This article was originally published on Morbid Planet on August 13, 2018.
One of my favourite places to go when we travel to Devon in the UK each year is Dartmoor. Some people are confused by my love for the area as most of it is quite baren.
Originally I was intrigued by the area due to its association with the famous Sherlock Holmes novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Hounds of Baskervilles.” This was the first Sherlock Holmes book I read and thanks to a friend, I have a bunch in my collection now.
Years ago, my father and mother in law gave me a book called “Dark and Dastardly Dartmoor.” It’s a lovely little book that you could only purchase in local shops, but as of writing this article, I found it for sale on Amazon. In the front page of the book, it contains a map with tons of places to see locally.
One day, the three of us got in the car and spent the afternoon driving around to see what we could find. It was December and we had to bundle up as it was very cold and windy out on the moors.
We stopped to see the Giant Chair, which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore and I actually lost my book and gloves somewhere on the mile back trek to the car. Due to popularity, the chair was forcibly taken down in 2010 as the local area was not equipped to deal with the high level of tourists that were flocking to see it. The owner appealed to council, but was denied.
I had to find another copy of the book on my next visit over, which at the time, proved to be challenging.
We stopped at many places that day and one of my favourites was the Watching Place.
It is not much to see, just a sign in the middle of a junction on the B3212 on your way to Mortonhampstead, but the story behind the sign is interesting. According to “Dark and Dastardly Dartmoor” the story goes:
It is believed that the local Lord of the Manor once possessed the right to have a gallows on the edge of his lands. This particular gallows at the Watching Place was far from redundant, with a large proportion of its ‘clients’ being drawn from the highwaymen trade; some of these footpads were left to dangle long after contemplating similar exploits. The Watching Place was thus where relatives or friends had to wait and watch before being allowed to remove their dead.
Other stories about this place that date back to when the bubonic plague spread across the country back in 1626 can be read here. If you want an afternoon of fun, I suggest picking up this little book and going for an afternoon drive. You won’t be disappointed!
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- Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. The Hounds of Baskervilles. Great Britain: George Newnes, 1902.
- Barber, Sally and Chips. Dark and Dastardly Dartmoor. Great Britain: Obelisk Publications, 2008.
- here: Tim Sandles, “The Watching Place,” Legendary Dartmoor, March 31, 2016, accessed August 12, 2018, http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/watchingplace.htm.