South Zeal, Dartmoor National Park

South Zeal, Dartmoor National Park
  • Beautiful Dartmoor village near the north border of the National Park. Located below the vast bulk of Cosdon Hill and Dartmoor's north moor
  • Enjoy local food and drink at the Oxenham Arms and the King's Arms
  • Wander across to Sticklepath village to visit the National Trust's Finch Foundry. Continue west into Belstone Cleave to the pretty moorland village Belstone
  • Walk Dartmoor's north moor. Yomp up to Cosdon Beacon at the top of Cosdon Hill
  • Drive the A30 east to Exeter or west into Cornwall. Follow the A382 into Dartmoor and visit Chagford and Moretonhampstead
  • Main photo: main street in South Zeal


Where is South Zeal in Dartmoor National Park?

As you drive the M5 south, you come to Exeter. At Exeter, the M5 splits into the A38 heading south and the A30 heading west.

The A30 skirts the northern border of Dartmoor National Park on its way to Bodmin Moor and West Cornwall. The pretty village South Zeal is located near the A30 and the northern border of Dartmoor National Park between Whiddon Down and Okehampton. It's situated by the village Sticklepath at the eastern end of Belstone Cleave and below the huge dome of Cosdon Hill (Cawsand Hill) that leads to Dartmoor's north moor.

Like Sticklepath, it's a great place from which to explore Dartmoor National Park, Exeter and the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Cornwall, South Devon, Mid Devon and North Devon/Exmoor National Park are all easily accessible from South Zeal.


Directions to South Zeal

Follow the A30 to either Okehampton or Whiddon Down. The old Exeter Road/B3260 takes you to South Zeal.

We've positioned South Zeal on Google maps. Zoom in on the 'Satellite' setting to see its location.


Parking in South Zeal

There's a decent sized car park on the south eastern side of the village which is clearly visible on Google's satellite imagery. Use this when visiting the village or exploring Dartmoor's north moor.


Why holiday or weekend break in the South Zeal area?

To help you choose the South Zeal area, we've listed some attractions below.


Pubs in South Zeal

Enjoy local food and drink at the Oxenham Arms and the King's Arms which are both located in South Zeal.

The Oxenham Arms is an extraordinary pub, restaurant and hotel built in the 1200s around a prehistoric standing stone. Guests at the Oxenham Arms have included Charles Dickens and Charles Kingsley. Previously used as a manor house and, apparently, a monastery, it's a pleasure just visiting the building.


The National Trust's Finch Foundry near South Zeal

Visit Finch Foundry (National Trust) in the heart of the village.

Other National Trust properties in the area include Castle Drogo (National Trust) and Lydford Gorge (National Trust).

Further away, try Cotehele, Buckland Abbey (National Trust) and Saltram (National Trust).


Discover Dartmoor's prehistory from South Zeal

Experience Dartmoor's internationally important prehistory.

Both the Nine Maidens Stone Circle near Belstone and Cosdon (The Cemetery) Stone Row on the flank of Cosdon Hill are impressive. Dartmoor National Park has the highest concentration of stone rows in the UK. Information boards in the excellent Postbridge National Park Visitor Centre state that 60% of England's stone rows and 'a third of all stone rows in the UK and Brittany are on Dartmoor'. Most of these are single or double stone rows. A smaller number are triple stone rows. Cosdon Stone Row, or 'The Cemetery', is a magnificent example of the latter.

Scorhill Stone Circle is great as well.


Walking Dartmoor's north moor from South Zeal

Walk to Cosdon Beacon on top of Cosdon Hill (Cawsand Hill) for huge views across Dartmoor's north moor and over Mid Devon to Exmoor National Park. Cosdon Hill, or Cawsand Hill, is one of the most recognisable natural features in Dartmoor. Its huge, shallow dome dominates the northern border of the National Park and is visible from miles around. You'll see Cosdon from the Haytor Rocks area in the eastern section of the Park and from the Yes Tor and High Willhays area to the north west. Hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers drive past the domed hill as they follow the A30 west into Cornwall. A smaller number yomp up its flanks to visit its big summit cairn. Given its location on the border of Dartmoor National Park, Cosdon Hill is very easily accessible but it takes a bit of effort to get to the top. Paths run from South Zeal to Cosdon Beacon. We like taking the route that runs past Cosdon (The Cemetery) Stone Row. See Ordnance Survey maps for detail.

Hike Belstone Ridge to Oke Tor and Steeperton Tor before continuing to Dartmoor's north plateau around Hangingstone Hill. Note that Cranmere Pool is just west of Hangingstone Hill. It's the site of Dartmoor's first letterbox and an iconic attraction. Remote place that gets boggy!

Summit Yes Tor and High Willhays which are the highest points on Dartmoor and the only two mountains in southern England. 


Walking Belstone Cleave from South Zeal

Follow the Tarka Trail through Belstone Cleave.

A cleave is a steep-sided valley cut by one of the many rivers that flow from Dartmoor's high moor. Belstone Cleave is cut by the River Taw. Belstone Cleave is named after the pretty moorland village Belstone located at the western end of the cleave.  It's a great walk from South Zeal to Sticklepath and then Belstone.

If this type of walking appeals then make sure you walk the Teign Gorge (National Trust) by Castle Drogo (National Trust).


Enjoy other outdoor activities from South Zeal

Enjoy Dartmoor's outdoor activities.

Go horse riding. See our Dartmoor Horse Riding listing for detail.

Cycle the Granite Way. It's an 11 miles or 18 kilometres multi-use recreation route running between Okehampton and Lydford on the north west fringe of Dartmoor National Park. The Granite Way was fully opened at the beginning of 2014. The entire route is now off-road so it's ideal for family bike trips in the area.

Mountain bike the army roads that climb to the north plateau from Okehampton Camp.


Explore the Chagford area from South Zeal

Explore the Chagford area.

In addition to Castle Drogo (National Trust), there's the sublime Teign Gorge (National Trust) and the Dartmoor beauty spot Fingle Bridge.

Grab food and drink at Fingle Bridge Inn.

Visit Fernworthy Forest. High moor rises west and south of the popular Dartmoor town Chagford. On the edge of this high moor, pushing into Fernworthy Forest, is the wonderful Fernworthy Reservoir. Plenty of people think exploring forest and reservoir is one of the best Dartmoor experiences. A massive dam wall rises in a steep-sided valley cut by the South Teign River. Fernworthy Reservoir sits behind the dam wall. In turn, Fernworthy Forest extends west and south of the water. It's an awesome place that's great for walks, wildlife and prehistory. It's also a starting point from which to discover Dartmoor's high moor and many of its tors.

We'd also recommend a trip to Stone Lane Gardens and Mythic Garden Sculpture Exhibition. Whilst it's not particularly well known, Stone Lane Gardens is as impressive as anything we've seen from the edge of Salisbury Plain down to the Penwith Peninsula at Land's End.


Explore the Okehampton area from South Zeal

Spend a day in the Okehampton area.

Learn about the National Park in the Museum of Dartmoor Life.

Visit Okehampton Castle (English Heritage). If castles are of interest, also visit Lydford Castle (English Heritage). In the same village, you'll find the remains of a Norman fort. West of Okehampton is Launceston Castle by the Devon/Cornwall border. For a big adventure, walk the Two Castle Trail between Okehampton Castle and Launceston Castle. East of Okehampton is the Castle Drogo (National Trust).


The Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from South Zeal

Head west and south west to the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with its UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Highlights include Lopwell Dam, Buckland Abbey (National Trust), The Garden House, Morwellham Quay UNESCO World Heritage Site and Cotehele (National Trust).

For outdoor activities, head for the Tamar Trails Centre. Mountain bike, treesurf and canoe the River Tamar.


Cornwall from South Zeal

Cornwall is very easily accessible from South Zeal. Drive the old Exeter Road/B3260 to the A30 and then head west.

Launceston, on the Devon/Cornwall border, is about 25 minutes from South Zeal. It's a stunning town topped by an English Heritage castle which provides super views back to Dartmoor's western flank.

The heart of Bodmin Moor around Jamaica Inn is about half an hour away.

The North Cornwall coast is roughly an hour away.

St Ives and West Cornwall are about an hour and a half drive from South Zeal although, clearly, timings depend of traffic. If you visit in high summer then plan for much longer drive times.


Day trips to beaches from South Zeal

Crackington Haven Beach in North Cornwall. Deep low tide sand beach below huge cliffs. Great coastal walking although it gets steep. Beach backs on to a pub, cafe and car park. Roughly 50 minutes from South Zeal.

Widemouth Sand Beach in North Cornwall. Big stretch of sand popular with surfers. Roughly 50 minutes from South Zeal.

Bude Summerleaze Beach in North Cornwall. The southern section of a massive low tide sand beach at Bude. Roughly 55 minutes from South Zeal.

Northcott Mouth Beach in North Cornwall. The middle section of a massive low tide sand beach at Bude. About an hour from South Zeal.

Sandy Mouth Beach in North Cornwall. The northern section (along with Duckpool Bay Beach) of a massive low tide sand beach at Bude. About an hour from South Zeal.

Saunton Sands Beach in North Devon. Vast low tide sand beach backing onto the stunning Braunton Burrows. Saunton Sands is super popular with surfers as is Croyde Beach just up the coast. Over an hour from South Zeal.

Putsborough Sands Beach and Woolacombe Sands Beach in North Devon. Stunning sections of the same stretch of sand in North Devon. Putsborough to the south and Woolacombe to the north. Over an hour from South Zeal.

Rock Beach and the Camel Estuary in North Cornwall. Glorious beaches line the Camel Estuary over an hour away from South Zeal.

Constantine Bay Beach in North Cornwall. Massive low tide sand beach about 1 hour 15 minutes from South Zeal.

St Ives Bay in West Cornwall. Beaches line one of the most beautiful bays in the UK. About 1 hour 30 mins from South Zeal.

We travel to all these beaches on a regular basis for Picture the UK and the twenty site network we run for Devon/Cornwall. Please note that timings depend on traffic. For example, it can take hours to get down to St Ives if there's been an accident on the A30.


Exeter and the Exe Estuary from South Zeal

Day trip to Exeter.

Visit Exeter Cathedral and Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) are superb. Take a tour of the unique Exeter's Underground Passages.

Drop down to Exeter's Historic Quayside and cycle the Exe Estuary Trail to discover the magnificent Exe Estuary.


South Devon and The English Riviera from South Zeal

On sunny days, Salcombe and Dartmouth are among the finest coastal destinations in the UK.

The South Devon coastline is lined with stunning beaches. Try Bantham Beach, Bigbury-on-Sea Beach and the vast shingle beach at Slapton Sands.

Take a boat trip in The English Riviera.

See our sister site, Love South Devon, for ideas.


Mid Devon, North Devon and Exmoor from South Zeal

Head north and north west to explore Mid Devon, North Devon and Exmoor National Park.

Visit RHS Garden Rosemoor in Mid Devon.

Experience the vast sand beaches that line the North Devon coast. Saunton Sands, Putsborough Sand and Woolacombe Sand are particularly impressive. These North Devon coast is known for its surfing and watersports.

Walk Exmoor's high moor and coastline. The South West Coast Path west of Lynton in particularly impressive.

Note that you can take boat trips to Lundy Island from Ilfracombe and Bideford.


Local towns and villages near South Zeal

For towns try Chagford and Okehampton.

For villages we'd recommend Sticklepath, Belstone and Lydford.