High-moor route: Description of the Sharpitor - Two Bridges section
The Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway was an iron tramroad, initially horse-drawn, opened in 1823 to take granite from local quarries to Plymouth and built on command of Thomas Trywhitt (see below). It was purchased by the Great Western Railway in 1881 but was never profitable, and closed in 1956.
After 8km (5 miles) of tough cycling arrive in the centre of Princetown, by the High Moorland Visitor Centre.
The extraordinary village of Princetown owes is origins largely to Thomas Tyrwhitt, a close friend of the Prince Regent (later George IV). In 1796 he was appointed auditor to the Duchy of Cornwall and set about developing the existing hamlet into `Princetown` in honour of his friend. He had the railway built; in 1806 he laid the foundation stone for Dartmoor Prison, which opened in 1809 to accommodate French PoWs, at that time kept on prison hulks at Devonport. Today Princetown is home to the High Moorland Visitor Centre, the best place to go for information on all things Dartmoor.
Keep straight ahead on Two Bridges Road to leave the village; look left for great views of the prison.
After 1.6km/1 mile descend to a T-junction and turn right, downhill, on the B3357 to cross the West Dart and pass The Two Bridges Hotel. Side-trip (on foot) to Wistman`s Wood Opposite the upper hotel entrance turn left through a parking area and follow the path upvalley to reach this atmospheric ancient oak woodland after just under 2km/1.25 miles. Stunted oaks grow in a clitter of moss-covered granite boulders where the Devil`s wisht hounds are said to lurk at night and in poor weather, waiting to catch unwary travellers.
The Two Bridges Hotel is named not after the two bridges seen today, but two bridges which once crossed the West Dart and Cowsic rivers upstream from their confluence. The building "originally known as The Saracen`s Head" was built in the late 18th century by Francis John Buller of Prince Hall (now a lovely hotel, passed soon after on the route) on the long-established trans-moor route, upgraded when the turnpike road between Tavistock and Moretonhampstead was constructed. Both hotels offer fantastic cream teas.