Wild camping in Dartmoor National Park may be one of the best places for wild camping in the UK, and it’s easy to understand why!
This beautiful park with open moorland, dramatic rock formations and tors, as well as a wide variety of wildlife, has a lot of appeal! And there is no better way to enjoy what it has to offer than a night under the stars wild camping. And if you love wild swimming, make sure you also check out my blog post of the best wild swimming in Dartmoor National Park.
This is why, I wanted to share my quick guide for getting started wild camping on Dartmoor!
Where is Dartmoor National Park?
Dartmoor is an upland area in southern Devon, South West England. The moorland and surrounding land have been protected by National Park status since 1951. Dartmoor National Park covers 954 km2. The landscape consists of moorland capped with many exposed granite hilltops known as tors, providing habitats for wildlife. The highest point is High Willhays, 621 m (2,037 ft) above sea level.
Dartmoor National Park is managed by the Dartmoor National Park Authority, whose 22 members are drawn from Devon County Council, local district councils and the Government. The public is granted extensive land access rights on Dartmoor and it is a popular tourist destination.
Are you allowed to go camping in Dartmoor National Park?
The park has long been a favourite among wild campers due to the accessibility and legality of the sites- nobody likes being woken in the middle of the night to move on! However, this has recently been under debate due to several legal challenges. At present the court of appeal ruled in favour of the National Park- but be sure to check for any updates before you set off!
Part of the Dartmoor Commons Act explicitly allows camping in certain areas for no more than two consecutive nights.
Why does Dartmoor allow wild camping?
Dartmoor is the last place in England or Wales where there was a right to wild camp. Dartmoor has unenclosed but privately owned Commons Land, which means it can be used for wild camping.
“Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) has vowed to defend wild camping on the moor, following a case brought by a wealthy landowner.
The huge moorland in Devon is one of the few places in England which legally allows wild camping in certain areas. DNPA fears the case, which seeks, according to the complainants, to clarify the law governing wild camping in the park, could throw into doubt popular overnight events such as Ten Tors and the Duke of Edinburgh’s award.
Alexander Darwall, a City fund manager, and his wife, Diana, own 2,784 acres in south Dartmoor. They have filed a case questioning the legal basis of the authority’s bylaws, which allow for responsible backpack camping, where campers leave no trace in permitted areas of the national park.”
The park’s chief executive, Kevin Bishop, said the authority would not give in to pressure from the Darwalls. “We will defend the right to responsibly wild camp on the moor because national parks exist to both conserve the environment and to create opportunities for public enjoyment and understanding of nature,” he said. “The Darwalls’ claims lack substance. Done properly wild camping is not, as suggested in this claim, a threat to the environment nor a significant risk of wildfires.”
– Cited from The Guardian
Tips for visiting Dartmoor National Park
- Make sure to follow the Code of Conduct for wild camping
- Leave no trace- don’t light fires and take all rubbish away with you!
- From March 1st until August 1st, it is ground nesting bird season so be careful where you pitch up!
- Don’t feed the wild ponies- this encourages them and can be dangerous!
- Be sure to check if the firing ranges are active if entering a training area!
- Be sure to check the car park rules before leaving your vehicle overnight.
Best places to wild camp in Dartmoor
Here is a selection of some of my favourite wild camping spots on Dartmoor! All of them are located within the current wild camping perimeters as of September 2023. Several also fall into the firing range zones so be sure to check the activity before you set off camping!
1. Row Tor, Okehampton
Best for: Beginners, those needing quick car access
Where to park: Rowtor Carpark, Okehampton EX20 1QR
OS Grid reference: SX5932 9163
Row Tor is the perfect wild camping location for beginners. You can set up right between the granite rocks and moorland giving a really wild feel to the area; however, its also just a very short walk back to your car in case you need it. Be sure to check the firing range times before setting up here though as it does fall into the training area!
2. Great Mis Tor, Tavistock
Best for: Great views, Plenty of space
Where to park: Four Winds carpark, Yelverton PL20 6ST
OS Grid reference: SX56263 76930
Falling just outside the training area, Great Mis Tor is perfect for all seasons! This lovely spot will give you all-round views across the moorland and with plenty of flat space to choose from, even in the summer season you can still get that wild experience.
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3. Ryder’s Hill, Yelverton
Best for: Solitude, Landscape
Where to park: Combestone Tor carpark Holne, Yelverton PL20 6SE
OS Grid reference: SX 65977 69063
If you are looking for an absolute escape from modern life, Ryder’s hill is the perfect wild camping spot for you. This is also the highest point on this side of the wild camping areas at 550 metres on a clear day you can see all the way to the Isle of Portland.
4. Okehampton Common, Okehampton
Best for: beautiful views, more advanced
Where to park: Meldon Reservoir car park EX20 4LU or Rowtor Carpark
OS Grid reference: SX55835 9088
Okehampton Common is the perfect wild camping spot for those looking for a bit more adventure! To get here you will definitely need a map and it is at least a 1-2 hour walk to the common from the various car parks. For your trouble though you will be rewarded with glorious views over Dartmoor and a chance to see some of its amazing wildlife. Be sure to check the firing times before setting off though!
Other recommended blog posts
- 48 best wild swimming near me + map
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- Best wild swimming in Dartmoor National Park
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5. Great Links Tor, Okehampton
Best for: beautiful views, impressive rocks
Where to park: Willsworthy Range car park EX20 4AL
OS Grid reference: SX 55039 86740
This impressive Tor is shaped a bit like a battleship and offers a magnificent view from the top. Here, on a clear day you can see across Devon and Cornwall, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the ocean in the distance! The two-hour walk here is well worth it, to enjoy the beauty of the moorland.
Have you been wild camping in Dartmoor? Let me know your top tips!
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