The name given to a large expanse of land covering 368 square miles (954 square kilometres), occupying the centre of the English county of Devon, which is now preserved as a National Park. It is characterised by bleak moorland and exposed granite hilltops (known as tors). This bleakness has been used as a setting by writers such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Eden Phillpotts, and the Reverend Sabine Baring Gould.
The integrity of this landscape, many human geographical features of which date back further than the Bronze Age, remains under threat from the industrial conglomerate English China Clay, although Inmreys and Watts Blake Bearne, who held extensive china-clay mining licences from the British Government have recently renounced them after sustained public pressure from bodies such as the Dartmoor Preservation Association. Many of these licences predate(d) much of the heavy machinery which is in use today and at the time that they were granted it was widely presumed that they would never be used. English China Clay have been singled out particularly for criticism since their 'development' of Lee Moor destroyed a considerable number of archaeologically significant sites. The British government have made promises to protect the integrity of the moor; however, the cost of compensating the companies for these antiquated licences which would not have been granted in today's political climate may prove to be prohibitive.
The northern part of the moor has been used by the British army for manouevres and live-firing exercises; this is part of a tradition of military usage which dates back to the Napoleonic wars. Recently, this usage of the moor has been challenged by a number of groups such as the Open Space Society and the Dartmoor Preservation Association. During her lifetime, Lady Sayer was also an outspoken critic of the damage which she perceived that the army were doing to the moor.
Some way into the moor stands the town of Princetown, the site of the notorious Dartmoor Prison, which was originally built both by, and for, Napoleonic prisoners of war. The prison has a (now misplaced) reputation for being escape proof, both due to the buildings themselves and its physical location.
The definitive guide to walking on Dartmoor was written by the Victorian walker William Crossing.
Amongst the pre-roman antiquities one may come across whilst walking on Dartmoor are stone circles, kistvaens, cairns and stone rows. Later additions to the landscape include the remains of the once mighty Dartmoor tin-mining industry such as abandoned tinners' huts, or farmhouses long since abandoned. Indeed the industrial archaeology of Dartmoor is a subject in its own right.
The wildlife of Dartmoor is both rich and diverse.
Dartmoor, an eery place even in high summer, abounds with myths and legends, some of which are detailed in Myths and Legends of Dartmoor.