Writing on Dartmoor

By Ryan Thompson

Beam Tuition may be based in the bustling city of Exeter, in Devon, but we are not far away from the wilder plains of Dartmoor.

The moor is famous for its granite stone formations known as tors. It is a barren and open place which thousands of tourists come to every year. Moreover, the landscape has inspired a number of well-known writers and iconic books.

It is a place that exudes a certain charm to those who visit. Yet, it often seems to impress authors with a touch of gothic horror as well! For example, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Hound of the Baskervilles after his encounter with the moor’s hidden bogs, foreboding halls and haunting tin mines. Indeed, it would seem the perfect place to set the scene for a supernatural and fearsome hound.

His friend, Bertram Robinson, first regaled him with a tall tale about a ghostly hound, before Doyle visited in 1901. The novel’s Baskerville Hall is a pure Dartmoor icon; a gothic home entombed in a tree-lined cleft.

Fans of Doyle could easily spend a whole week tracing settings in the book to real-life locations. Fox Tor Mires, which lies south of Princetown, is perhaps the inspiration for Grimpen Mire. In the story, the book’s conclusion takes place in a nearby (and, of course isolated) house.

One of the best ways new and experienced authors approach creative writing is through walking. There is a famous quote by Nietzsche that (allegedly) goes: “Only ideas won by walking have any value”.  Naturally, Dartmoor is perfect for this. Repetitive, almost subconscious, activities like walking help ease the mind into a state of flow and can guide you on a journey of where the book might go or what it could be influenced by. This is something that is tangible in the Hound of the Baskervilles.

I hope that this blog inspires you to see the creative possibilities in your surroundings. You never know when or where good ideas will spring up and Devon has proved to be a creative catalyst for many writers.