Best Dartmoor Winter Things To Do, Dartmoor, Dartmoor National Park

Best Dartmoor Winter Things To Do, Dartmoor, Dartmoor National Park

[Main photo: Steeperton Tor from the southern section of Belstone Ridge near Higher Tor in winter]


Dartmoor National Park is a complex place. You'll experience rolling countryside, heavily wooded valleys, forests and national nature reserves as you explore its landscape. That said, the national park is most famous for its high moor. In our opinion, this comes alive at the end of autumn and over the long winter months. A low sun and wild weather transform the high ground.  There's more shape and character in the landscape.  We'd very much recommend enjoying a holiday in Dartmoor National Park during this time.


Snow on Dartmoor in winter

We've photographed snow on Dartmoor mostly between the months of December and March. Some years have seen very heavy snowfall. Others have been patchy. These are our favourite places to experience snow on Dartmoor.

We've chosen places that are usually accessible even after a period of heavy snow. Most of the places are located on the fringe of the moor. Don't try to drive the roads crossing the high moor after heavy snow.

Browse the images in our photo gallery to see snow on Dartmoor.

Belstone. This popular Dartmoor village is situated just off the A30 by the north border of the National Park. It's usually possible to drive to the large car park by the entrance to the village. You can then walk to the snowy north moor. Most people head for Belstone Tors. If the snow is very heavy then avoid Cosdon Beacon as the snow can be thigh deep on the upper slopes.

Teign Gorge by Chagford. This Dartmoor classic is stunning after snow. Walk in from the A382 by Dogmarsh Bridge if the skinny moorland roads to Castle Drogo and Fingle Bridge are unusable.

Haytor Rocks area. The B3387 climbs from Bovey Tracey to the Haytor Rocks area. Gets really busy after snow.

Pork Hill to Princetown area. The B3357 climbs from Tavistock to the Princetown area. The Staple Tors and Great Mis Tor are beautiful in snow.

High Willhays and Yes Tor. The highest ground on Dartmoor and southern England is superb in the snow. On foot, follow the army road that curls up to the broad ridge on which both summits sit. You can face arctic conditions up there with driving winds and very deep snow so this is an experience for hardened walkers/photographers. With the reopening of The Dartmoor Line and Okehampton Station, it's now much easier to access the high ground in winter.

We'd also recommend heading up to the Warren House Inn area once snow has melted on the roads. This pub is on the B3212 that cuts across the park. Head up to Birch Tor for huge views of snowy Dartmoor. Note that it can be impossible to access the Warren House Inn area after a heavy dumping of snow. In these conditions, park lower down along the B3212 and walk in. We've had to do this quite a few times over the years.


Walking Dartmoor in winter

Winter is arguably the best time to experience Dartmoor's high moor. A low sun and clean winter light make walking on Dartmoor a treat. The hours are short and it can get exceptionally cold but winter offers the greatest variety of walking conditions. Check weather forecasts and sunset times on the BBC or Met Office websites.

If you are an inexperienced walker then stick to the fringes of the high moor. If you're experienced and are heading into the heart of the north or south plateaux then take all the usual safety kit. Take extra layers, head torches, spare gloves etc and tell people where you are going.

See our Best Dartmoor Walks listing for recommendations.

Note that you're likely to bump into groups of teenagers as young as thirteen if you winter walk on Dartmoor. They're training for an event called Ten Tors that takes places in spring. This gives you an idea as to how accessible the national park is in winter.  Yes, conditions can be super challenging (as mentioned in the High Willhays and Yes Tor paragraph above) but, in the main, Dartmoor's a low risk place.


Dartmoor pubs in winter

After a bracing walk, head for a pub.

Popular winter walking pubs include The Tors Inn in Belstone on the fringe of Dartmoor's north moor.

The Warren House Inn is a famous pub on the B3212 in the heart of the national park.

Fingle Bridge Inn is located in the stunning Teign Gorge near Castle Drogo. There's a very popular circular walk here.

See our Best Dartmoor Pubs listing for more recommendations. We list pubs by theme.


Dartmoor night sky in winter

Exmoor National Park was designated a Dark Sky Reserve in 2011. Dartmoor National Park shares the same low levels of light pollution. It gets dark very early during the winter months so it's an ideal time to take in the night sky. On clear nights, the sky fills with stars. It can be breathtaking.


Dartmoor night walking in winter

We'd recommend enjoying the stars on a night walk. Again, it gets dark very early during the winter months so you can walk, say, a section of the army ring road on the north moor well before normal bedtime. If you night walk over the summer months, you basically have to stay up all night as there are so few dark hours.


Dartmoor rivers, valleys and reservoirs in winter

Dartmoor's many river valleys and reservoirs are particularly beautiful in winter light. Dartmoor's rivers are impressive after heavy rain. The noise in the heart of the Dart Gorge, for example, can be exhilarating.

See our Best Dartmoor Gorges and Valleys listing for recommendations.

For reservoirs, Fernworthy Reservoir is superb. Try also Meldon Reservoir and Burrator Reservoir.


Dartmoor prehistory in winter

We'd recommend visiting as many prehistoric sites as you can whilst on holiday in Dartmoor National Park during the winter months. Again, a low sun and clean light illuminate standing stones, stone circles and stone rows. Dartmoor's remarkable prehistoric sites are particularly impressive at this time of year.

See our Best Dartmoor Prehistoric Sites listing for recommendations.


Visitor centres and museums in winter

To learn more about Dartmoor National Park, we'd recommend visits to Princetown National Park Visitor Centre, Postbridge National Park Visitor Centre and Haytor National Park Visitor Centre.

The Museum of Dartmoor Life in Okehampton is superb.


Christmas events

There are plenty of special Christmas events to enjoy. For example, try Santa by Steam on Buckfastleigh's South Devon Railway or one of the many Christmas fairs in Dartmoor's towns and villages.


Dartmoor shopping in winter

In addition to the Christmas fairs and specialist shopping events, we'd recommend buying local at the National Park Visitor Centres.


Dartmoor wildlife in winter

The ponies on Dartmoor are remarkable animals. See their thick winter coats.

Winter is also when you'll see starling clouds over Dartmoor. These used to be amazing up at Okehampton Camp but they've cleared away many of the trees in the area and so smaller clouds appear now.


Dartmoor canoeing in winter

Canoes are a regular sight in Dartmoor National Park in late autumn and through the winter months. Canoe, or watch, on the River Dart and River Teign. Conditions apply. For example, local notices on the River Dart read:

'Notice to canoeists. Sharing the River Dart. Canoeists are permitted to canoe on the River Dart downstream of Newbridge between 1st October and 15th March, and downstream of Dartmeet between 15th October and 15th March. There is no legal right to access the River Dart below Dartmeet outside of these dates. There is also no legal right to access the River Dart above Dartmeet at any time. Canoeists can enjoy the river below Dartmeet during the winter months when conditions are normally good. To canoe outside the above dates can disturb fish and spoil the river for anglers. Conditions can be hazardous. You canoe at your own risk and are responsible for your own safety. Please avoid shallow water. Making contact with the river bed or banks may damage important wildlife habitats. Dart Fisheries Association. Duchy of Cornwall. Working with the Environment Agency and Dartmoor National Park Authority.'


Dartmoor wild swimming in winter

You'll also see people wild swimming in Dartmoor's rivers in late autumn and through the winter months :o 

If you're an experienced swimmer etc, try Spitchwick (Deeper Marsh/Spitchwick Common) on the River Dart or Salmon Leaps, Castle Drogo Weir and Drewe's Pool on the River Teign.


Dartmoor cycling in winter

Cycle some of Dartmoor National Park's many trails on milder days when there's not much wind.

The Granite Way is a Dartmoor classic in the north west section of the national park. Note that this starts at The Dartmoor Line and Okehampton Station.

The Wray Valley Trail in Dartmoor runs between Moretonhampstead and Bovey Tracey in the eastern section of Dartmoor National Park.

Drake's Trail connects Tavistock and Plymouth in the west and south west.

The Granite and Gears Princetown Railway Cycling Routes start in the Princetown area.


*The UK-based Met Office provided the following info on winter. 'The meteorological calendar classifies winter as beginning in December and ending in February. In the astronomical calendar, winter starts on the winter solstice, which is around 22 December in the Northern Hemisphere.'