Naomi Dunbar heads to the wild and rugged moorlands of Dartmoor for a night of wild camping and explores just what makes it so special…
As you probably know, wild camping is unfortunately very much illegal in most parts of the UK, which is a mighty shame because it’s a fantastic way to strip life back down to the basics and fully immerse yourself within nature’s finery. However, as you may know, Scotland and some areas of Dartmoor National Park are an exception to this law. Living in Stratford-upon-Avon means that Scotland is a heck of a drive away from me, so I usually head to Dartmoor to get my wild camping fix.
The thing I love about Dartmoor, besides the fact it’s an area of unspoiled English beauty, is that you don’t have to hike for long before towns disappear from view, giving you the feeling of being a million miles away from civilisation – which for me, is pure bliss. It’s also relatively easy terrain, which makes for a relaxing trek over the vast and rugged moors, meaning you can fully appreciate every last inch of its charm as you plod on.
After a few hours of hiking south from Princetown and as the afternoon sun started the descent to its slumber, I found a quiet little stream tucked within a small valley and set my tent beside it for the night. The sun was getting lower, so I set off to the highest point within sight to marvel at the fiery sky. For me, when the day turns to night is when Dartmoor is at its most magical. The moors take a hazy purple and pink hue that slowly fades into burnt oranges and vibrant reds, and the impressive natural rock formations cast interestingly shaped silhouettes against the sky.
As soon as I’m plunged into the darkness of night, I’m reminded of just how staggering the night sky in Dartmoor is. My favourite thing to do is to get cosy in my sleeping bag, poke my head out of the tent and watch the billions of stars blink back at me – I don’t know of a more perfect way to fall asleep.
I woke the next morning to the gentle sounds of the stream trickling past me, which is much more soothing than the somewhat angry tone of my alarm clock (that’s probably been snoozed eight times) at home. With my gear packed up, I took a longer route back which dipped me in and out of dramatic moorland valleys, past winding streams and over grasslands scattered with granite rocks. As I neared civilisation, feeling refreshed, I couldn’t help but hope I’d return to Dartmoor again soon.
You are permitted to wild camp in Scotland and Dartmoor as long as you don’t stay on private land without permission and you stick to the ‘leave no trace’ rules, which means respect the area, don’t litter and leave it as you found it. You can find guidelines relating to this online. If you’re unsure on the rules, then check out our five essential tips for wild camping beginners.
Please be aware that before setting off, you’ll need to check where the military firing ranges are and where it’s legal to camp. You can find all the info/maps on the official Dartmoor National Park website, and as long as you avoid those areas, you’ll be safe and sound.