Why families should head to Dartmoor National Park this summer

Haymeadow guided walk, Dartmoor National Park

Known for its stunning natural scenery, Dartmoor National Park is a popular choice for a family day out - Credit: Dartmoor National Park Authority

The summer is well and truly here – and what better time to take advantage of the warmer weather and enjoy the beautiful scenery on your doorstep? 

Famed for its sweeping vistas of craggy moorland and scenic walking routes, Dartmoor National Park ticks all the right boxes when it comes to wholesome family days out.

And this year there’s even more reason to explore the park and its surrounding area with the return of the Moor Otters Arts Trail.

The Moor Otters Arts Trail is returning to Dartmoor National Park

81 sculptures of otters with cubs have been dotted around Dartmoor National Park and gateway towns as part of the Moor Otters Arts Trail - Credit: Dartmoor National Park Authority

We catch up with Sophie James, marketing and fundraising officer at Dartmoor National Park, who tells us how you can join the fun as an ‘otter spotter’ this summer while helping to raise funds for vital conservation projects.

Q: What makes Dartmoor National Park so special? 

A: Both locals and visitors flock to Dartmoor every year to enjoy its natural scenery and abundance of wildlife, but there is so much more for families to see and do here.

Whether it’s discovering the area’s rich archaeological history, exploring a disused railway track on a mountain bike, or browsing artisan farmers markets and independent boutiques at one of the characterful gateway villages, there's no shortage of exciting activities for all ages to enjoy.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the Moor Otters Arts Trail? 

Golden otter by the Dartmoor Artist, part of the Moor Otters Arts Trail in Dartmoor National Park

Otterbiography by the Dartmoor Artist - Credit: Sarah Clarke Photography

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A: The popular arts trail has returned to Dartmoor National Park this summer, offering lots of opportunities for discovery and adventure. 81 sculptures of otters with cubs have been mounted on plinths and dotted around various trails across the park and surrounding towns.

Like most arts trails, the event is a fundraiser, but it’s also a great way to encourage people to get out and about and support Dartmoor’s local businesses and communities – especially after the tough year we've all had.  

Q: Where can I find the otter trails on Dartmoor? 

Golden otter sculpture by Ann Montgomery, part of the Moor Otters Arts Trail at Dartmoor National Park

Ottmossphere by Ann Montgomery - Credit: Sarah Clarke Photography

A: There are four arts trails across Dartmoor where the sculptures have been placed at various businesses, community groups and points of interest. There are also several otters in gateway towns and villages, as well as the Mayflower Trail in Plymouth. Trail maps are available to download at dartmoor.gov.uk or from National Park Visitor Centres so you can plan your adventure in advance.  

The trails can be accessed via walking, cycling, driving or public transport. We’ve tried to be as environmentally-friendly as possible when creating the trails and encourage visitors to do the same when exploring – we're even running a competition for the most sustainable otter spotter! 

Q: Can you tell us more about the otter sculptures – how were they designed? 

Golden otter by Bernoid, part of the Moor Otters Arts Trail at Dartmoor National Park

Everything is Connected by Bernoid - Credit: Sarah Clarke Photography

A: The otters with cubs sculptures were designed and decorated by various local and national artists. We sent out invitations for creatives to submit their designs and from the entries, we selected 81 that we thought stood out. There’s a mix of well-known names as well as local and emerging artists, art teachers and community groups from across the country, with some truly stunning designs.  

Q: What happens to the otter sculptures after the summer? 

A: At the end of the summer, the public will have the chance to bid for their favourite otter at an auction to raise funds for important conservation projects in Dartmoor National Park.

Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood, who have been great supporters of the project since the first arts trail in 2017, are holding an online auction for 56 of the otter sculptures, which is open for bidding now. The sculptures will be sold to the highest bidder, with the auction finishing at 8pm on October 1, 2021.

The remaining 25 ‘golden otters’ will go to a live auction at the Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood saleroom in Exeter on October 2, at 2pm. These otters will be sold to the highest bidder either in the room, via bids over the phone or online.  

The support of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood, and that of the other businesses involved in creating the arts trail, is essential to its success and without their generosity it wouldn’t be possible.

To find out more about the Moors Otters Arts Trail, visit dartmoor.gov.uk. For more details about the otter auction, go to bhandl.co.uk.