It is an upland area of granite, which outcrops on the tops of the tors, and much of the land is boggy, with a great deal of peat. The moor is mostly treeless.
Dartmoor was comparatively heavily populated until the end of the Bronze Age, when the climate deteriorated.There are a number of hut circles and cairns remaining from this period. The best known example is Grimspound.
The moor has belonged to the Duchy of Cornwall since 1337.
Rivers which rise on the moor include the RiverTeign, the River Dart, the River Plym, the River Taw and the River Tavy.
The highest points on Dartmoor are High Willhays and Yes Tor, both over 2000 feet.
From the 12th century it became recognised as the richest source of tin in Europe.
Dartmoor's towns include Ashburton, Chagford, Plympton and Tavistock.
Dartmoor Prison was built where later the little town of Princetown grew up. It was the brainchild of Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, a friend of the Prince Regent. The prison was built to house French prisoners of war from 1806, and they themselves were put to work to built it. Criminals were first housed in the enlarged prison in 1850.
The National Park, covering 365 square miles, was created in 1951.
Dartmoor ponies have run wild on the moor for over a thousand years.
The moor was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous Sherlock Holmes story "The Hound of the Baskervilles".