Top attractions in Dartmoor National Park holiday cottages

Top attractions in Dartmoor National Park

Ed Roberts 20 March 2020

Come to Dartmoor for your holidays; the whole place is one magnificent visitor attraction! From the tors to the towns, it’s a unique destination, especially if you love walking.

Dartmoor National Park is one of the wildest open spaces in England. Untameable, only the hardiest of farmers and industrialists have been able to yield a sustainable living from this stunning, starkly beautiful area of Devon. The habitats range from woodland river valleys to heath, moor, rocky land forms and grasslands. It’s inspired artists, writers and travellers alike for centuries and with little to disturb its immutable course through history, Dartmoor looks set to remain pure and unspoiled forever (and that’s a very long time).


The visitor attractions in Dartmoor largely consist of natural beauty spots and walking trails, although there are historical curios like Buckland Abbey, Castle Drogo and Dartmoor Prison Museum to draw in those with an interest in architecture and the past.

We have some superb holiday cottages across Dartmoor to appeal to wayfaring visitors to the National Park. Our accommodation ranges from cosy, remote cottages to large farmhouses for extended family getaways or walking holidays with friends. Browse our collection today to find your perfect self-catering holiday cottage.

Castle Drogo

Castle Drogo

Castle Drogo is the most recently completed castle in the UK. Constructed between 1910 and 1930, it was never intended to be a fortress - it was designed to be a residence. Castle Drogo was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens (who designed much of New Delhi, India) for self-made millionaire Julius Drewe. Inside, you can explore the castle‘s many rooms full of precious treasures displayed within. Now managed by the National Trust, Castle Drogo is open to guests; commanding excellent views down the Teign Gorge and beyond, and it’s well worth a visit when you are holidaying in Devon. Enjoy a stroll around the formal gardens or explore the Teign Valley with its ancient gorge, teeming with wildlife.

Stay at: West Nymph Lakeside Cottage | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 1 dog

Dartmoor Prison Museum 

Dartmoor Prison

Perhaps the most curious visitor attraction in Dartmoor is the museum at Dartmoor Prison in Princetown. Quite a procession of dangerous prisoners has been incarcerated within the walls of the spooky, formidable-looking Dartmoor Prison. Since 1809, it has maintained a reputation as an inescapable prison but today none of its prisoners are high-security risks, the prison’s status scaled back. Only one man has ever successfully escaped from the prison, and that was Frank Mitchell who is still ‘officially’ at large. He was sprung from Dartmoor by The Krays in the 1960s. Another famous prisoner was Eamon de Valera – the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland. You can learn about his story and the fascinating history of the prison at the museum where you can see all manner of artefacts from the past including primitive weapons and photos.

Stay at: Higher Manor – The Barn | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 2 dogs

Hound Tor

Hound Tor

This atmospheric hike on Dartmoor to Hound Tor has a strong literary association with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes plot twister, The Hound of the Baskervilles. So, keep an eye out for ghostly dogs out on the moors.

The trail starts at the village of Haytor Vale, taking in Haytor Rocks for views across to the Teign Estuary - also stop by Haytor Granite Tramway, Holwell Tor, Beck Brook, Smallacombe Rocks and take in awesome vistas at the top of Hound Tor. You are sure to encounter quite a few other walkers on the way, as it is one of Dartmoor’s most famous natural landmarks, so you won’t find it easy to get lost.

Stay at: Haytor Vale Lodge | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 2 dogs

Teign River Gorge

Teign Gorge

Try out the lush woodland trail up the Teign Gorge from Fingle Bridge. The circular walk is great for walkers of all abilities; being a mere 3 miles long with a defined pathway for much of its length, it’s a good gateway hike for young families. Originating at the Fingle Bridge Inn, you can bookend the trek with a spot of lunch or a hot drink if the mood takes. The River Teign is fast at this point and a few metres wide; along this section you will see small waterfalls and dams. The woods are a great place to spot wild birds like buzzards and the occasional red kite. Take Hunters Path up to Castle Drogo if you feel like a climb. Much of the path is accessible to prams and wheelchair users, but some of the trail becomes rocky and impassable on the eastern leg of the circuit unless you are on foot.

Stay at: Widecombe Swallows | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 2 dogs

Letterboxing on Dartmoor

Castle Drogo

Predating the geocaching phenomenon that took the world by storm, Letterboxing on Dartmoor has been an established hobby for over 150 years. Since the Victorian era, visitors and locals search the tors and valleys for the hidden treasure by following a set of clues. Unlike geocaching, this predates the technological aids – all you have is a pamphlet containing maps and co-ordinates to help you locate the Letterbox; there are hundreds of Letterboxes sited all over the moor. A Dartmoor Letterbox is a plastic or metal container where a ‘Letterboxer’ can leave their stamp as proof that they have visited the spot. Clue sheets are sold for charity at the bi-annual Letterbox meet held on the clock-change days each March and October at Lee Moor Village Hall. A catalogue of Dartmoor Letterbox clues is also for sale at these meetings. More of an activity than an attraction, the aim of Letterboxing is to unofficially guide you to some lesser-known beauty spots like Cranmere Pool, Belstone Tor and many more.

Stay at: Oak Lodge | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog

Buckland Abbey 

buckland abbey

The former home of Sir Francis Drake, nowadays Buckland Abbey and its considerable grounds are open to the public. Managed by the National Trust, historical Buckland Abbey is a lovely destination for a holiday day trip. There was once 27 apple orchards at Buckland Abbey where the Cistercian monks grew fruit to make into cider. You can still visit the cider press in one of the abbey’s many rooms that have been opened to the public. With excellent facilities, including a visitor centre and a café, a trip to Buckland Abbey is a sure win.

Stay at: Medland View | Sleeps: 4 guests  

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to Dartmoor National Park's attractions. The whole park is an attraction in itself and we think it is a fantastic holiday destination. When it’s time to plan a holiday in Dartmoor, visit our collection of self-catering cottages. We have properties close to all of the attractions included in this guide and more besides.

Photo credits:
Moors @ sjcratwright
Castle Drogo - @ tjnichols44
Dartmoor Prison Museum @mxfan123
Hound Tor @ peafswanderings
Teign Rover Gorge @ klipparelo
Letterboxing @ greyskiesjournaling
Buckland Abbey @ bucklandabbeynt

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

Like it? Share it...

Read more like this

The UK’s best 24-hour city trips

It turns out you don’t need to head to the big cities for fun adventures - come and discover the UK's best cities that can be seen in a day!

Things to do and see in Appledore

Discover Appledore in North Devon and find out what makes it a magical holiday destination.

15 secret North Devon beaches

North Devon’s coast is home to many amazing beaches, but discover the most secret and hidden ones today.
The Travel Chapter Limited trading as Stay In Devon is an appointed representative of ITC Compliance Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (their registration number is 313486) and which is permitted to advise on and arrange general insurance contracts as an intermediary.
The Travel Chapter Limited trading as Stay In Devon | The Travel Chapter Limited is registered in England and Wales. | Registered office Travel Chapter House Gammaton Road Bideford EX39 4DF Company No. 02431506 | VAT reg: 143053210.