The very name Dartmoor brings dark folklore to the minds of many. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ placed Baskerville Hall and its monstrous dog in Dartmoor. Dartmoor also is the legendary home of a headless horseman and pointy-eared pixies. On a remote stretch of Route B3212, supernatural ?hairy hands? are said to grab automobile steering wheels and jerk the vehicles out of control.
In reality, Dartmoor is a ruggedly beautiful national park of some 950 square kilometers in County Devon, southwestern England. Its granite hills, called tors, are part of the most expansive granite topography in Great Britain. High Willhays is the highest tor at approximately 620 meters. Tourists are intrigued by the singular landscape scientists even moreso as they probe millions of years into Dartmoor’s geological and archaeological past.
Dartmoor is famous for its shaggy-mane, semi-wild ponies. Wild heather and scenic meadows give the moor a unique beauty. Pretty rivers and stone bridges are a photographer’s delight. Dartmoor?s climate is temperate like the rest of southern England, and it receives unusually high rainfall levels. Peat bog covers much of the land, and mires potentially hazardous are common.
More Bronze Age evidence is found in Dartmoor than any comparable region in the United Kingdom. Remnants of ancient history include Grimspound, an aboriginal town; the Grey Wethers, a Druid shrine; the Drewsteignton, Drizzlecombe, Yellowmead Down and Scorhill stone circles; and the Upper Erme, Challacombe, Merrivale, Shovel Down and Laughter Tor stone rows.
Prehistoric tombs and traces of numerous hut circles also are scattered throughout Dartmoor. A curious, thin, 3.5-meter stone, Beardown Man, stands upright within sight of Devils Tor.
More recent relics include medieval longhouses and large stone crosses. Some of the Dartmoor farms have been worked for at least 600 years, and centuries-old granite buildings are still in use. There also are remnants of the areas tin mines of long ago.
A must-see destination is historic Dartmoor Prison. Dozens of other famous landmarks include the strange rock formation known as Bowermans Nose, the Jays Grave burial place, and Two Bridges, an inn dating to the 1700s.
Tourists can enjoy kayaking and canoeing in the Dartmoor rivers and rock climbing on the tors. The most popular activity, though, is hiking. While walking the moorland, ask locals about the quaint practice called letterboxing.