The dramatic landscape of Dartmoor National Park has captivated visitors for centuries. It should come as no surprise that it’s also one of the top filming locations in the UK. The earliest films to be shot on Dartmoor were released in 1929.
‘The American Prisoner’ and ‘A Dartmoor Cottage’ (sometimes referred to an ‘Escape from Dartmoor’) were some of the last silent movies. Directed by Anthony Asquith, both films use Dartmoor’s meadows and tors as backdrops. But it’s more recent films and TV series that most people remember seeing Dartmoor’s landscapes in. Both War Horse, and the popular BBC One mini-series, Gold Digger, were filmed in the area. Both have been seen by millions around the world.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, the blockbuster War Horse follows the lives of a horse named Joey and Devon farm boy, Albert Narracott (played by Jeremy Irvine). The movie was a hit, grossing more than £120 million worldwide. It also garnered six Academy Award nominations, 5 BAFTAs and 2 Golden Globes.
Almost exclusively filmed on Dartmoor and the south of Devon, Steven Spielberg was quite taken with the beauty of the landscape. He’s been quoted as saying “I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor.”
Scenes were shot largely around Sheepstor and Meavy, including Combestone Tor, Haytor and Ringmoor Down. One of the most recognisable of the locations was Ditsworthy Warren House. The location was used for the farm Albert lived in with his parents – played by Emily Watson and Peter Mullan. This ‘farm’ is actually a grade II listed building on the south-western edge of Dartmoor. The stone building was originally built as a home for the Bowden family. This family managed a large rabbit warren on the moor for generations – giving the farm its name. Today you’ll find it vacant just outside Sheepstor.
The BBC One TV mini-series, Gold Digger was also short predominantly in and around Dartmoor. The six-part series follows the lives of 60-year-old Julia Day (played by Julia Ormond) and 36-year-old Benjamin Green (played by Ben Barnes) as they fall in love and continue a relationship despite their family’s disapproval.
Canonteign Falls is the location for the penultimate episode of the drama series. The 70-metre waterfall, ancient woodland and moss-covered rock provide the perfect background to a tense episode where Julia learns the truth of Ben’s past.
Most of the story is split between central London and rural Devon. The village of Widecombe, found on the eastern side of Dartmoor, features heavily throughout the series. Haytor and Honeybay Tor also provide beautiful windswept locations for scenes in this tense relationship thriller.
Other movies with filming locations on Dartmoor include…
Dartmoor Killing (2015 Horror- mystery movie starring Gemma-Leah Devereux, Rebecca Night, David Hayman)
Revolution (1985 Adventure movie starring Al Pacino and Donald Sutherland)
The Great Pony Raid (1968 Family movie starring Edward Underdown and Michael Brennan)