For those who love camping, Dartmoor offers a wonderfully windswept retreat to explore, hike and enjoy. The Dartmoor National Park is one of the smallest in the UK, covering 954 square kilometres (368 square miles) and is mostly moorland with tors, which are granite hilltops, peat bogs, rivers, a few remote villages and the prison at Princetown. Although there are 450 miles of footpaths and bridleways, Dartmoor is designated as 'Access Land' and although it is privately owned, the public has free access rights over it.
Wild Camping on Dartmoor
Although there are organized campsites on Dartmoor, wild camping on open land is acceptable on Dartmoor. Campers cannot pitch a tent on farmland, moorland which is enclosed by walls, on archaeological sites or within 100 metres of a road. Otherwise you are free to backpack, tramp the moors and sleep beneath the stars as you please.
Things to do on Dartmoor
The most common pastime on Dartmoor is hill walking and visitors should be well prepared with proper hiking boats for the rough, sometimes wet terrain. Clothing, maps, a compass and emergency supplies should be carried, as the fog can descend, leaving hikers marooned.
Cycling both on the road and off-road is popular on mountain bikes. The Granite Way is a dedicated cycle path. For those making their own way, an off-road cycling map is recommended. There are many pre-planned cycle routes available on the Devon County Council website too.
The granite tors of Dartmoor are popular with climbers of all abilities, particularly around Haytor and Leigh Tor. The many rivers on Dartmoor provide not only a natural home for wildlife but also some great canoeing. After heavy rains the swollen rivers can make for some exciting and challenging conditions. The River Dart has some excellent whitewater areas. Fishing is also popular on Dartmoor.
One pursuit which is unique to Dartmoor is letterboxing. A little like Geocaching or treasure hunting, people have hidden 'letterboxes' all over Dartmoor. Guidebooks can be bought listing clues to letterbox locations and when discovered the letterboxes usually hold a visitor's book for signing, and a rubber stamp which can be used to stamp the finder's record book. The stamp and visitor's book are then hidden again for the next seeker. Letterboxing adds an extra dimension to walking and camping on Dartmoor, especially for children as it captures their imagination and adds an element of excitement and purpose.