Top 6 Cultural Things to See in Dartmoor

Published: Tuesday 23rd Apr 2013

With a diverse and rich cultural heritage, Dartmoor has a wealth of things to see, from prehistoric tombs, medieval buildings and settlements over four thousand years old, to 23 conservation areas and 1,208 scheduled monuments. It has customs and traditions which remain present to this day, including the famous Widecombe Fair. Together, this contributes to Dartmoor’s extraordinary landscape, people and character, which over thousands of years, has left Dartmoor a wonderfully fascinating place to live and see.

Below is a list, compiled from TripAdvisor, of the top 6 cultural things to see and do in Dartmoor.

6. Merrivale Monuments

Merrivale Monuments is a complex ritual site, sitting side by side with a prehistoric settlement site. Merrivale is comprised of many Neolithic to Middle Bronze Age (2500 – 1000 BC) archaeological features. This includes two double rows of stones, a single row, a group of round houses, a small stone circle, two standing stones and earth mounds for burials. The large group of round houses is a typical Bronze Age settlement and the enormous round stone here if regularly mistaken for a tomb. However, it is a post-medieval apple crushing stone, commonly used to make cider.

It’s most probable that the ritual moments found at Merrivale have been created over several different periods. There’s much debate over their use, however the incredible variety of monuments show the site was probably used for spiritual purposes by the local community. Whatever the rituals, it’s evident that residents went t0 great lengths, constructing and organizing complex structures for their beliefs. The stone rows (see photo above) have been described as the most distinctive monuments of prehistoric Dartmoor.

Read more about the history of the Merrivale Monuments | Visit the Merrivale Monuments

5. Castle Drogo

Castle Drogo is a country house built in the 1910s and 1920s for a businessman and founder of the Home and Colonial Stores, Julius Drewe. The castle was designed by an architect called Edwin Lutyens and is a Grade 1 listed building. Interestingly, Castle Drogo was the last castle to ever be built in England and probably the last private house the be completely built from granite.

There’s plenty to do and see, from discovering the glorious terraced gardens, rose gardens, vibrant rhododendron valley and dramatic views of Dartmoor to exploring the winding paths, quiet Teign Valley, ancient gorge and vast wildlife in the local area.

Read more about Castle Drogo | Visit Castle Drogo

4. Lydford Castle & Saxon Town

The memorable village of Lydford is situated on the western edge of the Dartmoor National Park, just north of the Lydford Gorge. The two castles and street layouts that remain are a tribute to the impact the Saxons left behind during the Medieval times. There lays a post-conquest castle, sometimes referred to as the Norman Fort, of which only earthworks remain and a 13th century tower, built on top of a 12th century predecessor.

The second castle in Lydford was constructed in 1195, after continuous law and order problems swept across England. It includes a stone tower and a surrounding bailey. This quickly became used as a prison and court to detain and prosecute unlawful citizens in the Forest of Dartmoor. Richard, the Earl of Cornwall, rebuilt the tower in the 13th century and it was redesigned to resemble a motte and bailey castle.

Read more about Lydford Castle | Visit Lydford Castle

3. Ugbrooke House & Park

Ugbrooke House is a country house situated in the valley between Exeter and Newton Abbot. Its history dates back over 900 years, having featured in the Domesday Book. Before its Reformation, the land belonged to the Church and occupied by Precentors to the Bishop of Exeter. For over four hundred years, it has belonged to the Clifford family and the owners have held the title of Baron Clifford of Chudleigh since 1672. The mansion covers 10,000 square feet and changed ownership in 1897 when after financial hardship, William Clifford sold the property to his cousin, Henry Vavasour. Therefore, Ugbrooke become the seat of the Vavasour family for three generations until 1992.

The house contains interesting and rare insights to the family’s long history, with a collection of fine paintings, military paraphernalia, luxury furnishings, tapestries, furniture and porcelain. Ugbrooke House is open to the public in Summer.

Read more about Ugbrooke House | Visit Ugbrooke House

2. Okehampton Castle

Okehampton Castle is the remains of the largest castle in Devon and is a medieval motte and bailey. It was built between 1068 and 1086 by Baldwin FitzGilbert after a revolt against Norman rule. It’s set on the stunning wooded spur above the rushing river Okement. It was used as a fortification until the late 13th century, until its owners became the Earls of Devon. With their new found wealth, the castle was redeveloped into a luxurious hunting lodge. The castle was further developed the accommodate their growing household. After Henry the VIII took over in 1538, it declined into a supposed haunted ruin.

The site is home to a beautiful riverside, picnic area, woodland and walks. It’s also a great place for avid bird enthusiasts, with regular visits from rare species in spring and early summer.

Read more about Okehampton Castle | Visit Okehampton Castle

1. Buckland Abbey

Buckland Abbey is a 700 year old house in Buckland Monachorum. Buckland was orginially found in 1278 as a Cistercian abbey. Cistercians built the Abbey and farmed the estate. It remained an abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII. Henry sold Buckland to Sir Richard Grenville, who began to convert the abbey into a residence. His son Richard Grenville completed the conversion and eventually sold the complex to Drake in 1581. Drake lived there for 15 years and many of his descendants until 1946, when it was sold to Arthur Rodd, who presented the property to the National Trust in 1948.

The Abbey is half house half museum, filled with treasures such as the legendary Drake’s Drum and the Great Barn, which has remained unchanged since it was built centuries ago.

Read more about Buckland Abbey | Visit Buckland Abbey