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Dartmoor walks this way | News

Baskerville Bike Tour

March 30

One of the first rules of marketing is to know what your clients want and provide it.  So while I've always thought that enjoying the beauty of Dartmoor’s natural scenery and panoramic views is enough reason to get out there on an electric bike, others involved in tourism have encouraged me to develop some themed e-bike tours – and the first one is now taking shape.  

Many Dartmoor visitors, particularly from abroad, know of the area because they’ve read or seen a film version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Hound of the Baskervilles”.  In this story, Dartmoor is as much the star as the famous detective Sherlock Holmes.  There’s a lot of swirling fogs and bogs which is not the greatest image to present to the outside world – we all know how much more there is to Dartmoor – but this threatening and bleak landscape makes a lasting impression on people’s imagination and encourages them to come and experience the real thing.

The challenging part of planning a Baskerville Tour is that Conan Doyle drew his ideas from a host of different locations on the moor and jumbled them up to suit his purposes.   The inspiration for the evil Hugo Baskerville is buried in Buckfastleigh and there are several old houses nearby that each contributed to the description of Baskerville Hall.  The legends around Hound Tor, Wistman’s Wood and the Dewerstone were the inspiration for the terrifying hound.  The hut circles that Holmes hid in exist all over the moor – Conan Doyle visited Grimspound but will probably have seen many others.  And some real place names feature such as Black Tor, Merripit and of course the prison at Princetown, but they don’t fit together geographically as they do in the story.  So following in the paw prints of the Hound of the Baskervilles is not a straightforward pursuit.

A walking tour could not cover much of the ground that inspired Conan Doyle, and viewing Dartmoor through a car window is not the same as being out in it, experiencing its sights, sounds and atmosphere up close.  Which is why I’m excited about doing a tour on an electric bike:   you can go further than you could on foot and at the same time can be immersed in the scenery and the feel of the moor, able to stop at any point to soak up the view, consult the book and hear more about the story behind it.  

 I’m developing a number of routes people can choose from, but the one I tried out last week starts in Princetown and includes the hotel Conan Doyle stayed at while writing the novel, Fox Tor mire (basis for Grimpen mire), the prison, Postbridge (basis for the hamlet of Grimpen) and of course some hut circles.  Cycling along those high moorland lanes and teetering on the edge of the mire we all got a real sense of the wild open country that captivated Conan Doyle and inspired the return of Sherlock Holmes – and it was great fun too!

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