Dartmoor National Park
Dartmoor National Park is the largest and wildest area of open country in Southern England, covering an area of 368 square miles (954 sq km) and a one of the most popular natural attractions in the UK. With over 450 miles (730km) of public rights of way there are plenty of routes for all ages and abilities to access and enjoy the county of Devon’s National Park and the abundance of historical interest and leisure activities it offers.
Dartmoor contains the largest concentration of Bronze Age remains in the United Kingdom. Other pre-historical curiosities include isolated standing stones, over 5,000 Bronze Age hut circles, which despite having their stones stolen to build dry walls on the moor, still survive. This legacy has given Dartmoor some of the best archaeological sites in Western Europe.
Today, Dartmoor plays host to hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, many, if not most of whom come for the hill walking. However, until the early 19th century Dartmoor was not considered to be a place worth visiting. In the 1540s'the father of English local history' John Leland wrote in his Itinerary that "Dartmore is muche a wilde Morish and forest Ground". However, at the turn of the 19th century John Swete was one of the first people to visit Dartmoor for pleasure and his journals and watercolour paintings inspired many to visit the area for fun.
Dartmoor is also famous for its tors, which are hills topped with round, boulder-like formations, the highest of which is High Willhays at 2,037ft (621m) above sea level. Although there are around 160 of these, only a few of them are known to people who take part in the annual Ten Tors race when over 1000 people aged between 14 and 19 walk for distances of 35, 45 or 55 miles (56, 72 or 88 km) between ten tors on many differing routes. The abundance of geological features at Dartmoor, including granite stone, rivers and bogs, make the race both an interesting and challenging affair.
Letterboxing originated on Dartmoor in the 19th century and has become increasingly popular in recent decades. Watertight containers known as letterboxes are hidden throughout the moor, each containing a visitor's book and a rubber stamp. Visitors take an impression of the letterbox's rubber stamp as proof of finding the box and record their visit by stamping their own personal stamp in the letterbox's logbook.
Whitewater kayaking and canoeing are popular on the rivers due to the high rainfall, though for environmental reasons access is restricted to winter months only. The River Dart is the most popular meeting place, the section known as the Loop being particularly prominent.
Other activities are rock climbing on the granite tors and outcrops, some of the well-known venues being Hound Tor and The Dewerstone. Horse riding is also popular and can be undertaken on any of the common land. Cycling is another popular pursuit, though not allowed on open moorland, while fishing on certain stretches of the River Dart, provides more tranquil leisure opportunity.