15+ Fun Things to do in Okehampton and around Dartmoor!

Okehampton Castle

If you’re looking for things to do in Okehampton, you’ve come to the right place!

With attractions ranging from exploring an ancient castle to walks on one of England’s most famous moors, there are lots of places to enjoy in and around the town. 

Okehampton isn’t a huge place, and you could easily see the whole town in less than a day. However, it is a great jumping point to see the rest of Dartmoor National Park (as it is the closest town to the park). 

About Okehampton

Okehampton is a small Devonshire market town with around 6,000 population. It is famous for being ‘the gateway to Dartmoor’ and sees its fair share of tourists because of this location.

It is also known as the ‘walking centre of Devon’, and I’ll recommend some of the best walks in the area below! 

It is an attractive town with amazing nature right by it, and it’s well worth paying a visit!

Okehampton History

Okehampton is a Saxon town, with the earliest record of settlement recorded in 980 AD. It was first called Ocmundtune, which meant settlement by the Ockment (the river which runs through the town). 

Okehampton Castle was constructed by the Normans in the 11th century. It was a typical motte and bailey castle and was used by Hugh Courtenay, the current Earl of Devon. 

The town prospered due to the medieval wool trade. This was one of the most popular industries in the West Country at the time. 

Several buildings in town date back from the 15th century and its heyday. However, the industry started to decline in the 19th century due to competition from other towns during the industrial revolution. 

Since the 20th century, Okehampton has increased in popularity as a tourist town, as many people stop off before or after exploring Dartmoor.

Where is Okehampton? 

Okehampton is located in the middle of West Devon – at equal distances between the north and south coast. 

It is a 30 minute (23 mile) drive from Exeter and an hour’s drive to Plymouth. If you are driving from London, it’s around a 3 hour 45 minute drive in good traffic. 

River flowing through okehampton

How to get to Okehampton

Okehampton sits on the A30, so it is easy to access from Exeter and other destinations. 

To get to Exeter, take the M5 (from Bristol, Birmingham or other further north cities) or the A303 (which connects to the M3 and M25 for London).

Then, take the A30 from the end of the motorway. Make sure that you don’t follow the A38 – this will take you to Plymouth instead! 

From the A30, take a right at the sign to Okehampton. The A30 goes all the way to Land’s End, so it’s easy to drive from destinations in Cornwall. 

Can I take a train to Okehampton?

There is currently no operating South-Western railway station in Okehampton, but this is about to change! 

The Dartmoor Railway service will connect the town with Exeter, also calling in Crediton.

This means that you will be able to take a train from London, Bristol, Birmingham, or multiple other cities to Exeter, and then change to the Dartmoor Railway Line for Okehampton Station! 

Okehampton Station is a historic station that is part of a disused railway line. It will be unstaffed and will retain many of its historic features. 

As soon as I get a chance when the Dartmoor Railway train is open, I will take this train and report back!

Can I take a bus to Okehampton? 

A few different bus routes serve Okehampton. The 6A, which runs from Exeter to Bude, stops in the town. Alternatively, the 118 bus connects Okehampton and Tavistock, and you can get to Tavistock by bus from Plymouth. 

Devon’s bus services aren’t always amazing, so do check bus times before you set out on your trip. 

Where to park in Okehampton

Free parking is available in Okehampton Castle car park, but only if you are visiting the castle. If you end up visiting and then popping into the town centre, you could probably get away with it, but you’ll have to move the car if you want to check out all of the other things to do in Okehampton. 

The most affordable place to park in Okehampton is Simmons Park, which costs £3.00 for 24 hours – and is much cheaper if you stay for a shorter time. This car park is a 9 minute walk to Okehampton centre.

When to visit Okehampton

Okehampton is lovely any time of year, but as many of the attractions are based on enjoying the great outdoors (even the castle is outdoors!), it’s not the best place to visit when it’s raining. 

However, you can read this post about things to do in Devon in the rain for inspiration! 

Therefore, I would recommend visiting in the warmer months. Okehampton doesn’t get quite as busy as other Devon towns during school holidays, so if you can only go on holiday during this time, staying in Okehampton could be a good option. 

However, school holidays will always be busier, so I would recommend visiting in May, June, early July or September if possible. If you do need to visit during school holidays, try to avoid weekends and bank holidays!

Attractions like the castle and museum are open year-round. You can enjoy Dartmoor at any time of year as well, but just be careful on the moors if the weather is particularly foggy or stormy. 

Things to do in Okehampton

Okehampton Castle

Ruins of Okehampton Castle

This dramatic castle is definitely one of the best things to do in Okehampton. Okehampton Castle was built in the 11th century, shortly after the Norman invasion.

It is a typical motte and bailey castle that Hugh Courtenay, the then-Earl of Devon, used to administrate the surrounding area. 

Okehampton Castle stayed in the Courtenay family for a few centuries, rebuilding it in the later medieval period.

However, Henry Courtenay, who was the first marquess of Exeter was executed for treason in 1539, and Henry VIII seized his lands, including the castle. 

Although Henry VIII technically owned Okehampton Castle, he didn’t do anything to it, and it wasn’t as important in Tudor England. This meant that it fell into disrepair and now stands as ancient ruins. 

Okehampton is owned by the English Heritage and costs £6.50 for adults and £3.90 for children. If you are an English Heritage member you can get in for free. 

For tickets to Okehampton Castle click here.

Or click here to find out more about English Heritage membership.

Okehampton Arcade

Okehampton Arcade

Okehampton Arcade is a lovely undercover shopping area that’s definitely worth visiting while you’re in town. 

Dating back to the Victorian period, the arcade is a scenic covered street that used to be part of a historic hotel, built in 1906. The hotel was considered a very luxurious place to stay back then because it had electricity! 

Shops today include card shop Occasions, Marshalls Fine Jewellery and Chilli Baba, which sells Indian-inspired cushions and blankets. 

There’s also the popular music cafe the Music and Bean Company, a cafe called Crumbs, and the greengrocer Beanfeast Wholefoods. 

Okehampton Treasure Trail

Tower of St James Chapel, Okehampton, Devon

The Okehampton Treasure Trail is a fun family attraction and a unique way to explore the town. 

It is a murder mystery themed treasure trail that takes you through Okehampton’s main points of interest while telling you a fascinating story. At the end, you have to decide – whodunnit? 

It will take you around two hours to complete this two-mile circuit, and you’ll learn loads of interesting facts and background stories on the way. 

This is a self-guided trail, and you can download the guide on this website

Walk the two Castles Trail

The Two Castles Trail links Okehampton with Launceston, which is located just over the border in Cornwall. 

Launceston is home to Launceston Castle, another popular English Heritage property that was also built just after the Norman conquest and bears a lot of similarities to Okehampton Castle. 

It is a 24 mile waymarked hiking trail and takes you through some of the most breathtaking Devonshire countryside. 

It isn’t recommended to do it all in one day – in fact, the official guide suggests taking four days at an average of 6 miles per day. Of course, if you are a particularly fast walker, you might want to do it quicker!

The official guide recommends stopping at Bridestowe, Lewdown, and Lifton, where there are public transport links back to Okehampton or on to Launceston. 

If you only have one day, then why not just do the first section to Bridestowe and then take the bus back to Okehampton? This will enable you to see some spectacular scenery on the edge of Dartmoor. 

Lydford Gorge

Forest in the Lydford Gorge Natural Reserve, Devon, UK

The National Trust owned Lydford Gorge is a fantastic place to visit near Okehampton. 

Lydford Gorge is a beautiful place and the deepest river gorge in the South West, and it has stunning natural scenery. Walk around the River Lyd, enjoy the power of the water, and try to watch out for fish! 

It’s a beautiful place for a walk, but be careful of steep steps and slippery surfaces. 

Lydford Gorge is a 16 minute drive from Okehampton to Lydford Gorge, and there is free parking. The 118 bus also travels from Okehampton to the entrance of Lydford Gorge. 

Dartmoor National Park

Medieval clapper bridge over the East Dart River at Postbridge on Dartmoor in Devon, West Country, England, UK

Dartmoor National Park is one of the best national parks in the UK, and it’s right on the doorstep of Okehampton! 

It is best to have a car if you want to explore Dartmoor National Park. Highlights include: 

  • Any of these circular walks
  • Check out Komoot for mountain biking trails
  • Castle Drogo – this castle was the last to be constructed in England
  • The ancient Postbridge Clapper Bridge
  • Hound Tour abandoned medieval village
  • Becky Falls, which are beautiful waterfalls
  • Dartmoor Prison Museum
  • Dartmoor Brewery
  • The Ashburton Antiques Trail

The Granite Way

The Granite Way is a popular Dartmoor biking trail that leaves from Okehampton and runs to Lydford – where the gorge is located! 

This 11 mile route follows the former route of the southern region railway line, so it is primarily flat and traffic-free. If you take this trail, you will skirt the edge of Dartmoor National Park and be able to enjoy its breathtakingly beautiful granite moorland. 

Cycle hire is available from Granite Way Cycles.

Museum of Dartmoor Life

Inside the Museum of Dartmoor Life

The Museum of Dartmoor Life is a comprehensive museum all about this part of Devon. 

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live on the edge of the moors, what industries can operate in this location, or what kind of culture Dartmoor has, this is the place!

There are a vast amount of exhibits and even some historical vehicles to check out. 

It costs £5 per person to visit the museum, and it is open from 10:00 am to 4:15 pm. 

Meldon Viaduct

Gorse bushes on Dartmoor with Meldon Viaduct in the distance. The viaduct now forms part of the Granite Way used by cyclists and walkers.

The Meldon Viaduct sits just outside of Okehampton and is well worth visiting while you’re in the area. 

The viaduct was constructed in 1874 and stretches over 164 metres from Meldon Dam to Meldon Reservoir over various mineral mines.

You can walk across Meldon Viaduct and admire the sweeping views of Dartmoor around you. 

Meldon Reservoir is close to the viaduct and you can do a circular hiking trail around the reservoir and through some fantastic parts of Dartmoor. Here are the instructions.

There is parking available at Meldon Reservoir Car Park or you can access the viaduct and reservoir by cycling or hiking the Granite Way.

Stroll around Simmons Park

Simmons Park is a small park located in Okehampton and is a lovely place for an afternoon stroll or picnic. 

Features include a bandstand, a bowling green, and a cricket field. 

You can also access Kempley Meadows and Platt Meadow, which are good places for wildlife spotting. 

Okehampton Farmers Market

Okehampton has been a market town for centuries, and there is still an impressive farmers market on the first and third Saturday of each month. 

Devon is renowned for its local produce, and you can visit the market to buy products like honey, cheese, chutney and cider. 

It operates from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and is well worth stopping by while you’re in town! 

Museum in Okehampton

Finch Foundry

The Finch Foundry was the largest working water-powered forge in the country. 

It was used to create tools in the 19th century. At its busiest, Finch Foundry made around 400 tools per day, but as machinery has become more developed and sophisticated, the industry in Dartmoor declined.

However, Finch Foundry has been perfectly preserved and is one of the most interesting things to do near Okehampton. 

Run by the National Trust, the Finch Foundry is open for tours and visitors can see the huge industrial Dartmoor machinery and learn about the Finch family who created the foundry. 

Currently, you need to book a tour on a specific day of the week. See their website for more information.

Sampford Courtenay

Sampford Courtenay is a village close to Okehampton with a fascinating history. If you love the Tudors, it is a must-visit!

The village was the site of the Prayer Book Rebellion, which happened in 1549. 

After Henry VIII died, there was resistance about being governed by Edward, who was still a child, and his proxy rulers (the Seymour family).

Devon and Cornwall were deeply Catholic and they were already feeling unsettled at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. So when even more changes came in under Edward and his proxy rulers, they wanted to revolt. 

For the neighbouring Cornish people, the change to services being in English was even more frustrating because many people only spoke the Cornish language. 

However, the Prayer Book Rebellion started here, in Sampford Courtenay. 

Nowadays, it is a very peaceful place, but you can go into the church and read the exhibition about the rebellion. Alternatively, ask any locals about it – you’ll find that they’re happy to chat! 

Sampford Courtenay is located a 12 minute drive from Okehampton, or they are connected by the 5A bus. 

Get Outdoors Adventure Okehampton

Adventure Okehampton is an activity centre with a wide range of great group activities and educational experiences. 

Located in the YHA Okehampton, here you can try your hand at bushcraft, archery, climbing, kayaking or gorge scrambling. 

They mainly cater for school groups, but you can also book onto some of their activities as a family, group or even a solo traveller. 

See their website for more information!

Dine at the Victorian Pantry Tearooms

The Victorian Pantry Tearooms are right by Okehampton Market and is a rustic cafe with period decor serving up tea, cakes and meals such as sandwiches and jacket potatoes. 

If you want to dine somewhere that feels quintessentially British, this is the place to do it! It’s also in an ideal location to grab a refreshment before or after seeing the museum. 

What is the nearest beach to Okehampton?

If you’re on holiday in Devon, you might be keen to go to the beach!

Okehampton isn’t a beach town – in fact, it’s nearly equidistant from both of Devon’s coast. However, as long as you have a car, there’s no reason why you can’t go on a day trip to the beach from Okehampton!

Bude Beach

Widemouth Bay near Bude, Cornwall

Bude in Cornwall is potentially the closest seaside town, at less than 30 miles away (about 40 minutes driving time).

There are loads of things to do in Bude, from enjoying the numerous beaches and going swimming or swimming in the Bude sea pool to walking down the canal or visiting the history museum at Bude Castle. 

If all you want to do is hit the beach, you can check out my Bude beach guide

Woolacombe Beach

Sunset near Woolacombe sands

Woolacombe Beach is a 1 hour 20 minute drive through scenic country roads.

This is a top-rated beach that has been deemed the 13th best in the world. It is a two mile-long stretch with dramatic cliffs on either side.

Woolacombe town is a fun place with lots of restaurants and a few attractions too. 

You can see my guide to Woolacombe Beach and the surrounding coastline here.

Exmouth Beach

Jurassic Rocks at Orcombe Point, Exmouth, Devon

On the other coast, Exmouth is about 35 miles away and will take 45 minutes to drive.

Exmouth is a wonderful beach town – reportedly the oldest resort in Devon – and there are tonnes of things to do here.

You can enjoy the popular beach, including the cliffs that mark the start of the Jurassic Coast, explore the charming estuary, or visit the National Trust property A La Ronde, a 17 sided house. 

Torquay and the English Riviera Beaches

Torquay, Devon

Torquay is just under an hour from Okehampton.

Also on the south coast, this town is famous for being the heart of the English Riviera.

There are loads of nearby beaches you can enjoy, with a range of watersports on offer, as well as attractions like Kents Cavern Caves.

Places to visit near Okehampton

Apart from the beach destinations, there are loads of inland places to visit near Okehampton too! 

Exeter

House that moved and church exter

Exeter is only half an hour from Okehampton, and it is worth visiting when you’re in Devon!

There are plenty of things to do in Exeter, including seeing the ancient Cathedral, exploring the waterfront at Exeter quay, going underground in the Exeter tunnels, and exploring the RAMM history and art museum.

I would also recommend doing a Red Coat guided tour which is a fantastic way to learn about the city’s history. They are completely free and are run by people who have a passion for encouraging tourism to the city. 

Here’s my guide for spending a weekend in Exeter and a blog post about where to stay in Exeter.

Tavistock 

Tavistock, England – 28 October, 28, 2015: The central shopping area in the small Devon market town on the edge of Dartmoor National Park

Tavistock is a straightforward day trip from Okehampton, as they are connected by bus routes or are a 30 minute drive from each other. 

Tavistock is the only town in Devon that has World Heritage Status, and it’s worth visiting just to walk around the beautiful town centre. You can also go to the pannier market and Tavistock history museum and enjoy the natural scenery around the River Tavy. 

Launceston

Launceston is situated in Cornwall, just over the River Tamar. There are a few attractions here, including Launceston Castle, which was built around the same time as Okehampton Castle. 

It also has a historic town centre, as it was the old county town of Cornwall. It’s worth seeing Mary Magdelene Church and all of the carvings and exploring the beautiful nature around the Tamar.

There is also a history museum detailing everything you need to know about the town.

Tamar Valley

If you travel a bit further south from Launceston, check out the Tamar Valley. This is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and encompasses villages like Gunnislake and Calstock.

It’s a stunning place to hike around, and Calstock has a beautiful historic viaduct.

The Tamar Valley terminates in Plymouth – you can also take a lovely train ride that calls at Gunnislake, Calstock and Plymouth. 

Plymouth

View of Hoe Plymouth

Plymouth is equally a good place to visit. It is one of the most interesting coastal cities in the world, with centuries of fascinating history. 

There’s so much to do here, such as a historic walking tour around the city centre, the Mayflower exhibition which details the Mayflower pilgrimage which set sail from Plymouth, and the gin distillery which is the oldest working distillery in the country.

Also, don’t forget to check out The Box, which is the best history museum in town.

You could definitely spend at least a weekend here – but it’s well worth visiting on a day trip from Okehampton too!

To get to Plymouth by public transport, you will need to take the 118 bus to Tavistock and then change to the 1 bus for Plymouth. It is around a one hour drive. 

Barnstaple

Barnstaple

Barnstaple is the biggest town in North Devon, and it isn’t too far from Okehampton. There are a few fun things to do in Barnstaple, including exploring the Tarka Trail, which encompasses the River Taw and Torridge, seeing the Barnstaple Museum, crossing the medieval long bridge and enjoying the pannier market. 

To get to Okehampton from Barnstaple it’s an hour drive, or you can take the 75A bus to Great Torrington and then change to the 72 to Barnstaple. 

Places to stay in Okehampton

  • YHA Okehampton Bracken Tor is a modern hostel with both private and 6, 2 and 4 bed en-suite bunk rooms. It has shared facilities, including a self-catering kitchen and cosy lounge, and is perfect for backpackers looking for an authentic hostel experience and families. Click here for rates and to reserve your space.
  • The White Hart Hotel Wetherspoon is a great budget hotel to stay at in Okehampton. It has modern rooms with en-suite bathrooms and, of course, there are excellent eating opportunities at the pub downstairs. Click here to read more about the hotel.
  • Collaven Manor is a grand restored 15th century manor house that now operates as a historic guest house. All of the rooms are full of character, with epic views over Dartmoor. There is a bar on site. Click here for more information.

The Best Okehampton Attractions!

Whether you want a base to explore Dartmoor National Park and spots like Meldon Reservoir, a stay in a traditional English market town with lots of history, or want to be in an excellent location to explore the rest of Devon, there’s plenty to enjoy in Okehampton! 

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