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Car-free Guide to Dartmoor National Park

Posted by John Sannaee at 08:24 on Wednesday 31 July 2013

Our guide to travelling to and around Dartmoor National Park without a car.

Billed as the largest and wildest area of open country in the Southern England, Dartmoor’s proximity to Exeter and Plymouth means the National Park is well connected by rail and coach. Once in Dartmoor, there's a local bus network and some great cycle routes.

Cycle touring above Widecombe. Photo: KT/Dartmoor NPACycle touring above Widecombe. Photo: KT/Dartmoor NPA

A. Getting to Dartmoor without a car:

By Train:
The Great Western Mainline runs through Devon, linking Exeter, Newton Abbot, Ivybridge (just on the southern edge of the Park), Totnes and Plymouth with Bristol, London, and the rest of the country, and onwards through Cornwall to Penzance in the opposite direction. There are also regular long-distance railway services to Exeter and Plymouth from various other destinations across the UK, including Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh. The stations at Exeter and Plymouth, and the three towns in between, offer a range of different transport options to continue your journey on into Dartmoor National Park.

By Coach or Bus:
Both National Express and Megabus offer services to Exeter and Plymouth, and some National Express services also stop at Totnes, Okehampton, Tavistock and Newton Abbot. Okehampton in particular sits just on the northern edge of the National Park, however due to Dartmoor’s rural nature no dedicated long distance coaches serve the National Park itself.

B. Getting around without a car:

By Train:
Unfortunately, there are no train services within Dartmoor National Park itself.

By Bus:
Dartmoor is sadly not blessed with one of the country’s most comprehensive but networks, but with a little planning, it shouldn’t be too difficult to explore the National Park by bus. Bus services are concentrated on the weekends, and run during summer months only. The Transmoor Link 82 runs from Exeter to Tavistock via Moretonhampstead, Postbridge and Princetown, on Saturdays and Sundays between May 26th and September 15th. The only all-week, year-round services are the 98 (Tavistock - Yelverton - Postbridge/Bellever), and the 359 (Exeter - Moretonhampstead), with buses operating daily.

This is supplemented on Saturdays by the Haytor Hoppa, a hop-on, hop-off circular service taking in some of Dartmoor’s most spectacular scenery. It runs to and from Newton Abbot (for connections to railway services), connecting Haytor Information, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Houndtor Rocks, Manaton village, Becky Falls, Yarner Wood, and Bovey Tracey. Day tickets cost £5 from Newton Abbot and £2.50 from Bovey Tracey, with a range of concessions available.

Travel across Dartmoor with the Haytor Hoppa. Photo: KT/Dartmoor NPATravel across Dartmoor with the Haytor Hoppa. Photo: KT/Dartmoor NPA

First Devon & Cornwall has also launched an initiative encouraging people to make the most of public transport in the larger Dartmoor and Devon area for their Sundays out: the Dartmoor Sunday Rover offers unlimited all-day transport on a range of lines for £8 per person (children £5.50, family £17), simplifying your travel around Dartmoor at the same time as saving you money. For more information about bus services in Dartmoor and Devon, check out Journey Devon.

Cycling
The varied terrain of Dartmoor offers a range of different on- and off-road routes for cyclists of all different levels to enjoy. On weekdays when public transport is sparse, jumping on a bike can not only be one of the nicest, but also one of the easiest ways to get out and explore what the National Park has to offer. Whether you want challenging slopes and rocky off-road moorland, or quiet, flat country lanes, you’ll find it all here: but be sure to check out your routes before heading out to avoid exhaustion, disappointment, or injury!

If you want to bring your bike by train, remember to book a place for it on your service in advance, you can do this by calling up First Great Western or Cross Country Trains on dedicated numbers, or by heading to your local railway station. As a rule of thumb, bikes are not usually carried on buses in Dartmoor, however exceptions are sometimes made if and when there is space, and there are no pushchairs or wheelchairs on the bus.

Should you prefer to hire a bike upon arrival in Dartmoor, then there are several different cycle hire providers in and around the National Park, including:
Devon Cycle Hire, Sourton Down
Adventure Okehampton, Okehampton
Princetown Cycle Hire, Princetown
CRS Adventures, near Ashburton

Perhaps the most comprehensive way to see the best of Dartmoor's wonderful scenery is to cycle the Dartmoor Way,  a 95-mile circular route that takes in huge amounts of the National Park's varied terrain: the circular route is complimented by a 27-mile route that cuts across the heart of the moors. Additionally, four long-distance bike routes traverse Dartmoor: Devon Coast to Coast; Drake’s Trail; The Granite Way and the Plym Valley Trail.

Cycling at Black Hill. Photo: KT/Darmoor NPACycling at Black Hill. Photo: KT/Darmoor NPA

If you want to make the most of the many miles of traffic-free trails that Dartmoor has to offer, check out Dartmoor.co.uk’s range of Dartmoor cycle maps for different difficulty levels. For more maps and information, head to one of the National Park’s visitor centres, listed below. Find out more about cycling in Dartmoor and the rest of the country with Sustrans.

Maps and further information
If you’re looking for more personalised advice, more information, or maps of specific parts of the park, head to one of Dartmoor’s three visitor centres:

Princetown National Park Visitor Centre
Postbridge National Park Visitor Centre
Haytor National Park Information Centre

There are also several tourist information centres and community information points in the area. Alternatively, you can download maps of Dartmoor on the National Park’s website.

To discover more about what to do and see, and where to stay and eat in beautiful Dartmoor, head to the Dartmoor National Park visitors’ website.

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