Dartmoor Temperate Rainforest and Woodlands, Dartmoor, Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor Temperate Rainforest and Woodlands, Dartmoor, Dartmoor National Park

[Main photo: the Teign Gorge above Fingle Bridge and Fingle Bridge Inn in the north eastern section of Dartmoor National Park]


Mosses and lichens hang from the trees

By Loch Maree, in north west Scotland, is Beinn Eighe Visitor Centre. It acts as a gateway to ‘precious woodlands [that] are among our last remaining fragments of Caledonian pine forest. The mild, damp climate means that mosses and lichens hang from the trees making it seem like you’re standing in a tropical rainforest’. (Source: information board in Beinn Eighe Visitor Centre)

Travel inland and you come to Glen Affric ‘the once and future forest’. It’s ‘one of Britain’s largest and richest areas of native woodland - the trees are species that grow here naturally, rather than being introduced by people. It’s also ancient woodland - trees have covered this land since they first took root in the meagre soil after the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago’. (Source: information board at Glenn Affric)

At the other end of the UK, on the North Cornwall coast is another precious woodland. Dwarf oaks line the cliffs at Dizzard Forest. Visit and, again, it feels like you’re standing in a rainforest.

Now head inland to Devon and Dartmoor National Park and you find a high number of these heavily wooded areas mostly fringing the high moor.

These precious woodlands are also known as the Celtic rainforest or Atlantic rainforest or temperate rainforest.

Dartmoor National Park is a complex place. Switch between map and satellite settings on Google maps and you’ll see two masses of high moor located within a much larger national park area. In addition to the famous and relatively compact high moor (you can walk the north and south moors in a day), there are heavily wooded gorges, river valleys and cleaves. There’s rolling countryside and numerous woodlands including important National Nature Reserves. We’d recommend you spend time exploring these places away from the high moor.

To help you discover Dartmoor National Park’s temperate rainforest and woodlands, we list them below. Click through on each listing for photos and mapping. We provide information on what’s there. Visit Dartmoor National Park Authority or the Woodland Trust websites for expert information about the flora and fauna in these places. Last, if you're on holiday in Dartmoor National Park and it's raining then these are great places to experience.


The largest and most popular areas of temperate rainforest and woodlands in Dartmoor National Park

These cover large areas. It takes a full day’s walking to explore each of them. If you’re looking at an Ordnance Survey map of Dartmoor, these areas of temperate rainforest and woodlands run clockwise.

Teign Gorge (National Trust)/Fingle Woods (National Trust/Woodland Trust). The Teign Gorge is located in the north eastern section of Dartmoor National Park near Chagford. The National Trust’s Castle Drogo is situated at the western end of the gorge. The beauty spot Fingle Bridge is to the east. The Teign Gorge runs into Fingle Woods that extends east to the border of the national park. We’d recommend walking on either side of the River Teign within the gorge and along the Hunter’s Path on the northern lip of the gorge. If you have time, it’s also fun to explore the south side of the gorge on the Deer Stalkers paths. Whiddon Wood is particularly impressive on this side. Whiddon Deer Park is by Whiddon Wood at the mouth of the Teign Gorge opposite Castle Drogo.

Lustleigh Cleave/Bovey Valley Woodlands. Lustleigh Cleave and the Bovey Woodlands are located in the eastern section of Dartmoor National Park near the village Lustleigh and the national park gateway town Bovey Tracey. We’d recommend parking on the B3387 by Yarner Woods and then following paths marked on the Ordnance Survey map up to the broad ridge at the top of Lustleigh Cleave. You’ll walk through some remarkable woods. The views up top are sensational. Continue to Hunter’s Tor for a classic Dartmoor view across to the village North Bovey, Bovey Castle Hotel and the huge dome of Cosdon Hill on the north moor.

Dart Gorge. The Dart Gorge is located in the eastern section of Dartmoor National Park near the village Holne and above the national park gateway town Ashburton. Two recommendations. First, park at New Bridge and then follow the path along the south bank of the River Dart into Holne Woods. Second, park up by Venford Reservoir and wander out to Bench Tor for immense views of the gorge and surrounding area. If you are a confident and fit walker, it’s great fun to follow the path by Venford Brook down to the south bank of the River Dart and then to pick your way through White Wood downstream to New Bridge. You get the full temperate rainforest experience. The noise after heavy rain is intoxicating. It’s difficult walking. Again, for the confident and fit walker only. 

Lydford Gorge (National Trust). This area of temperate rainforest and woodland is much smaller than the Teign Gorge, Lustleigh Cleave and the Dart Gorge. There’s a super popular circular walk that takes you along the west bank of the River Lyd. Sensational experience. Our favourite time is May when the gorge bursts into life. Lydford Gorge is a National Trust property so charges apply.


Three famous high altitude woodlands in Dartmoor National Park

Piles Copse, Black-a-Tor Copse and Wistman's Wood are rare, high altitude oak woodlands in Dartmoor National Park. Black-a-Tor Copse and Wistman's Wood are both National Nature Reserves. They are 'nationally important for the great variety of lichens and mosses that clothe the trees and rocks. The high humidity, mild winters and low levels of air pollution on Dartmoor provide perfect conditions for mosses and lichens. Some of the species found here are threatened with extinction in Europe, primarily because of air pollution’. (Source: information board at Black-a-Tor Copse National Nature Reserve)

Piles Copse is situated towards the southern border of Dartmoor near the village Harford.

Black-a-Tor Copse National Nature Reserve is situated below Dartmoor's highest ground near the north eastern border of the National Park.

Wistman's Wood National Nature Reserve is situated in the heart of Dartmoor in a valley cut by the West Dart River upriver from Two Bridges and Two Bridges Hotel. It's by far the easiest of the three rare, high altitude oak woodlands to visit and gets crowded in holiday periods.


Smaller areas of temperate rainforest and woodlands in Dartmoor National Park

Whiddon Deer Park is located at the mouth of the Teign Gorge opposite the National Trust's Castle Drogo. Known for its amazing trees, lichens and mosses.

 Whiddon Wood has a particularly impressive section of temperate rainforest top right. A rough path cuts through the upper section to a gate that takes you into Whiddon Deer Park. 

Dunsford Wood (National Trust). Wood and local nature reserve by the River Teign at the eastern end of Fingle Woods by the village Dunsford. Dunsford Wood is known for its early showing of wild daffodils.

Bridford Wood (National Trust). Across the road from Dunsford Wood. We’d recommend exploring the wood and then heading up to nearby Heltor Rock for amazing views of the wooded countryside in this section of Dartmoor National Park.

Wray Cleave. Drive the A382 between Moretonhampstead and Bovey Tracey and you’re passing through the Wray Valley. The multi-use recreational path Wray Valley Trail runs west of the A382. Wray Cleave is one of many woods on the eastern side of the road. 

Canonteign Falls/Lady Exmouth Falls highest waterfall in England. This Dartmoor visitor attraction is home to the highest waterfall in England. The woods around the waterfall are wonderful. There’s a popular circular walk that takes in the waterfall and woods.

Shaptor Woods/Bearacleave Wood. Woods on the eastern border of Dartmoor by Bovey Tracey and Lustleigh. We’d recommend heading up to Shaptor Rock in Shaptor Wood for huge views of the surrounding area including Yarner Wood and the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve.

Becky Falls/Becky Falls Waterfalls. Like Canonteign Falls, this is a Dartmoor visitor attraction. The woods in the lower section of Becky Falls are particularly impressive.

Yarner Wood. The B3387 climbs from Bovey Tracey towards the Edgecumbe Hotel. The road splits and one takes you to either Haytor Rocks (left) or Yarner Wood (right) and then Becky Falls and Manaton. We’d recommend parking by the B3387 and crossing the road into Yarner Wood. If you park here then you can also drop down into the Bovey Woodlands and yomp up to Lustleigh Cleave.

Ausewell Wood. The Ten Commandment Stones are a famous Dartmoor landmark. You look down at a heavily wooded section of Dartmoor National Park including the Dart Gorge, Holne Chase and Ausewell Wood. This heavily wooded section is huge so break it down into separate visits. Ausewell Wood is on the east side nearest Ashburton.

Blackadon Local Nature Reserve/Town Wood. Few people visit so it’s a particularly chaotic stretch of woodland by the River Webburn. Again, combine with a walk to Blackadon Tor that tops the nature reserve for huge views of the heavily wooded local area and up to the Ten Commandment Stones.

Hembury Woods (National Trust). Popular and stunning area of woodland by Buckfast and Ashburton. Walk up to Hembury Castle and then follow the paths down to the River Dart. Popular with wild swimmers.

Pithill Wood/Erme Wood. Down by the southern border of Dartmoor National Park by Ivybridge, these woods line the River Erme. A classic heavily wooded Dartmoor river valley.

Dendles Wood National Nature Reserve. A National Nature Reserve, most of Dendles Wood is shut to the public. Combine with a walk to Yealm Steps (Waterfall) on the south moor.

Dewerstone Valley/North Wood (The Dewerstone area). This stunning valley is cut by the River Plym. It’s famous for its crags or vertical rock walls that are popular with climbers. We recommend wandering up to the Dewerstone Rock and then looping around Cadworthy Wood and North Wood via Cadover Bridge. Great circular walk that enables you to explore multiple woods.

Double Waters/Sticklepath Wood. This is over on the western border of Dartmoor National Park where the River Walkham meets the River Tavy. Amazing woodland and a great spot for a wild swim.

Meldon Woods. The West Okement River flows from Dartmoor’s north moor past the famous Black-a-Tor Copse National Nature Reserve to Meldon Reservoir. From there, it flows under Meldon Viaduct to Meldon Woods. These woods are known for their bluebells which are normally at their peak in the first half of May.

West Cleave/Halstock Wood. Extraordinary place that few people explore. Moor Brook and the East Okement River meet at the bottom of West Cleave and continue to the northern border of Dartmoor National Park and Okehampton.

Belstone Cleave/Skaigh Woods. Belstone is a gateway village to Dartmoor’s north moor and some of the national park’s best tors. The village also overlooks a heavily wooded river valley. Enjoy a circular walk to Sticklepath and back.

Gidleigh Park (North/South Park)/Scorhill Gorge. Gidleigh is a small village on the edge of Dartmoor’s north moor. It’s known for its hotel. A path runs through Gidleigh North Park and South Park. The trees are impressive by the North Teign River.

Milfordleigh Wood (National Trust). This small patch of National Trust woodland is wonderful.

Drewston Wood. This wood is situated between the village Drewsteignton and the beauty spot Fingle Bridge. It curls around rolling countryside from the Teign Gorge.

Fernworthy Forest. Follow the road that runs through the forest to its end. Wander west along the forestry track and you’ll see the remnants of the older woodland on your right. The mosses here are particularly impressive.


Other impressive areas of temperate rainforest and woodlands nearby

The Quantocks. Hills just east of Exmoor National Park in West Somerset.

Exmoor. The Exmoor coastline is lined with remarkable woodlands. We’d recommend walking the entire length of the coast here on the South West Coast Path. If time’s short, try the Woody Bay to Heddon’s Mouth section which can be turned into a circular walk. The cliffs are very steep. Take care walking this. Inland, visit the National Trust's Watersmeet by Lynton and Lynmouth and the Tarr Steps area down by Dulverton.

Hartland Peninsula. Again, the coast here is lined with woodlands. Head east of Clovelly to Buck’s Mills and beyond to Peppercombe.

The Hartland Peninsula is in North Devon. The woodlands extend south into North Cornwall. Walk the South West Coast Path between the Hartland Peninsula and the Tintagel area to discover more. As mentioned above, Dizzard Forest on the North Cornwall coast is a highlight.

Bodmin Moor. Explore the Golitha Falls National Nature Reserve area. Find out more about the Bodmin temperate rainforest at Cabilla Cornwall.

Lanhydrock. This Natural Trust property has some amazing woodlands.

Fowey. Explore the woodlands north of Fowey. We'd also recommend the woodlands down by Helford Estuary. Extraordinary place with some top gardens on the north side.

Stokenham in South Devon between Dartmouth and Salcombe.

Chudleigh Rocks area just east of Dartmoor in South Devon.

Lyme Regis. The Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliffs National Nature Reserve is a remarkable place.