Tuesday, 15 February 2011

In praise of Dartmoor…

Dartmoor is an undeniable national treasure, a natural phenomenon that everyone has heard of, but for those who have yet to visit, what can you expect?

2011 marks the 60th anniversary of Dartmoor becoming a national park. It stretches 368 square miles, making it the largest area of open country in southern England. Is it welcoming? Breathtaking? Hilly? Desolate? Wild? It's all of those things and experienced visitors to this magnificent area of natural beauty will advise you to be prepared - that means taking sensible walking shoes and maps, as well as a camera and a sense of adventure.

Heather clad moorland, valleys, waterfalls, forests and reservoirs - the ever changing landscape is captivating all year round. Even winter has a beauty of its own, captured here in this stunning short film from the Dartmoor National Park Authority:

It is, of course, a paradise for walkers with countless inspiring trails to follow. One of the wonderful things about this great expanse of outdoors is the variety of things to do. From climbing stone tors, canoeing down the river Dart and exploring on horseback to visiting the pretty villages and historic market towns to enjoy a cream tea, a bustling farmers’ market or some local arts and crafts.

The wildlife is another major attraction (who can resist getting up close to the Dartmoor ponies?) but perhaps a lesser known highlight is the archaeological wealth of the area. It boasts some of the best sites in Western Europe including burial chambers, stone circles and large ceremonial upright standing stones called menhirs. Time Team celebrated their 200th dig on the moor earlier this month. The High Moorland Visitor Centre in Princetown will be able to direct you to some of the most significant sites.

And what about historical buildings? Castle Drogo, dramatically situated above the Teign Gorge, was the last castle to be built in England and was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens who also added his signature style to its formal gardens. This rich heritage helps to maintain the mystical feel of the national park and keeps the many myths and legends of Dartmoor alive.

We’ve over 80 holiday cottages on Dartmoor, many of which welcome pets, so whether you’re a first time visitor or an avid fan, you’re sure to find a perfect base to explore this magical place.