Dartmoor is a beautiful, vast moorland in Devon known for its prosperous wildlife population and incredible natural beauty. However, Dartmoor is also known for its extensive myths and legends, and for being the setting for some great works of literature – so here are some of the greatest books set in or inspired by Dartmoor!
As book three of the Sherlock Holmes tetralogy, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ is nowhere near short of critical acclaim. In fact, this novel was ranked in the top 200 of the ‘UK’s best-loved novel’ poll of 2003. ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ is set in Dartmoor, and follows the mystery surrounding the Baskerville family’s superstition of a supernatural dog. Though it was not based on a true story, it is said to derive from a legend about a man named Richard Cabell, who lived in Buckfastleigh, Devon, in the 17th century.
While actually set on Exmoor, one of the inspirations behind the plot of this novel is said to be the shooting of Mary Whiddon on her wedding day at the parish church at Chagford, Devon, in the 17th century. Though Blackmore never said that the story was entirely based on true historical events, it is clear that he often used elements of local stories. One village he was said to spent a lot of time in was the very same Chagford – so it is not at all unlikely that he heard of the tragic tale and used it as a plot device for the novel!
A Black Fox Running follows a dark-furred fox called Wulfgar who lives in Dartmoor. The story is written from the point of view of the fox and tells the tale of their fight for survival against a trapper and his dog in 1946. The book features beautiful descriptions of the natural world in its Dartmoor setting.
Oswald spent three years recording conversations that she had with people, real and mythical, who lived and worked on the river Dart, including a poacher, a naturalist, a water nymph, a ferryman, a sewage worker, canoeists, and a seal watcher. ‘Dart’ is a long poem dedicated to those people, and the river itself. Like the river, the poem begins at Dartmoor and ends in Dartmouth at the sea. The poem combines prose and verse, and is 48 pages long. It has been widely praised and won the T. S. Eliot prize for poetry.
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One of Christie’s lesser appreciated works, this novel is set in a tiny village on the outskirts of Dartmoor. It includes references to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was no longer alive when the story was written, with similar elements in the setting to the previously mentioned ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ – both stories also contain supernatural elements, an interesting mystery, and an escaped convict. The novel was well received and often seen as almost an homage to Doyle’s ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’.
Another book that takes great inspiration from The Hound of the Baskervilles, and thus Dartmoor, is The Moor by Laurie R. King. The fourth book in the Mary Russell series, which is a continuation of the Sherlock Holmes story, sees Russell and Holmes head to Dartmoor to investigate strange goings-on.
If you would like to visit the places that inspired these legendary stories, why not come and stay with us at our luxury hotel on Dartmoor?