Princetown is situated on the high moorland [1400 feet above sea level] in the centre of the Dartmoor National Park. Princetown owes its existence to the vision of one man - Thomas Tyrwhitt. He was Lord Warden of the Stannaries and Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales.
By the end of the 18th century Tyrwhitt had established Tor Royal Farm and a vision to tame and cultivate the open moor, founding a small settlement called Prince’s Town.
Although livestock farming has always been an important part of Dartmoor life, Tyrwhitt’s arable farming dream failed, due largely to the harsh environment. But he came up with other schemes to revitalise this moorland community, including the building of the prison in 1809 to house at first French, then American, prisoners of war. Today HM Prison Dartmoor is still in use with up to 600 prisoners.
Our flagship National Park Visitor Centre is located in what was the old Duchy Hotel – where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stayed and started writing his famous Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Not far from the Visitor Centre car park is Princetown Railway line, which used to transport quarried granite to the coast.
The railway line is now disused, but it makes an excellent recreational route for both walking and cycling. You may pick up the scent of hops as you wander along the track – this is coming from Princetown Brewery – the highest brewery in England.
Did you know?
In Victorian times, Dartmoor Prison was believed to be the hardest and most severe in England. Visit the Dartmoor Prison Museum to find out more about the notorious past residents including Frank Mitchell & John George Haigh
Best things to see and do
- Call into our National Park Visitor Centre – displays, films, exhibition and children’s area. Buy a Hound of the Baskervilles walk leaflet or a Walks around Princetown leaflet
- Visit the Dartmoor Prison Museum
- Download the Princetown audio walk
- Cycle the Granite & Gears cycle trail
Address: Tavistock Road, Princetown, Yelverton, Devon, PL20 6QF
A few miles to the south of Princetown on the A386 to Yelverton is Burrator Reservoir. This beauty spot is popular with walkers and cyclists and is very family friendly thanks to some lovely level walks. Visit the Burrator Discovery Centre to learn more about its history.