Widecombe-in-the Moor; a pretty Dartmoor village

by Jan

Widecombe-in-the-Moor is a quaint, little village in the Dartmoor National Park, in Devon (South West England).  It is a delightful, unspoilt place, with a timeless appeal.  The village has a unique identity, steeped in folklore and tradition, surrounded by a landscape of stunning moorland and ancient tors.

We stumbled upon Widecombe-in-the-Moor by chance, after a long day of walking from Haytor to Hound Tor in the Dartmoor National Park.  We were in dire need of a drink and the ranger at the Visitor Centre recommended Widecombe.  And, we’re so glad she did.

If you think you recognise the name, it’s probably from the old song about Widecombe Fair.  In this traditional Devon folk song, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and his six friends make their way to the annual Widecombe Fair on Tom Pearce’s grey mare. (yes, all seven on one horse!)

Whether or not Uncle Tom Cobley is fictional, the fair is not.  Widecombe Fair is held on the second Tuesday in September to raise funds for charities.  Unfortunately, it cannot go ahead this year because of social distancing.

The Old Inn

The Old Inn, Widecombe, Dartmoor, UK

Our first stop at Widecombe was at The Old Inn pub.  We fell in love with the place the minute we stepped in the garden.  I think it was the chickens that clinched it.

The pub has a divine garden, with a small duck pond and free roaming hens.  They had a rather noisy rooster and a handsome bantam chicken (the ones with the fancy legs!).  Inside, you’ll find a traditional English pub, with open fires for winter.

St Pancras Church

St Pancras Church, Widecombe, Dartmoor, UK

Fully refreshed, we set off to explore the village.  The focal point of Widecombe is a small village green, overlooked by St Pancras Church.  This 14th century church is often known as “the cathedral of the moors” because of its large size.  It is an impressive granite building with a large tower that can be seen for miles across the moorland.

Dartmoor legend claims that the Devil paid a visit to St Pancras Church during the midst of a thunderstorm in 1638.  After quenching his thirst, he took off on his horse, taking with him a young parishioner who had fallen asleep in the service.

The Church House

Church House, Widecombe, Dartmoor, UK

Besides the church stands the Church House, a 16th Century property managed by the National Trust.  Established in 1537, the house was built to raise funds for the church by providing shelter and ale to parishioners visiting from further-afield.

The building later became an almshouse and then a workhouse, as well as the local school.  Today it is the hub of the community, with regular markets.  There is a shop at one end, and it doubles up as Tourist Information Centre.

Navy shell outside church house, Widecombe, Dartmoor, UK

In front of the Church House is a 15” naval shell.  The National War Savings Committee presented it to the people of Widdecombe in 1920, in recognition of their extraordinary efforts in collecting sphagnum moss during WW1 .  Sphagnum moss grows in abundance in the damp Dartmoor conditions and is perfect for wound dressings.

Other things to see in Widcombe-in-the-Moor

In addition to the Old Inn, Widecombe has another pretty pub, the Rugglestone Inn, which is on the outskirts of the village.  It also has several gift shops and the Café on the Green.

If you take a stroll down the road, you’ll come to the Old Pig House.  Volunteers have restored this old pig house using local materials and methods.  It now serves as a memorial garden, which is open for public use.

Another attraction is the ancient Saxon Well.  Legend claims that the Devil stopped here during his visit and that the tiny well never runs dry.  It is also reputed to have healing powers for eye conditions.

Of course, one of the best things to see near Widecombe is the Dartmoor National Park, with its 368 miles of lovely moorland.

Getting to Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Dartmoor

Widecombe-in-the-Moor is on B3387 in the Dartmoor National Park in Devon.  It is between Exeter and Plymouth, with villages such as Ashburton and Buckfastleigh nearby.

The easiest way to get there is on the Devon Express, A38, which joins with the M5.

We parked for free in the pub car park, which is for clients only.  However, there is a car park off the green.

Have you been to Widecombe-in-the-Moor in Dartmoor?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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