Planning your escape from Covid-19

Sheep on Dartmoor, England, UK

Dartmoor, this 385 sq mile wilderness is as good as it gets - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Soon we will all be free to get out and about and back to normal. To enjoy the outdoor space we are so fortunate to have here in Devon.

The journey I have in mind is actually here on our doorstep but one we sometimes take for granted. But don’t make the same mistake as me... more on this in a moment!

The wonder of Dartmoor. This 385 sq mile wilderness is as good as it gets, and is free at the point of use. It is the same size as Greater London.

It is one of motoring’s best-kept secrets and is like going back in time but you must pick the right day.

 A clear, dry, crisp and sunny day will reward you with fabulous views and try to avoid the weekend if possible.

You can be at Haytor Visitor Centre in under 30 minutes for your first pit stop. Head to Bovey, and then pick up the moorland road to Haytor and Widdecombe.

There is suddenly a cattlegrid and then just sheep, ponies and boulders with switchbacks to rival the best of Europe and a nice road surface in the main, with very few potholes and no fences.

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 I would highly recommend a stop at Haytor car park directly in front of the twin rocks.

The climb to the Tor is an easy ten-minute grassy rise and it is said that the steps leading to the very top were cut out for Queen Victoria’s visit, but on the day, she declined to climb the last bit! The views over Teignmouth and East Devon are incredible. Her loss!

There are fabulous Tarmac tracks around the reservoirs of Burrator and Fernworthy, plus magnificent granite dams to drive over toll free!

Get yourself an OS map and study it well while you plan a trip.

The road from Ponsworthy to Postbridge passes the forest of Bellever and is narrow, like so many of these routes, but the pace is gentle and there are always passing places.

 Bellever Forest car park also has good toilets and a nice walk to its own Tor rising majestically above the treeline.

Take a picnic and enjoy what is one of the most amazing and unspoilt places in Britain. 

No visit to Dartmoor is complete without a glance at the prison at Princetown, a category C for men and opened in 1809. Makes you want to stick to the speed limit! 

Famous pubs include the Rugglestone Inn at Widdecombe and the Warren House Inn just north of Postbridge with the famous Clapper Bridge, where it is claimed the lounge fire has never been extinguished since 1845! 

Our last pre-lockdown visit was last February in the trusty 35-year-old classic Land Rover 90 County V8 which we have had for 20 years.

It has a tendency to veer off road through any open gate it finds leading onto moorland and did just that on this occasion.

Heading north towards Little Mis Tor near Princetown, this track eventually leads onto Great Mis Tor. "Oh, how sweet," said my wife, pointing at the pretty flags on the tops of each Tor, and when we stepped out for a better look, that’s when we heard and felt the explosions at the same time... yes, we had strayed into the live army firing range. Oops!

Big time oops! So much for my map reading.  A very quick u-turn and we fled the scene with me feeling rather silly. With my Dartmoor background, I should have known better but, hey, we all make mistakes.

Dartmoor offers unsurpassed views the entire way, and I promise, you will be back again soon. 

Just don’t tell anyone or they’ll all want to come.