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Marathon Man: Princetown, Prison and Ponies - Travelling in the UK Part 2

After spending a week and a half in the beautiful Hampshire countryside it was time to head 280 km west to Princetown in the heart of Dartmoor in Devon.

After spending a week and a half in the beautiful Hampshire countryside it was time to head 280 km west to Princetown in the heart of Dartmoor in Devon. Brother Andy met Sue and I at the bus station in Plymouth then on to meet Sister Sal and over to her place in Princetown.

This town is known for three things. Firstly, it is home to Dartmoor Prison. In 1920, the prison began housing UK criminals. It developed a reputation for housing some of Britain's most serious offenders that included murderers, gangsters, thieves, spies, and robbers such as Jack “The Hat” McVitie and Frank Mitchell. Numerous escape attempts have been made by inmates to get out of the prison and onto the moors, leading to massive manhunts by the police and prison service.

Secondly, in 1901, Conan Doyle stayed at the Old Duchy Hotel, now the National Park Visitor Centre in Princetown. It was during his time there that he walked many miles across the rugged moorland and was inspired to write "The Hound of the Baskervilles." 

Thirdly, it is known as the centre of Dartmoor. Dartmoor is famous for its diverse range of beautiful tors scattered throughout the moor. The moor has 160 tors made up of dramatic outcrops of granite, and you can usually find the tors standing on top of a hill. Dartmoor ponies roam its craggy landscape, defined by forests, rivers, wetlands and tors (rock formations). Trails wind through valleys with Neolithic tombs, Bronze Age stone circles and abandoned medieval farmhouses.

Princetown also has an excellent pub, The Prince of Wales, where, that night, Andy, Sal, Sue and I went for fish and chips and a pint of Legend, brewed at Dartmoor Breweries, right in the town.

The other highlight of my stay with Sal was a visit to Buckfast Abbey. Buckfast Abbey forms part of an active Benedictine monastery at Buckfast, near Buckfastleigh, Devon. Buckfast first became home to an abbey in 1018. The first Benedictine abbey was followed by a Savignac, later Cistercian, abbey constructed on the site of the current abbey in 1134. I spent time with my Dad, who was a butcher, at the Abbey and a number of the Brothers and Fathers became friends.

On the Sunday, Sister Lou and her son David joined the rest of us for a Carvery. I then stayed two nights in the Abbey Guest house and the next day I completed an 18km walking tour of my family and relations previous homes in Buckfastleigh, Ashburton and Buckfast. 

Well, our UK travels were coming to an end. Sue and I headed back to Cardiff and spent a few more days with Calum. Then it was time to take the big bird back to the Great White North. I arrived in Cochrane at 4.30pm and the first job……..shovel the driveway.


© 2024 Martin Parnell

[email protected] 



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