DARTMOOR is an area of moorland in southern
Devon , England.
Protected by National Park status as DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARK, it covers
954 km2 (368 sq mi).
The granite which forms the uplands dates from the Carboniferous
Period of geological history. The moorland is capped with many exposed
granite hilltops known as tors , providing habitats for Dartmoor
wildlife . The highest point is
High Willhays , 621 m (2,037 ft) above
sea level. The entire area is rich in antiquities and archaeology .
Dartmoor is managed by the
Dartmoor National Park Authority , whose
22 members are drawn from
Devon County Council , local district
councils and Government.
Dartmoor have been used as military firing ranges for over
200 years. The public is granted extensive land access rights on
Dartmoor (including restricted access to the firing ranges) and it is
a popular tourist destination.
* 1 Physical geography
* 1.1 Geology
* 1.2 Tors
* 1.3 Rivers
* 1.4 Bogs
* 2 Climate
* 3 History
* 3.1 Pre-history
* 3.2 Standing stones
* 3.3 Hut circles and kistvaens
* 3.4 The historical period
* 4 Myths and literature
* 5 Ownership and access
* 5.1 Use by the Ministry of Defence
* 6 Preservation
* 7 Towns and villages
* 8 Landmarks
* 9 Leisure activities
* 9.1 Visitor centres
* 10 See also
* 11 References
* 12 Sources
* 13 External links
Map showing the main granite outcrops of the Cornubian batholith
England and the gravity anomaly associated with it.
Dartmoor includes the largest area of granite in Britain, with about
625 km2 (241 sq mi) at the surface, though most of it is under
superficial peat deposits. The granite (or more specifically
adamellite ) was intruded at depth as a pluton into the surrounding
sedimentary rocks during the
Carboniferous period, probably about 309
million years ago. It is generally accepted that the present surface
is not far below the original top of the pluton; evidence for this
includes partly digested shale xenoliths , contamination of the
granite and the existence of two patches of altered sedimentary rock
on top of the granite. A considerable gravity anomaly is associated
Dartmoor pluton as with other such plutons . Measurement of
the anomaly has helped to determine the likely shape and extent of the
rock mass at depth.
Panorama of some better known
Dartmoor tors in snow High
Yes Tor behind
Dartmoor is known for its tors – hills topped with outcrops of
bedrock, which in granite country such as this are usually rounded
boulder-like formations. More than 160 of the hills of
the word tor in their name but quite a number do not. However this
does not appear to relate to whether or not there is an outcrop of
rock on their summit. The tors are the focus of an annual event known
Ten Tors Challenge , when around 2400 people aged between 14
and 19 walk for distances of 56, 72 or 88 km (35, 45 or 55 mi) between
ten tors on many differing routes.
The highest points on
Dartmoor are on the northern moor: High
Willhays , 621 m (2,037 ft), (grid reference SX580895) and
Yes Tor ,
619 m (2,031 ft), (grid reference SX581901) The highest points on the
southern moor are Ryder\'s Hill , 515 m (1,690 ft), (grid reference
SX660690), Snowdon 495 m (1,624 ft), (grid reference SX668684), and an
unnamed point (usually classed as the nearby Langcombe Hill or Shell
Top) 493 m (1,617 ft) at (grid reference SX603645). The best-known tor
Haytor (called Hey Tor by William Crossing), 457 m
(1,499 ft), (grid reference SX757771). For a more complete list see
List of Dartmoor tors and hills .
River Erme at
The high ground of
Dartmoor forms the catchment area for many of
Devon's rivers. As well as shaping the landscape, these have
traditionally provided a source of power for moor industries such as
tin mining and quarrying.
The moor takes its name from the
River Dart , which starts as the
East Dart and West Dart and then becomes a single river at
It leaves the moor at
Buckfastleigh , flowing through
where it opens up into a long ria , reaching the sea at Dartmouth .
For a full list, expand the Rivers of
Dartmoor navigational box at
the bottom of this page.
Much more rain falls on
Dartmoor than in the surrounding lowlands. As
much of the national park is covered in thick layers of peat (decaying
vegetation), the rain is usually absorbed quickly and distributed
slowly, so the moor is rarely dry. In areas where water accumulates,
dangerous bogs or mires can result. Some of these, topped with bright
green moss, are known to locals as "feather beds" or "quakers",
because they can shift (or 'quake') beneath a person's feet. Quakers
result from sphagnum moss growing over the water that accumulates in
the hollows in the granite. Aune Mire , the source of the
The vegetation of the bogs depends on the type and location. Blanket
bog , which forms on the highest land where the rainfall exceeds 2,000
millimetres (79 in) a year, consists mainly of cotton-grass
Eriophorum species), sedges (
Common Tormentil , with
Sphagnum thriving in the wettest patches.
The valley bogs have lush growth of rushes , with sphagnum,
cross-leaved heath , sundews and several other species.
Some of the bogs on
Dartmoor have achieved notoriety.
Fox Tor Mires
was supposedly the inspiration for Great Grimpen Mire in Conan Doyle's
The Hound of the Baskervilles , although there is a waymarked
footpath across it.
Sabine Baring-Gould , in his Book of Dartmoor
(1900) related the story of a man who was making his way through Aune
Mire at the head of the River Avon when he came upon a top-hat brim
down on the surface of the mire. He kicked it, whereupon a voice
called out: "What be you a-doin' to my 'at?" The man replied, "Be
there now a chap under'n?" "Ees, I reckon," was the reply, "and a hoss
under me likewise."
Along with the rest of South West
Dartmoor has a temperate
climate which is generally wetter and milder than locations at similar
height in the rest of England. At
Princetown , near the centre of the
moor at a height of 453 metres (1,486 ft), January and February are
the coldest months with mean minimum temperatures around 1 °C (34
°F). July and August are the warmest months with mean daily maxima
not reaching 18 °C (64 °F). Compared with
Teignmouth , which is on
the coast about 22 miles (35 km) to the east, the average maximum and
minimum temperatures are 3.0 °C (5.4 °F) and 2.6 °C (4.7 °F) lower
respectively, and frost is at least five times as frequent. On the
highest ground, in the north of the moor, the growing season is less
than 175 days – this contrasts with some 300 days along most of the
south coast of the county.
Rainfall tends to be associated with Atlantic depressions or with
convection. In summer, convection caused by solar surface heating
sometimes forms shower clouds and a large proportion of rainfall falls
from showers and thunderstorms at this time of year. The wettest
months are November and December and on the highest parts of the moor
the average annual total rainfall is over 2,000 millimetres (79 in).
This compares with less than 800 millimetres (31 in) in the lower land
to the east around the
Exe Estuary , which is in the rain shadow of
the moor. Due to the influence of the
Gulf Stream snowfall is not
common, though due to its high altitude it is more vulnerable to
snowfall than surrounding regions.
Between 1961 and 1990
Met Office data shows that there was an average
of 20 days when snow fell on the moor, and over 40 days a year with
hail, which is as high as anywhere else in the country. This results
when cold polar maritime air that has travelled over a large expanse
of warmer ocean is forced to rise over high country.
When average temperatures at
Princetown between 1961 and 2000 are
compared, the average annual temperature in the decade 1990–2000 was
up by 0.2 °C (0.4 °F) and the late winter temperature increased by
0.5 °C (0.9 °F).
The majority of the prehistoric remains on
Dartmoor date back to the
Neolithic and early
Bronze Age . Indeed,
Dartmoor contains the
largest concentration of
Bronze Age remains in the United Kingdom,
which suggests that this was when a larger population moved onto the
hills of Dartmoor. The large systems of
Bronze Age fields, divided by
reaves , cover an area of over 10,000 hectares (39 sq mi) of the lower
The climate at the time was warmer than today, and much of today's
moorland was covered with trees. The prehistoric settlers began
clearing the forest, and established the first farming communities.
Fire was the main method of clearing land, creating pasture and
swidden types of fire-fallow farmland. Areas less suited for farming
tended to be burned for livestock grazing. Over the centuries these
Neolithic practices greatly expanded the upland moors, and contributed
to the acidification of the soil and the accumulation of peat and bogs
After a few thousand years the mild climate deteriorated leaving
these areas uninhabited and consequently relatively undisturbed to the
present day. The highly acidic soil has ensured that no organic
remains have survived, but the durability of the granite has meant
that the remains of buildings, enclosures and monuments have survived
well, as have flint tools. It should be noted that a number of remains
were "restored" by enthusiastic
Victorians and that, in some cases,
they have placed their own interpretation on how an area may have
Beardown Man, Dartmoor.
Numerous prehistoric menhirs (more usually referred to locally as
standing stones or longstones), stone circles , kistvaens , cairns and
stone rows are to be found on the moor. The most significant sites
* Upper Erme stone row is the longest on
Dartmoor and in fact in the
world at 3,300 m (10,800 ft)
* Beardown Man, near Devil's Tor – isolated standing stone 3.5 m
(11 ft 6 in) high, said to have another 1 m (3 ft 3 in) below ground.
grid reference SX596796
* Challacombe, near the prehistoric settlement of
triple stone row. grid reference SX689807
Drizzlecombe , east of
Sheepstor village – stone rows, standing
stones, kistvaens and cairns. grid reference SX591669
Grey Wethers , near
Postbridge — double circle, aligned almost
exactly north south. grid reference SX638831
* Laughter Tor, near Two Bridges — standing stone 2.4 m (7 ft 10
in) high and two double stone rows, one 164 m (538 ft) long. grid
* Merrivale , between
Tavistock — includes a double
stone row 182 m (597 ft) long, 1.1 m (3 ft 7 in) wide, aligned almost
exactly east-west), stone circles and a kistvaen. grid reference
* Scorhill (pronounced 'Scorill'), west of
Chagford — circle, 26.8
m (88 ft) in circumference, and stone rows. grid reference SX654873
* Shovel Down, north of Fernworthy reservoir — double stone row
approximately 120 m (390 ft) long. grid reference SX660859
Yellowmead Down , a quadruple concentric stone circle and stone
HUT CIRCLES AND KISTVAENS
There are also an estimated 5,000 hut circles still surviving
although many have been raided over the centuries by the builders of
the traditional dry stone walls. These are the remnants of Bronze Age
houses. The smallest are around 1.8 m (6 ft) in diameter, and the
largest may be up to five times this size.
Some have L-shaped porches to protect against wind and rain; some
particularly good examples are to be found at
Grimspound . It is
believed that they would have had a conical roof, supported by timbers
and covered in turf or thatch.
There are also numerous kistvaens ,
Neolithic stone box-like tombs.
THE HISTORICAL PERIOD
Ancient cross close to
The climate became wetter and cooler over the course of a thousand
years from around 1000 BC, resulting in much of high
largely abandoned by its early inhabitants.
It was not until the early Mediaeval period that the weather again
became warmer, and settlers moved back onto the moors. Like their
ancient forebears, they also used the natural granite to build their
homes, preferring a style known as the longhouse — some of which are
still inhabited today, although they have been clearly adapted over
the centuries. Many are now being used as farm buildings, while others
were abandoned and fell into ruin.
The earliest surviving farms, still in operation today, are known as
Ancient Tenements . Most of these date back to the 14th century
and sometimes earlier.
Some way into the moor stands the town of
Princetown , the site of
Dartmoor Prison , which was originally built by Isbell Rowe ">
Jay\'s Grave .
Dartmoor is known for its myths and legends. It is reputedly the
haunt of pixies , a headless horseman , a mysterious pack of "spectral
hounds ", and a large black dog , among others. During the Great
Thunderstorm of 1638, the moorland village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor
was even said to have been visited by the
Many landmarks have ancient legends and ghost stories associated with
them, such as the allegedly haunted Jay\'s Grave , the ancient burial
site of Childe\'s Tomb , the rock pile called Bowerman\'s Nose , and
the stone crosses that mark former mediaeval routes across the moor.
A few stories have emerged in recent decades, such as the "hairy
hands ", that are said to attack motorists on the B3212 near Two
Bridges ; and the "Beast of Dartmoor", a supposed big cat .
Dartmoor has inspired a number of artists and writers, such as Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle in
The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventure
of Silver Blaze ,
R. D. Blackmore ,
Eden Phillpotts ,
Beatrice Chase ,
Agatha Christie ,
Rosamunde Pilcher , and the Reverend Sabine
Baring-Gould . In
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire , the fictional
1994 Quidditch World Cup final between Ireland and Bulgaria was hosted
on the moor.
OWNERSHIP AND ACCESS
Over half of
Dartmoor National Park (57.3%) is private land; the
Forest of Dartmoor
Forest of Dartmoor being the major part of this, owned by the Duke of
Cornwall . The Ministry of Defence owns 14% (see below), 3.8% is owned
by water companies (see
Dartmoor reservoirs ), 3.7% by the National
Trust , 1.8% by the
Forestry Commission and 1.4% by Dartmoor's
national park authority . About 37% of
Dartmoor is common land .
Dartmoor differs from some other National Parks in
England and Wales
, in that since the
Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 much of it has been
designated as 'Access Land', which, although it remains privately
owned, has no restrictions on where walkers can roam. In addition to
this Access Land, there are about 730 km (450 mi) of public rights of
way on Dartmoor, and many kilometres of permitted footpaths and
bridleways where the owner allows access.
Because of the 1985 Act,
Dartmoor was largely unaffected by the
Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 , which established similar
rights in other rural parts of the country, but in 2006, this Act
opened up much of the remaining restricted land to walkers.
USE BY THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
Dartmoor Training Area
There is a tradition of military usage of
Dartmoor dating back to the
Napoleonic Wars . Today, a large British Army training camp remains at
Okehampton — also the site of an airbase during the Second World
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) uses three areas of the northern moor
for manoeuvres and live-firing exercises, totalling 108.71 km2 (41.97
sq mi), or just over 11% of the National Park. Red and white posts
mark the boundaries of these military areas (shown on Ordnance Survey
1:25,000 scale maps). Flagpoles on many tors in and around the ranges
fly red flags when firing is taking place. At other times, members of
the public are allowed access. Blank rounds may also be used, but the
MoD does not notify the public of this in advance.
Some "challenge" and charitable events take place with assistance of
the military on
Dartmoor including the long established
Ten Tors event
and the more recent
Dartmoor Beast .
Dartmoor's fictional use as an MoD centre for animal testing called
Baskerville was referenced in the BBC drama Sherlock episode "The
Hounds of Baskerville ".
Rippon Tor Rifle Range was built to train soldiers during
the Second World War, and remained in use until its closure in 1977.
The clapper bridge at
Dartmoor Hill pony on
Throughout human history, the landscape has been exploited for
industrial purposes. In recent years, controversy has surrounded the
work of industrial conglomerates
Imerys and Sibelco (formerly Watts
Blake Bearne), who have used parts of the moor for china clay mining.
Licences were granted by the
British Government but were recently
renounced after sustained public pressure from bodies such as the
Dartmoor Preservation Association
Dartmoor Preservation Association .
The British government has made promises to protect the integrity of
the moor; however, the cost of compensating companies for these
licences, which may not have been granted in today's political
climate, could prove prohibitive.
The military use of the moor has been another source of controversy,
such as when training was extended in January 2003. The National Park
Authority received 1,700 objections before making the decision.
Objectors claimed that
Dartmoor should be an area for recreation, and
that the training disturbs the peace.
Those who objected included the
Open Spaces Society and the Dartmoor
Preservation Association . During her lifetime, Lady Sayer was another
outspoken critic of the damage which she perceived that the army was
doing to the moor.
TOWNS AND VILLAGES
Dartmoor tor close to
Dartmoor has a resident population of about 33,000, which swells
considerably during holiday periods with incoming tourists. The
largest settlements within the National Park are Ashburton (the
largest with a population of about 3,500),
Princetown , Yelverton ,
Horrabridge , South Brent
Christow , and
For a full list, expand the Settlements of
Dartmoor navigational box
at the bottom of this page.
List of Dartmoor tors and hills Ponies on Trendlebere
Down Sherwell Cross, near Corndon Tor. Venford Reservoir and
Holne Ridge centre right
Avon Dam Reservoir – reservoir popular with walks and trout
* Black Tor Beare (Black-a-Tor Copse ) – remote woodland of
stunted oaks over 305 m (1,001 ft) above sea level in West Okement
* Bowerman\'s Nose – a tor said to be shaped like a nose
Brentor Church – remote church 344 m (1,129 ft) high on crag at
western edge of moor
Buckfast Abbey – abbey near
* Burrator Reservoir – late Victorian reservoir
Canonteign Falls – second highest waterfall in England
Castle Drogo – Edwardian faux castle built by
Edwin Lutyens on a
Teign Gorge, Drewsteignton
* Childe\'s Tomb – ancient burial site
* Church House,
South Tawton – 15th century church ales house
Cosdon Hill – prominent hill, northern extremity of moor, site
of beacon fire for invasion warning
Cranmere Pool – original letterbox site and location of the
legend of Cranmere Binjie
* Crazywell Cross – ancient cross near Crazywell Pool
Crazywell Pool – artificial lake
Dartmeet – meeting point of East and West Dart
Dartmoor Prison – large prison
Devonport Leat – man-made water channel
Devonport Leat aqueduct – aqueduct over the
River Meavy just
down from Raddick Hill Falls
* Duck\'s Pool – location of a memorial to local writer William
* Fernworthy Dam ran from quarries at
Haytor to Stover Canal
Haytor Rock – prominent tor and viewpoint between Bovey Tracey
High Willhays – highest point on Dartmoor
Hound Tor – rugged tor with remains of Iron Age village
* Jay\'s Grave – burial site
Lustleigh Cleave – deep cleave on the
Sticklepath Fault lined
with trees and tors.
Lydford Gorge – very deep and narrow gorge with waterfalls
* Meldon Reservoir on famous
Sticklepath geological fault
Spitchwick – a swimming spot where the
River Webburn joins the
* Staldon Stone Row – longest stone row on
potentially the world.
Tavistock Canal – 19th-century canal
* Tavy Cleave – river gorge on western moor near
* Teign-e-ver – confluence of North
Teign and Wallabrook; clapper
bridges horse riding, which can be undertaken on any of the common
land ; cycling (but not on open moorland); and angling for wild
brown trout , sea trout and salmon —although much of the river
Dartmoor is privately owned, permits are available for some
The park's main visitor centre is located in
Princetown and features
exhibits about Dartmoor's history, culture and wildlife, as well as
changing displays of local art. The visitor centres located in
Haytor feature information, maps, guidebooks and items
for exploring the area.
Dartmoor Discovery Ultramarathon Race
Dartmoor Preservation Association
Dartmoor Preservation Association
Dartmoor Way long-distance footpath
* Geology of the
Museum of Dartmoor Life
Rock-cut basin The Tolmen stone
* ^ A B C D E F G "General Information Factsheet". Dartmoor
National Park Authority. Archived from the original on 8 September
2008. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
* ^ Durrance & Laming 1982, pp.86, 101
* ^ Durrance & Laming 1982, p.88
* ^ British Geological Survey 1997, Gravity Anomaly Map of Britain,
Ireland and Adjacent Areas, Smith Booth, Janice (2014). South
Dartmoor. Chalfont St Peter: Bradt. p. 222. ISBN 9781841625522 .
* ^ Ian Mercer: Bogs and Mires of Dartmoor, in Hunt & Wills 1977 ,
* ^ Sandles, Tim. "The Bogs & Mires of Dartmoor". Legendary
Dartmoor. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
* ^ Crossing, W, Crossing's Guide to
Dartmoor 1912 edition,
published by Western Morning News Co. Ltd.
* ^ Brunsden, Denys; Gerrard, John (1970). "The Physical
Environment of Dartmoor". In Crispin Gill. Dartmoor. A New Study.
Newton Abbot: David and Charles. pp. 40–42. ISBN 0-7153-5041-2 .
* ^ Sandles, Tim. "Dartmoor\'s Notorious
Fox Tor Mires". Legendary
Dartmoor. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
* ^ Milton 2006, p.2
* ^ A B Webb 2006, p.30
* ^ A B Webb 2006, p.31
* ^ Webb 2006, pp.32–33
* ^ "
Dartmoor National Park Authority.
Retrieved 2 September 2009.
* ^ Role of anthropogenic fire and in creating moors, and
moor-burning in sustaining them, described in Pyne 1997 , pp.
* ^ Sandles, Tim. "The Hairy Hands". Legendary Dartmoor. Retrieved
7 August 2010.
* ^ Sandles, Tim. "The Legendary Beast of Dartmoor". Legendary
Dartmoor. Archived from the original on 23 August 2010. Retrieved 7
* ^ "
Dartmoor Commons" (PDF).
Dartmoor National Park Authority.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2008. Retrieved 19
Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 on the OPSI website
* ^ "Public Rights of Way".
Dartmoor National Park Authority.
Archived from the original on 11 September 2009. Retrieved 14 July
* ^ http://www.tentors.org.uk/challenge/about
* ^ Hedges, Mike (2004). "The 7th
Dartmoor Society Debate: How
Important is China Clay to Dartmoor?". The
Dartmoor Society. Retrieved
8 June 2017.
* ^ "ViaMichelin Travel. Panorama - Great Britain: The Michelin
Green Guide". Viamichelin.com. 3 April 2008. Archived from the
original on 6 May 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
* ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9
January 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-12.
* ^ Milton 2006, pp.19–20
* ^ Milton 2006, p.36
* ^ "Walking For All".
Dartmoor National Park Authority. Archived
from the original on 18 April 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
* ^ "South West England". UK Rivers Guidebook. Retrieved 18 April
* ^ "Canoeing".
Dartmoor National Park Authority. Retrieved 12 July
* ^ "Climbing".
Dartmoor National Park Authority. Archived from the
original on 14 July 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
* ^ "Horse Riding".
Dartmoor National Park Authority. Archived from
the original on 17 July 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
* ^ "Cycling on road and off road".
Dartmoor National Park
Authority. Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 12
* ^ "Other Activities".
Dartmoor National Park Authority. Archived
from the original on 17 July 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
* Crossing, William Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor, the 1912 edition
reprinted with new introd. by Brian Le Messurier. Dawlish: David
Laming, D. J. (1982). The Geology of Devon. University of Exeter. ISBN
* Hunt, P. J.; Wills, G. L. (eds) (1977),
Devon Wetlands, Exeter:
Devon County Council ISBN 0-903849-19-4 .
* Milton, Patricia (2006). The Discovery of Dartmoor, a Wild and
Wondrous Region. Chichester: Phillimore. ISBN 1-86077-401-6 .
* Pyne, Stephen J. (1997) Vestal Fire: an Environmental History,
Told through Fire, of Europe and Europe's Encounter with the World.
University of Washington Press, Seattle ISBN 0-295-97596-2 .
* Webb, Bruce (2006). "The Environmental Setting of Human
Occupation". In Roger Kain. England's Landscape: The South West.
London: Collins. pp. 30–33. ISBN 0-00-715572-7 .
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for DARTMOOR .
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