In a nutshell
Dartmoor National Park offers fairytale gorges, windswept tors and historical sites for outdoorsy types, plus a huge variety of nearby attractions for families with children of all ages.
And Woodovis Park makes a comfortable, reasonably priced base from which to venture forth.
What is it?
Dartmoor is 365 miles of vast moorland surrounding the ancient tin-mining and market town of Tavistock, West Devon. It’s an area ideally located for exploring northern Cornwall, the mystical moors and the river Tamar.
If archaeology is your thing, you’ll love it. There are more than 1,500 prehistoric carins – that’s the old Gaelic for deliberately stacked mounds of stones built as a landmarks.
Tavistock and Dartmoor has the most ancient ceremonial sites in north-west Europe and enough iron-age hill forts to throw fans of Time Team into a Phil Harding quote frenzy.
The artist and Labyrinth conceptual designer Brian Froud lives nearby – and when exploring the mossy, lush, ancient woodlands with their twisting, stubby trees, it’s easy to see where he gets his inspiration.
If you can afford it, there are many family attractions a short drive away for rainy days. Tavistock itself has a lovely market, a nice spot for a cake and cuppa.
Ourdoorsy families and couples will get a lot out of a holiday here. Tamar Trails Centre is a good starting point for exploring this unique environment by foot, bike or horse.
Wheelchair users can even hire a ‘tramper’ mobility vehicle to explore accessible paths.
The area is steeped in copper mining history, and older children can absorb themselves geocaching while you appreciate the beautiful, wild scenery and no phone signal.
Unless you’re a hiker, you’ll need a car. Driving is simple, and the recommended mode of transport by Tavistock Town Council.
However, if you want a longer but more rustic journey, you can get a train to one of the neatest towns – Plymouth (1 hour 30 minutes away), Exeter (2 hours 3 minutes), or Torquay (1 hour 55 minutes), and then take a bus.
The nearest local train station is Gunnislake, 5 miles away. If you were travelling from London, for example, it would involve three trains and a bus.
The nearest mainline station is Plymouth (17 miles away) and you’ll need to get a bus or drive from there.
Where to stay
There are a whole host of hotels, B&Bs, inns, specialty lodges, caravan parks, youth hostels and even castles you can stay in when visiting the area.
What’s great is that they suit every single budget.
We were after an affordable stay-cation, so we stayed at Woodovis Park. It’s a holiday park near Tavistock with accommodation for campers, glampers, tourers and caravaners. It also has a charming stone cottage for hire.
What’s the accommodation like?
Offering comforts such as an indoor swimming pool with jacuzzi and sauna, facilities for kids and hot baked bread in the mornings, it’s a great choice if you want to feel a bit pampered but are on a budget.
The static caravans (‘holiday homes’) are surprisingly spacious and comfortable: we opted for a three-bedroomed ‘Super Robin,’ which came with an electric mock fire.
I was surprised at how good the water pressure and temperature is – no different from our bathroom at home.
Central heating keeps the caravan comfortable, especially when the occasional night-time Dartmoor fog comes down and envelopes everything.
All you need to bring to stay in a luxury caravan is towels, tea towels and oven gloves – and of course your groceries.
There is a shop selling the basics at corner-shop prices, as well as fresh bread that’s finished onsite (the granary is a little doughy but the croissants are perfect).
The visiting hog roast on Monday and Friday evenings is decent enough, if a little stingy on the crackling, with the portion size not overly generous.
Each guest is entitled to half an hour’s wifi daily in the games room – after that you have to pay.
There’s no service on the rest of the site, so if you’ve brought your Whatsapp-addicted teenager, now’s your chance to force their social skills back into development.
What does Woodovis Park have for babies/children?
The Super Robin caravan has many child-friendly touches that meant we could relax when our toddler was charging about: the corners of the tables are gently rounded, the kitchen worktops are out of reach and the sofa is firm enough to clamber on without risk of toppling off.
It’s worth noting the caravans don’t have baby changing facilities (but then this is rare), but the main toilet and shower block does so campers are looked after.
Cots and high chairs are available free of charge – if you forget your travel alternatives or just don’t have the space to bring them along.
The park has a small outdoor playground with swings, a wooden climbing frame and slide, and a sweet little wendy house, all with natural bark flooring.
Fun kids activities include weekly storytelling sessions during peak season, plus zorbing and archery for the older children.
For adults and children alike, there’s a heated indoor swimming pool (with two family-sized changing rooms and a baby-change facility) – which was a little on the cool side but clean and well kept.
There is a very warm jacuzzi and infrared sauna to make up for this, although not much consolation for pregnant women who can’t use either.
The swimming block is unmanned, so children need to be supervised.
Outside, there’s a covered boules pitch and table tennis – bats are free to borrow, balls cost 50p.
What’s the wildlife like?
The well-kept grounds are free from nettles and weeds, and foodies can time their trip to take advantage of the plentiful wild garlic that grows on the fringes of the playground and around the trees.
Being a small site, security is not really an issue – it is surrounded with fields and there is a warden on duty 24 hours a day.
The Copper Penny pub is a 20-minute walk away and welcomes children. The food is typical country pub fare – with an impressive variety of desserts, the service friendly and the locals up for a chat.
Is Woodovis Park pet-friendly?
Yes, Woodovis welcomes dogs, at a £35 surcharge to cover the whole stay. They even have their own field to run in and play in on the lower part of the site.
In low season, you can camp per night in a tent or campervan from £20 per pitch, glamp in a shepherd’s pod from £49, hire a luxury caravan from £195 for three days or the cottage from £279.
In high season, camping starts at £32, glamping from £54, luxury caravans from £234 for 3 days and the cottage from £288.
The park also runs last-minute offers to fill spaces, so keep an eye on the website.
Is there anything else to do in the surrounding area?
Yes, lots. As well as the outdoor activities in Tavistock there are the various National trust properties in Dartmoor, including Castle Drogo (38 minutes drive away) and the tranquil Buckland Abbey (18 minutes away).
You can also wear the kids out at the working period mining village of Morwellham Quay which is 13 minutes away.
And of course, as you’re in the centre of Devon you’re only 50 minutes away from the seaside.
Find out more about Woodovis: call them on 01822 832968.
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