ten Commandments Rocks are a unique site in Buckland in the Moor. Carved with old biblical laws, they offer amazing views. Hiking to this special place is like a refresh for your soul.

If you're after peace or want to see old sites, Buckland in the Moor is perfect. Be sure to enjoy the wonderful feel of this charming village as you explore its beauty.

Discover Ashburton: The Gateway to the Moor

Ashburton is known as the gateway to the moor, a charming town with a mix of old and new. It's placed perfectly for those exploring Dartmoor. You'll find culture, shops, and a rich history here.

Walk the town's beautiful streets filled with antique shops and eateries. Don't miss The Fish Deli, which highlights Ashburton's history in cloth and mining. The town's businesses thrive, keeping its past alive and making it a hub for culture.

Food lovers will enjoy Ashburton's restaurants and cafes, offering both local and global cuisine. The love for top-notch ingredients and cooking is clear in every meal.

Ashburton is one of Dartmoor’s important stannary towns, known for its wealth and deep history. You'll love the impressive buildings and the welcoming community. It all makes for a memorable visit.

One important thing about Ashburton is its value as a stop in your journey. With few gas stations in Dartmoor, refuelling here is smart. This makes Ashburton not just beautiful but also key for travellers.

Are you keen on Dartmoor’s ancient history or its breath-taking views? Ashburton has it all, with easy access and lots to do. It truly is the gateway to Dartmoor.

Widecombe in the Moor and Its St. Pancras Church

Widecombe in the Moor is a beautiful village that seems untouched by time. Its beauty and charm win over everyone's heart. The St. Pancras Church stands out with its high tower, known as the "Cathedral on the Moor". This tower is more than 120 feet tall, making it a key sight in Dartmoor.

Dining at Rugglestone Inn

In the heart of Widecombe, the Rugglestone Inn brings history alive in a 14th-century building. It is a great place to eat, with genuine local ales and dishes. Dining here by an open fire lets you soak in the area's rich heritage. It’s where to go to relax and experience Dartmoor’s unique vibe.

Shopping at the National Trust Shop

If you want a Dartmoor keepsake, head to the National Trust shop in Widecombe’s village square. They have special homeware and famous Moorland View woollen blankets. Their selection lets you take home a bit of the area’s heritage and tradition.

Attraction Description Historical Significance
St. Pancras Church Known as the "Cathedral on the Moor", with a tower over 120 feet high. Major landmark with historical architectural beauty.
Rugglestone Inn 14th-century inn offering local ales and delicacies. Historical dining experience in a traditional setting.
National Trust Shop Artisan homewares and Moorland View woollen blankets. Unique shopping reflecting local heritage and craftsmanship.

Visiting the Iconic Hound Tor

Exploring Dartmoor leads you to Hound Tor, famous for its history and beauty. It's known for inspiring "The Hound of the Baskervilles".

The walk to Hound Tor is about 10 miles long and takes 4.5 to 5 hours. It has steep hills and roads to cross, but it's worth it.

The journey starts at the car park near Haytor. You'll see amazing rocks and other land formations. You'll pass by more beautiful places like Saddle Tor and Bell Tor.

Sweeping Views and Historical Significance

At Hound Tor, you'll see a lot of rocks and stunning views of Dartmoor's tors. Just a walk away, you'll find old ruins that are very interesting.

Next, you'll follow the Haytor Granite Tramway. This path shows how granite was carried in the past, adding more history to your trip.

For more on Dartmoor, check out Summit or Nothing on YouTube. They share great trekking spots, perfect for nature lovers and explorers.

Point of Interest Distance from Start (miles) Highlights
Haytor 0 Starting point, iconic rock formations
Saddle Tor 1 Spectacular views, key direction marker
Rippon Tor 2 Panoramic vistas, unique rock formations
Hound Tor 5 Iconic landmark, historical significance, sweeping views
Haytor Granite Tramway 9 Historical significance, granite transportation route

Exploring Hound Tor brings together nature and history beautifully. It shows Dartmoor as a natural marvel and a place of deep history.

Petrol and Safety Tips for Driving on Dartmoor National Park Driving Roads

When going through Dartmoor National Park, keep some simple safety tips in mind. There aren't many petrol stations around, especially in places like Ashburton. So, it's important to fill up whenever you can to avoid running out in the middle of nowhere.

Dartmoor is known for its beautiful landscapes and wild animals. You might see sheep, Dartmoor ponies, and cows on the roads. Drive slowly to be safe. There are many narrow roads and sharp turns to handle. You might need to back up in small spaces or wait for others to pass.

If your car is a Vauxhall Mokka X, it's good for all kinds of roads with its 4x4 feature. You can use the “My Vauxhall” app for your phone. It helps with finding the best routes when exploring Dartmoor.

Summer is a busy time on Dartmoor's roads. Remember to drive carefully and look out for the environment. Enjoy your trip safely with these safety tips.

Consideration Recommendation
Fuel Refuel when possible at villages like Ashburton
Wildlife Drive cautiously to accommodate sheep, wild horses, and cattle
Road Conditions Be prepared for narrow lanes and utilise passing places
Vehicle Choice Consider vehicles like Vauxhall Mokka X for off-road tracks


Starting a journey through Dartmoor National Park is an adventure like no other. You'll venture through beautiful landscapes and historic wonders. Each corner you turn brings you to something new.

You’ll see ancient places like Grimspound and the enchanting Wistman’s Wood. Don’t miss the chance to visit old inns like the Warren House Inn. This mix of nature and history makes every trip through Dartmoor special.

There are many things to do here, like swimming in clear rivers at Dartmeet or cycling around Princetown. The roads lead to surprises, from quaint villages to magnificent views at places like Hound Tor.

Despite challenges like local wildlife and changing weather, it's worth it. The beauty and history you'll find in Dartmoor are unparalleled. This makes visitors come back to dig deeper into its stories and nature.