While the bleak heaths and twisted tors are undoubtedly the landscapes most people associate with Dartmoor, once upon a time the whole moor would have been covered by a vast forest – until humans arrived, that is. Although much of the moor's ancient woodland has been lost, a few pockets remain – notably at Wistman's Wood, an ancient and mysterious patch of oak woodland near Two Bridges, and Fingle Woods, near Moretonhampstead, where the National Trust and the Woodland Trust have joined forces to restore 214 hectares of native woodland by removing conifers and planting broadleaf species. Around 28 miles of walking trails are now open to the public, with more still to come.
With an estimated 11,000 monuments, Dartmoor is ripe for archaeological explorations. It has the largest concentration of Bronze Age (c 2300–700 BC) remains in the country, 75 stone rows (half the national total), 18 stone circles and 5000 huts.
The Merrivale Stone Rows, near Princetown, are a handy one-stop shop for most monument types. The site has a parallel stone row, a stone circle, a menhir, burial chambers and dozens of hut circles.
The biggest site is the Bronze Age village of Grimspound, southwest of Mortonhampstead, just off the B3212, where you can wander inside the circular stone wall that once surrounded an entire village and explore the ruins of several granite roundhouses.
You can buy guides to some sites (£4) from tourist offices.
Dartmoor is laced with myth, and tales of evil forces form a central part of its heritage. Often inspired by the moor’s shifting mists and stark, other-worldly nature, many tales revolve around the Dewer (Devil). According to legend, he leads his pack of phantom Wisht Hounds across the moor at night, rounding up sinners before driving them off a 100m granite outcrop called the Dewerstone. You can stroll to the Dewerstone from Shaugh Prior, an idyllic but also at times chilling half-mile riverside walk through woods of moss-smothered trees. Shaugh Prior is 12 miles southeast of Tavistock.
Many believe the tales of the Wisht Hounds were the inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which is set on Dartmoor. More devilish tales crop up at Lydford Gorge, and St Pancras Church at Widecombe-in-the-Moor.