Beyond Stonehenge

Dartmoor
  |  Gorp.com
A dolmen on Dartmoor
A dolmen on Dartmoor

The Devonshire moors on England's southwest peninsula emerge from adjacent pastures like mountains on the moon, an otherworldly landscape of squat hills, blanket bogs, and wild ponies. Also rising up from the hilltops are granite formations called tors that have a striking resemblance the area's many megalithic monuments. Surprisingly, the tors are naturally occurring formations left by retreating glaciers at the end of the last ice age over 11,000 years ago.

Dartmoor National Park in Devon is 368 square miles of moderately to completely open moor country that's about as wild as anything Britain has to offer. From the meager evidence that remains, it seems that prehistoric settlers once thrived in these wet, windy hills. Thousands of stone circles, standing stones, stone rows, and hut circles give tantalizing hints to what went on here millennia ago.

One of the park's most well-preserved ruins is Grimspound, a prehistoric settlement that went into decline after the unforgiving moorland overtook the area's once fertile soils. Lying about 1500 feet above sea level, the four acre area is bound by the remains of a low stone wall. Within are some thirty hut circles in various stages of preservation, compact arrangements of stones that once formed the foundations for the small thatched huts where these Bronze Age farmers and pastoralists made their homes.

Guided walks led by park rangers or local residents are a fun and informative way to view megaliths in Dartmoor. Particularly charming is the"Megaliths by Moonlight" tour offered during the summer months. Guides prove particularly necessary when weather on the moors turns bad. The ebb and flow of pea-soup fogs on Dartmoor is continuous, often limiting visibility to little more than ten feet.

Access: Dartmoor National Park is easily accessible by car or bus from Exeter or Plymouth. To get more information on guided megalith walks, pick up a copy of The Dartmoor Visitor, a free park newspaper published annually. It's available at the park visitor center in Princetown and at other visitor information points throughout the park.

The Devonshire moors on England's southwest peninsula emerge from adjacent pastures like mountains on the moon, an otherworldly landscape of squat hills, blanket bogs, and wild ponies. Also rising up from the hilltops are granite formations called tors that have a striking resemblance the area's many megalithic monuments. Surprisingly, the tors are naturally occurring formations left by retreating glaciers at the end of the last ice age over 11,000 years ago.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 2 Jun 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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