3 Famous Dartmoor Stories to Tell on Your Holiday

Dartmoor’s landscape is the perfect setting for inspiring tales and myths about fairies, ghosts and giants. Many stories have been told to explain the landscape or warn children from wandering too far. From scary Dartmoor stories to real-life famous Dartmoor stories, there’s plenty to spark your imagination and add interest to the sites you’ll visit.


Along with the many myths and legends of Dartmoor, there are plenty of true stories that need no embellishment for entertaining young and old. From unexpected heavy snowfall to tigers living in Dartmoor’s zoo, these famous Dartmoor stories will add a little spice and interest to your Dartmoor holiday.


Dartmoor blizzards

Winter in 1891 was particularly bad on Dartmoor. A ferocious blizzard hit Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, claiming the lives of more than 200 people and 6,000 animals with its icy cold fingers. On Dartmoor, violent gales blew for days and snow drifts mounted to over 15 feet high.


In those days, the trains still ran despite the dangers of a frozen track or impassable snowdrifts. The early morning calm had likely lulled Dartmoor’s people into a false sense of security. But by early afternoon the east-north-easterly winds had brought snow that was falling thicker and faster than ever before.


Snow covered every roof, hillside and tor in clothes of white, and still, it kept falling. Roofs collapsed, telegraph lines fell down and trains were forced to a standstill. Eight passengers on the Princetown train got stuck beneath a deep snow drift. The unlikely companions were stranded on the tracks, not far from a farmhouse on the moor for two whole nights! It took heroic efforts from the local residents to dig the train out, rescuing the train and its passengers so they lived to tell the tale.


We bought a zoo!

When Benjamin Mee bought a 30-acre property that’s better known as Dartmoor Zoo today, he had no idea he’d become the centre of his own famous Dartmoor story. The property was sold as an unlicenced zoo in 2005, complete with lions, tigers, bears and wolves.

In just 8 months, Benjamin got the zoo up and running and the first visitors arrived at the gate in 2006. But getting the zoo up and running proved to be the easy part. Keeping the animals fed and the zoo open to the public through wet summers and cold winters proved to be a challenge all its own.


As a former journalist turned zoo owner, Benjamin decided to write a book about his experience. Hollywood took notice of this famous Dartmoor story. In 2011 it came to cinema screens around the world with Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson in the starring roles!


Hairy Hands a famous Dartmoor Story

This scary true ghost story is about a particular stretch of road on Dartmoor. It is here that a pair of disembodied hands appear to terrify motorists as they make their way across the moor at night. Many sightings for over half a century give credence to the story of Hairy Hands.


As you drive along the moonlit road of Dartmoor, beware of the hands that may appear and take hold of your steering wheel or motorcycle handlebars. The gruesome, calloused and hairy hands will wrestle for control of your vehicle. Many a motorist has found themselves in a ditch or dead after a visit from the Hairy Hands.


True or not, this is one of the most famous Dartmoor stories!

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