THE iconic beauty of Dartmoor in Devon will be a must see destination in 2012 for fans of the Michael Morpurgo classic War Horse, which is the subject of Steven Spielberg new movie which was released in the UK on January 13.
The acclaimed filmmaker spent many weeks filming on Dartmoor last year while making War Horse, the moving story of a Devon farm boy who joins the army to search for his horse Joey after he is sold into the cavalry and shipped to France during the First World War.
Haytor, Combestone Tor and Farm, Ringmore Down, Venford Reservoir, Nattor, Bonehill, Hexworthy Bridge, Cadover Bridge and Brisworthy as well as the village of Meavy and Ditsworthy Warren House were some of the inspiring locations on Dartmoor where the Hollywood director and crew filmed.
Spielberg praised the beauty of Dartmoor landscape when he was recently interviewed by the Independent newspaper.
"I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor," Mr Spielberg said.
Dedicated fans are expected to discover the delights of Devon and especially Dartmoor when they visit the many film locations and places where cast and crew stayed during filming of this much loved story.
Dartmoor has long been famous for its wild beauty and windswept moors and it is popular with walkers, riders and nature lovers who seek out the tranquility and natural beauty of its wilderness.
However, the story of War Horse begins away from Dartmoor in Mid Devon at the quintessential thatched Devon pub, the Duke of York at Iddesleigh near Winkleigh.
It was here in the 1980s in front of one of the Inglenook fireplaces that author Michael Morpurgo first met Captain Arthur Budgett who inspired the author with his experiences of life with his horse in the cavalry during the First World War. A picture representing Joey has since been presented by Michael Morpurgo to the village hall which has already become a huge draw for War Horse fans.
The Duke of York has changed little since the First World War; it has retained the authentic atmosphere of pubs from that time according to landlord, John Pittam.
"The pub has not been touched in a hundred years and it has an authentic old fashioned atmosphere, we still pump good real ale from barrels behind the bar as well as serving Winkleigh Cider and great Devon food which attracts people from miles around including Michael Morpurgo, who occasionally pops in for a visit," Mr Pittam said.
The Duke of York is popular with cyclists and walkers who travel along the nearby tourist route the Tarka Trail.
War Horse fans may want to start their tour of Dartmoor War Horse sites with a visit to the Two Bridges Hotel near Princetown in the heart of Dartmoor National Park.
They will be thrilled to discover one of the members of the War Horse cast who is a permanent and now celebrity resident at the hotel. Gideon the Goose was picked for a starring role in the film but in readiness for his acting debut he was sent away to a special animal training academy to prepare for his big moment in the spotlight.
He has since settled back into civilian life at the hotel with a fellow goose friend he met at acting school.
The Two Bridges Hotel offers luxurious accommodation, including four-poster beds, roaring log fires and award winning food which can all be enjoyed with wonderful views over Dartmoor. It is an ideal base from where to start one of the many glorious walks across Dartmoor which will take you to iconic beauty spots such as Haytor.
Other luxury hotels on Dartmoor include Gidleigh Park, where you can eat like a Hollywood star at the 2 Michelin starred restaurant run by one of the UK's most renowned chefs, Michael Caines.
Or why not try the favourite Devon luxury retreat for celebrities and enjoy the glamour and splendour of one of England's most spectacular country house hotels, Bovey Castle.
Spielberg and some of his crew opted for Browns Hotel in Tavistock, a lovingly restored 17th century coaching inn which combines old English charm and character with log fires, beams and chic contemporary boutique design. The director and his family dined in style at the hotel's award winning restaurant.
The village of Meavy also served as a film location and the village pub, the Royal Oak Inn also played host to the War Horse cast and crew who enjoyed lunch and some post filming relaxation. The Royal Oak is a picture postcard inn and is situated by the village green in Meavy; it specialises in locally brewed cask conditioned ales such as the famous Jail Ale as well as traditional Scrumpy cider and locally sourced produce.
Other renowned Dartmoor pubs for visiting and conjuring up some of that War Horse spirit include the Peter Tavy Inn at the village of Peter Tavy near Tavistock. A traditional Dartmoor pub which dates back to the 15th century, it offers real ales and great locally sourced Devon food.
What better way to discover the delights of Dartmoor than by being on horseback and Shilstone Rocks Stud and Riding Centre at Widecombe-in-the-Moor is a must do. The stables specialise in breeding the famous Dartmoor ponies and some of the ponies feature in the War Horse film alongside staff who acted as extras on the movie. Dartmoor ponies are especially suitable for children so the whole family can enjoy the experience of trekking over the inspiring countryside of Dartmoor.
For those wishing to stay at an authentic Dartmoor farm there is a wide range of accommodation available from five star luxury to more cosy self catering cottages and caravan parks for those on a more modest budget.
For guests who want to enjoy the glories of Dartmoor in a luxurious setting, Burnville Farm at Brentor near Tavistock is a wonderful elegant Georgian farmhouse set in 250 acres of a beef and sheep farm.
Enjoy a dip in the pool, a game of tennis, clay pigeon shooting or a walk in the stunning grounds or try the award winning breakfast made from locally sourced produce. B+B or self-catering available.
Rubbytown Farmhouse at Gulworthy near Tavistock is a working dairy farm set in 250 acres of woodland and pasture which offers both B+B and self catering accommodation.
Enjoy a traditional Devon cream tea on arrival and relax in one of the four poster beds and enjoy views over the local countryside. There are many lovely walks to enjoy, including the Tamar Trail through woodland to the River Tamar.
Parkers Farm Cottages and Caravans is a friendly family run farm at Mead near Ashburton which offers a selection of barn conversions, cottages and luxury static caravans for up to eight people.
Families can enjoy daily farm walks, a ride around the farm on a tractor and feed and pet the many farm animals on site.
For more information see Visit Devon.