Some 730 miles of public footpaths snake across Dartmoor's open heaths and rocky tors. The Ordnance Survey (OS) Pathfinder Dartmoor Walks (£12) guide includes 28 hikes of up to 9 miles, while its Dartmoor Short Walks (£8) focuses on family-friendly treks.
The 18-mile Templer Way is a two- to three-day stretch from Haytor to Teignmouth, while the West Devon Way forms a 36-mile trek linking Okehampton and Plymouth. The 95-mile Dartmoor Way circles from Buckfastleigh in the south, through Moretonhampstead, northwest to Okehampton and south through Lydford to Tavistock. The 117-mile Two Moors Way runs from Wembury on the south Devon coast, across Dartmoor and Exmoor to Lynmouth, on the north coast.
Be prepared for Dartmoor's notoriously fickle weather, and carry a map and a compass – many trails are not waymarked. The Ordnance Survey (OS) Explorer 1:25,000 map No 28, Dartmoor (£9), is the most comprehensive and shows park boundaries and Ministry of Defence firing-range areas.
The military uses three adjoining areas of Dartmoor as training ranges where live ammunition is employed. Tourist offices can outline these locations; they're also marked on Ordnance Survey (OS) maps. You're advised to check if the hiking route you're planning falls within a range; if it does, find out if firing is taking place at the time you plan to walk via the Firing Information Service. During the day, red flags fly at the edges of in-use ranges, while red flares burn at night. Even when there's no firing, beware of unidentified metal objects lying in the grass. Don't touch anything you find: note its position and report it to the Commandant.
Dartmoor National Park Authority has produced a number of free, downloadable audio guides (www.dartmoor.gov.uk/enjoy-dartmoor/outdoor-activities/walking/long-distance-and-audio-walks) describing several of the moor's most famous sights, including Haytor, Bellever, Postbridge and Princetown.
Routes include the 11-mile Granite Way (part of NCN Route 27), which runs entirely off-road along a former railway line between Okehampton and Lydford. The 13-mile Princetown & Burrator Mountain Bike Route is a challenging moorland circuit along tracks and bridleways, taking in Princetown, Sheepstor village and Burrator Reservoir.
Tourist offices sell the Dartmoor for Cyclists map (£13).
A number of local stables across the moor cater to all abilities.
With 368 sq miles of landlocked hills, Dartmoor may not seem like an ideal spot for an al fresco dip, but in fact Moretonhampstead, Chagford, Bovey Tracey, Buckfastleigh and Ashburton each have small and elegant outdoor pools. These are often solar heated; admission is normally a few pounds and they tend to be open from June to August. Times vary – local tourist offices can advise.
Dartmoor is also increasingly popular with wild swimmers who delight in venturing into rivers, pools and waterfalls. Be aware, though, that the water can be dangerously cold and fast flowing; seek safety advice from tourist offices and www.devonandcornwallwildswimming.co.uk. The book Wild Swimming Walks – Dartmoor and South Devon (£15) by Sophie Pierce and Matt Newbury features 28 hikes and dips.
Letterboxing & Geocaching
Way back in 1854, a young local man from the village of Chagford by the name of James Perrott came up with an idea to place a glass jar inside a small cairn beside Cranmere Pool, where people could leave their visiting cards, or a note or letter for future visitors. A century-and-a-half later, 'letterboxing', as it came to be known, is still a popular pastime on Dartmoor, combining the thrill of a treasure hunt with a bit of puzzle-solving, map-reading and orientation. You can find out more about letterbox locations at www.letterboxingondartmoor.co.uk.
Geocaching is a more modern version of letterboxing, in which you use your phone or GPS unit to find hidden containers based on the given coordinates. There are dozens of them on Dartmoor – sign up for a free account at www.geocaching.com.