Link to the print version of the General Information Factsheet
Covering an area of 954 sq km (368 sq miles), Dartmoor contains the largest and wildest area of open country in the south of England. By virtue of its outstanding natural beauty it is one of the National Parks of England and Wales. The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949, made provision for the designation of National Parks in England and Wales. Between 1951 and 1957 ten National Parks were confirmed. In 1989 another area, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, was given National Park status. In 1999 the Government announced that two new National Parks in England were to be created. The New Forest National Park was designated in 2005 and the South Downs National Park was created in 2009.
Unlike many National Parks in other countries, for example the USA, the National Parks in England, Wales and Scotland are not owned by the state. The term National means that they have been identified as being of importance to our national heritage and as such are worthy of special protection and attention. Within each National Park there are many landowners, including public bodies and private individuals. National Parks are places where people live and work.
The statutory purposes of the English and Welsh National Parks as stated in the Environment Act, 1995 are:
- to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Parks.
- to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Parks by the public.
The National Park Authorities also have a duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Parks.
|Highest pt.||High Willhays 621m (2,039ft)|
|asl SX 579 893|
|Lowest pt.||Doghole Bridge 30m (98ft)|
|asl SX 843 817|
|Land over||150m (492ft) - 81% of the|
|Land over||300m (984ft) - 51% of the|
|Land over||460m (1,509ft)13% of the|
Principal Rivers & Valleys
A large part of Dartmoor (65%) is made up of granite, an igneous rock which was intruded some 295 million years ago. This great granite core is surrounded by sedimentary rocks including limestones, shales and sandstones belonging to the Carboniferous and Devonian periods. Those nearest the granite intrusion were altered (metamorphosed) by intense heat and pressure and chemical reactions.
There are over 160 tors on Dartmoor. The principal ones are:
|Tor||Height above sea level||Grid Reference|
|High Willhays||621m (2,039ft)||SX 580 892|
|Yes Tor||619m (2,030ft)||SX 581 901|
|Great Links Tor||586m (1,924ft)||SX 551 867|
|Fur Tor||572m (1,876ft)||SX 588 830|
|Great Mis Tor||539m (1,768ft)||SX 562 770|
|Great Staple Tor||455m (1,493ft)||SX 542 760|
|Haytor||454m (1,490ft)||SX 757 770|
|Hound Tor||448m (1,469ft)||SX 743 790|
|Sharpitor||402m (1,320ft)||SX 559 703|
|Sheeps Tor||320m (1,050ft)||SX 565 683|
|Vixen Tor||320m (1,050ft)||SX 542 742|
The climate of Dartmoor, dominated by the south-westerly winds, is cool and wet. The high moorlands of the north west and southern central areas where the altitude exceeds 450m (1,500ft) have the most severe climatic conditions.
|Rainfall||Princetown - 2150mm (83in) average|
|Rainfall||Widecombe-in-the-Moor - 1581mm (61in) average|
|Snow lie||Lowland - fewer than 5 days per annum|
|Snow lie||Highland - average 15 - 20 days|
|Snow lie||Summits - average 30 days|
|Sunshine||3-4 hours daily average|
The National Park is sparsely populated. The main settlements are: Ashburton, Buckfastleigh, Moretonhampstead, Princetown, Yelverton, Horrabridge, South Brent, Christow and Chagford. Smaller villages and hamlets meet the remaining housing need. Total population of the National Park is about 34,000 based on estimates from 2001 Census data. Population of Ashburton (largest settlement) is nearly 4,000 (2001 Census data).
Major Land Use
|% of total National Park|
|Moorland (including rough grazing)||48,450 hectares |
|Farmland||33,041 hectares |
|Forestry/Woodland||11,152 hectares |
|Reservoirs||209 hectares |
|Other (inc villages)||2577 hectares |
|Common Land||approx 34,878 |
|The Duchy of Cornwall owns||28,328 hectares |
|Approximate amount of Duchy of Cornwall |
owned land which is common land
Rights of Way
There are over 448 miles (721km) of linear access in the National Park. A number of access agreements have been negotiated and, under theDartmoor Commons Act, 1985, there is legal public access to all Dartmoor common land. Byelaws exist to regulate this access.
New walking rights on Dartmoor specifically arising from the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, as from 28 August 2005, extend to approximately 7,000 hectares. Generally, accessing Dartmoor's open country is relatively straightforward. However, because of the Dartmoor Commons Act, the open access situation on Dartmoor is different from that for the rest of the country.
A & B Class Roads
Parts or all of:
|A30||Exeter - Okehampton - Launceston|
|A386||Sourton - Roborough Down - Plymouth|
|A382||Bovey Tracey - Whiddon Down|
|B3212||Moretonhampstead - Yelverton|
|B3357||Tavistock - Dartmeet|
|B3387||Bovey Tracey - Widecombe-in-the-Moor|
Reserves & Protected Areas
National Nature Reserves
|East Dartmoor Woods & Heath |
includes Bovey Valley & Yarner Wood
& Trendlebere Down
|366 hectares||904 acres|
|Dendles Wood||29 hectares||72 acres|
|Black Tor Copse||29 hectares||72 acres|
|Wistman's Wood & Longaford Newtake||170 hectares||420 acres|
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
There are over 40 locations within the Dartmoor National Park covering 26,169 hectares (64,664 acres). The two main sites of North Dartmoor and South Dartmoor total over 20,000 hectares (49,420 acres).
Devon Wildlife Trust Reserves
|Dart Valley||290 hectares||717 acres|
|Lady's Wood||3 hectares||7 acres|
|Dunsford Wood||57 hectares||141 acres|
|Mill Bottom||6 hectares||15 acres|
|Blackadon||37 hectares||91 acres|
|Lower East Lounston||2.5 hectares||6 acres|
|National Trust Areas|
|Holne Woods||69 hectares||170 acres|
|Lydford Gorge||48 hectares||119 acres|
|Plym Estate||237 hectares||586 acres|
|Teign Valley||165 hectares||408 acres|
|Trowlesworthy Warren||1,349 hectares||3,333 acres|
|Hembury||163 hectares||403 acres|
|Castle Drogo||308 hectares||761 acres|
|Milfordleigh||7 hectares||17 acres|
|Wheal Betsy||1 hectare||2 acres|
|Woodcock Wood||8 hectares||20 acres|
Ministry of Defence trains on 12,906 hectares (31,891 acres) made up of freehold, leasehold and licensed areas. Of this total 10,871 hectares (26,862 acres) is used for live firing purposes.
South West Water owns 4,421 hectares (10924 acres) of land including 8 reservoirs.
Forestry Commission owns 1,359 hectares (3,358 acres) of land leasehold, plus 381 hectares (941 acres) freehold.
Duchy of Cornwall owns 28,328 hectares (70,000 acres).
Dartmoor National Park Authority Apart from a variety of small sites (mainly car parks) the National Park Authority owns 1,451 ha (3,587 acres) including:
|Holne Moor & Woods||783 hectares||1,935 acres|
|Haytor||421 hectares||1,040 acres|
|Wray Cleave||31 hectares||77 acres|
|Sanduck Wood||12 hectares||30 acres|
|Casely Wood||8 hectares||20 acres|
|Dendles Waste||80 hectares||198 acres|
|Whiddon Scrubbs||8 hectares||20 acres|
|Blackingstone Rock||5 hectares||12 acres|
|Plasterdown||93 hectares||230 acres|
|Trendlebere||10 hectares||25 acres|
Ancient Monuments and Listed Buildings
Dartmoor's landscape is of great archaeological importance, with over 17,500 entries on the Historic Environment Record. There are over 1,200 Scheduled Ancient Monuments and this figure rises each year. There are also over 2,500 buildings which are listed because of their architectural or historic interest. Some of these buildings are private houses but others are open to the public, for example Castle Drogo owned by the National Trust, has approx. 115,000 visitors annually and Buckfast Abbey attracts 400,000 visitors each year.
Dartmoor National Park Authority
1951, 4th National Park to be designated in England and Wales.
National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949
Countryside Act, 1968
Town & Country Planning Act, 1971
Local Government Act, 1972
Local Government Act, 1980
Wildlife & Countryside Act, 1981
Dartmoor Commons Act, 1985
The Town & Country Planning General Development Order, 1988
Dartmoor National Park (Designation) Variation Order, 1990
Environment Act, 1995
The Environment Act, 1995 established a new free-standing Authority for Dartmoor which took over the administration and management of the National Park on 1 April 1997. For 45 years previously, Devon County Council had administered these functions.
The National Park Authority comprises 22 members. Six members are appointed by Devon County Council, and six by the District Councils - three from West Devon Borough Council, two from Teignbridge District Council and one from South Hams District Council. The remaining ten members are Government appointees. Four of these represent parish council interests and are nominted by the parish councils on Dartmoor. The nominations are then approved by the Secretary of State. The other six members are directly appointed by the Secretary of State for national interests and are persons, usually local, with specialist knowledge of, or a particular interest in, the National Park. Members are usually appointed for an initial period of up to 4 years with the option of re-appointment for a period of up to ten years and help provide the balance of local and national interests that is essential to the management of a National Park. The Members meet once a month to take specific planning decisions and also provide overall guidance on policy and strategy for the Authority. They are similar in function to Governors of a school.
Details about Dartmoor National Park Authority Member meetings can be found on-line at: www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/au-authoritymeetings
Staff There are about 100 permanent staff and other temporary and part-time staff are employed. The main areas of work are:
Planning; Information; Education; Interpretation; Biodiversity; Farming; Recreation; Tourism; Rangers; Conservation Works and Administration.
Visitor Service Dartmoor National Park Authority operates 3 National Park Information Centres and supports 5 Community Information Points. Information enquiries by telephone to: (01822) 890414.
The Dartmoor Guide Free information newspaper, published bi-annually. Suitable for visitors and local people.
Guided Walks Under the direction of knowledgeable guides, walks of various lengths are held throughout the year. Details of the programme are published in The Dartmoor Visitor.
Finance Most of the money that the National Park Authority requires comes directly from Government through the core National Park Grant from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affiars (Defra). Some further income is generated through sales, fees and charges. Defra supplies additional funds to support the Dartmoor Sustainable Development Fund.
Full details about how much income we have and how it is spent can be found on-line in the annual Business Plan by following this link: www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/au-corporateplanning_process
Useful web links for further information:
Dartmoor National Park Management Plan 2007-2012
Dartmoor National Park Authority Business Plan
For further information, and a list of other Fact Sheets available, contact the:
Education, Information and Communications Service,
Dartmoor National Park Authority,
Parke, Bovey Tracey, Newton Abbot,
Devon TQ13 9JQ
Tel: (01626) 832093
Visit Learning About for more educational resources.
This publication may be photocopied for educational purposes under the Copyright Act 1988.
© Dartmoor National Park Authority 2004