Car-free Guide to Dartmoor National Park
As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Dartmoor, here is 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.
Getting to Dartmoor without a car
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, 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.
Getting around without a car
Unfortunately, there are no train services within Dartmoor National Park itself.
Dartmoor is sadly not blessed with a comprehensive bus network, but with a little planning, you can explore the National Park by bus. The 98 (Tavistock - Yelverton - Postbridge/Bellever), and the 359 (Exeter - Moretonhampstead), operate Monday-Saturday.
This is supplemented on Saturdays between May and September 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 £3 from Bovey Tracey, with a range of concessions available.
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 train 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, see: Travel Devon.
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 telephoning 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 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.
If you want to make the most of the many miles of traffic-free trails that Dartmoor has to offer, check out Dartmoor.gov.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.
For information on where to stay, eat, local attractions and outdoor adventure activities, see: Green Traveller's Guide to Dartmoor