Fancy a little slice of Devonshire’s prime paradise? I know I do – and once you’ve stepped foot in Dartmoor National Park, having sampled even a fraction of its myriad attractions, you’ll be surprised you hadn’t come sooner. The beauty of its landscapes, the diversity of its wildlife, and the rich heritage it harbours are all somewhat of a given; less known, perhaps, are the wealth of outdoor and water-based activities the area’s suited to, many of which can be enjoyed in groups or as a family. Whether you’ve little ones in tow or are travelling with good friends, Dartmoor’s character will leave you with more than just fond memories.
But how will you discover its charms? Well, you’ll find me pedalling with the wind in my hair one day, blood pumping as I weather my best hiking boots the next. Either way, there are a range of options open to you when you want to get out on your next Dartmoor adventure. Dartmoor Walks This Way is your one-stop site for personalised guided walks, for example: strenuous hikes; peaceful strolls; interesting ambles past sites of historical import – they’ve got all manner of capers covered. Simply give them a little information about yourself (don’t worry – it’s nothing too personal!) and they can design a walk tailored to your ability, energy levels and interests, be they historical or natural.
If, for you, two wheels beat two feet hands-down, you can always consider Dartmoor Electric Bicycles instead. Also offering guided tours of the area, they’ll take you to some of Dartmoor’s hidden gems on and around its hilly plains – and all without the dreaded thigh burn. Using modern Swiss Flyer models, e-biking (yes, really!) is a great way to meander through little hamlets like Jordan, Ponsworthy and Dockwell, all the while stopping off to view Bronze Age remains and historic clapper bridges. Oh, and bring a picnic with you. Or just stop somewhere for a sumptuous cream tea, complete with homemade scones and jam-laden cakes – well, you’ll have earned it!
Undoubtedly you’re going to spot some wildlife while out and about, be it by bike or on foot; ponies and cattle, butterflies and birds of prey – there’s even rumour of a few large cats roaming around… But if the sound of moor-dwelling beasts is all a bit much for small family members, perhaps Pennywell Farm will put nerves at ease – after all, who can resist cooing at and cuddling a miniature pig? With a host of other furry inhabitants including guinea pigs, rabbits and rats (come on, they’re not that bad!) as well as falconry displays, children’s play areas, tractor rides and slides, this is sure to let the kids expel all that extra energy. And you? Well, you’ll get to cuddle a miniature pig. Enough said.
Similarly, a day at the beautiful lakes of Dartmoor provides fun by the bucket load – and there are plenty of settings to choose from. From Burrator, Venford and Meldon, to Avon Dam and Fernworthy, these waters provide the perfect setting for an active day out (or inactive – bait fishermen don’t exactly burn calories now, do they?). Roadford Lake, the largest in the South West, is a particularly popular spot; it’s here that the Southwest Lakes Trust have set up one of their Outdoor + Active Centres. Offering you the chance to sail, windsurf and kayak on the water, or learn if you haven’t tried before, they also have a high ropes course and archery section to sample. There’s a lakeside café and interactive visitors’ centre for when the little ones become tired and hungry – or an adjoining playground if they’ve no intention of retiring. What’s more, Roadford Lake Country Park provides the scenic setting for an extensive network of paths, once again allowing you to enjoy some lovely walks and cycles.
When it comes to the word “lovely”, however, nowhere really deserves this description as much as the Tamar Valley (though perhaps “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” is somewhat of a better tagline). Make the most of the picturesque setting by trying something new, whether you fancy exploring on land, on the water, or in the trees! Bordering Dartmoor National Park to the east, Kit Hill to the west, the area’s prime for all sorts of outdoor activities – and with Tamar Trails, you’ll have plenty to choose from. Try geocaching, go paddling down river, or even learn the basics in a bushcraft session. With their adventure days, you’ll have the perfect excuse to play the big kid, all the while acquainting yourself with the area’s fragrant wooded trails. Afterwards, take a ride on the Tamar Valley branch line or tread the oh-so pretty Tamar Valley paths; there are many ways to appreciate Dartmoor’s distinctive and diverse landscapes.