Visiting FAQs

How big is Dartmoor National Park?

Dartmoor covers an area of 368 square miles or 957 square kilometres. It has 33,000 people who live within its boundaries

How was the upland of Dartmoor formed?

About 295 million years ago Magma intruded into the Earth’s crust pushing through much of the area we now know as Devon and Cornwall. This cooled to form granite and Dartmoor came into being. Wind, rain and ice erosion then formed the tors that you see today. See our geological timeline.

How many tors are there?

Lots! Dartmoor Search and Rescue have produced a book identifying Dartmoor’s Tors and rocks and discovered more than 365 – so you can visit one every day of the year!

Why is Dartmoor a National Park?

In 1945 Dartmoor was first proposed as a National Park in a report, National Parks in England and Wales (Dower Report). Two years later a further report ‘Committee on National Parks in England and Wales’ (Hobhouse Report), delineated the area of Dartmoor to become a National Park. Then in 1949 the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act passed on 16 December. This created the National Parks Commission and set out the National Park purposes of preserving and enhancing the beauty of National Parks and promoting their enjoyment by the public. On 30 October, 1951 Dartmoor National Park designation was confirmed.

What role does the National Park Authority have?

Dartmoor National Park Authority is a special purpose local authority created under the Environment Act 1995. As such the Authority exists to secure for the public good the conservation, enhancement, enjoyment and understanding of the special qualities of Dartmoor, its landscape, wildlife and cultural heritage. Our role is clearly defined by Parliament in our two statutory purposes, which are to:

  • conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park
  • promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Park by the public

In carrying out this work, we are also required to meet a socio-economic duty, namely:

  • seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park.

What is Dartmoor famous for?

Dartmoor is famous for its wide open spaces, the tors, Dartmoor Prison, Bronze Age archaeology, ponies, Sherlock Holmes, myths and legends and for having the worlds largest land slug!

What hours does the National Park open and how much do you charge for entry?

Unlike National Parks in other parts of the world, UK National Parks are areas where people live and work. Therefore, there are no opening or closing times, no barriers and no charge for entry. If you would like to support our conservation work we would welcome a donation

Are the ponies wild?

All the ponies are owned by someone but they are allowed to roam free on Dartmoor for large parts of the year until they are counted during the annual pony drifts. They will then be released back onto the moor or taken away to be sold.

Where can we see the ponies?

Ponies can be seen at most times of the year grazing on various areas of open common. Please do not approach or feed them as they can bite and if fed can loiter around the roadside which is dangerous for their wellbeing!

There is an exhibition at Powdermills of the Dartmoor Hill Pony and at Parke estate in Bovey Tracey you can visit the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust – please see their website for opening times.

How long has Dartmoor been farmed?

Dartmoor has an incredibly long history of farming which goes back to the Bronze Age (approx. 1500 -2000 BC) when there is evidence of reaves (field boundaries) being built.

Why is the ground burned?

This is due to an ancient practice known as swaling.  Land owners and commoners carry out controlled burning (swaling) of moorland vegetation. This helps manage vegetation on overgrown heath land and clears the ground of dead vegetation so that new growth can appear.

What are the military firing areas?

Dartmoor has a long association with the military and as part of their license they use three agreed areas for their training which can include live firing. Red flags are posted, as well as notice on websites, to show when and where the military firing is taking place.

Can I walk anywhere?

Not anywhere. On private land you may walk if there is an agreement with the landowner, however the public does have legal open access to about 47,400 hectares of Dartmoor.  Of this total, public access on foot (and horseback) to the Dartmoor commons, was secured under the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985.

How can I join a guided walk?

Check the website for details of walks provided by Moorland Guides or the Visit Dartmoor website.

Can I camp anywhere?

Dartmoor is famed for its backpack camping. However rules do apply and it is for those backpacking not for groups with large tents to camp by the roadside. See our wild camping information or in the Visitor Centre.
There are lots of great campsites available though, see Visit Dartmoor.

Can I stay in my camper van free on Dartmoor?

Dartmoor byelaws restrict the overnight sleeping in vehicles on Dartmoor. We suggest that you stay in one of the fantastic campsites on and around Dartmoor.

Where are the best places to go stargazing?

Whilst Dartmoor doesn’t have official ‘Dark Sky’ designation yet, its skies are amongst the best in Southern England for star gazing. Away from major settlements, tree cover and in the middle of the moor are obviously good starting places.

Can I go Wild Swimming anywhere I like on Dartmoor?

You have a right to swim in Dartmoor’s rivers as long as you access and egress from points that is not on private land and you respect the other river users and most importantly the local ecology.

Can my dog go anywhere and where do I dispose of dog mess?

Dartmoor welcomes responsible dog owners. However, we ask that dogs are always kept under control and during lambing and ground nesting bird season that dogs are kept on a lead.  Dartmoor National Park does not provide any bins and so all litter (including dog poo bags) must be taken home with you. 

Where can we have a picnic?

On the open moorland there are no restrictions on where you can have a picnic. However, please do not light any fires or leave any litter.

Can I fly my drone on Dartmoor?

The use of drones on Dartmoor where there is public access is not permitted under the Byelaws. On land where there is no public right of access it is up to the individual to seek the permission from the landowner. Commercial use of drones over Dartmoor requires the normal filming permissions of the landowner, which will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Do you provide information in other languages?

There is information in German in the Visitor Centres and our website has a French leaflet as well.  

May I scatter the ashes of my relative on Dartmoor?

There are no rules but we would ask that you exercise discretion and not scatter them at a popular site and/or at a busy time; there should be no flowers or permanent memorial and if it is off the common then landowner permission should be sought.  It should be ensured that they are not scattered near any water course.