Dartmoor’s UNIQUE Charm: St. Michael De Rupe (St Michaels Church) in Brentor

During my off-season away from Wedding Photography, I enjoy visiting Dartmoor, a stunning place that holds a special meaning for me. It’s where I can disconnect, reflect on the year gone by, and find inspiration while exploring its incredible tors and landscapes.

I’ve spent time wild camping and exploring various parts of the moors, capturing moments through my lens. As a personal challenge, I set out to cover the entire documented map of Dartmoor, including its tors, and share some of the best places with you. So, follow my adventures, and I hope you find some helpful advice along the way!

Brentor Church

The first stop on the Dartmoor trip is Brentor Church, formally know as ‘St Michael de Rupe’. Perched eerily atop a granite tor within Dartmoor National Park, Brentor Church, also known as St Michael de Rupe, stands as a tangible relic of Dartmoor’s rich history. The church itself, white has bared witness to centuries of worship, dates back to the 12th century.

I randomly stumbled across this structure during one of my many early morning trips to Dartmoor. It was around 5am during December and to say I was scared walking up in the pitch black was an understatement.

I had to return, and it’s now one of my favourite sunrise spots in Dartmoor! I’ve added a little guide for your below and hopefully you get to enjoy the spot as much as I do!

Brentor Church in Dartmoor during sunrise

Brentor Church Volcanic Rock Foundations

St Michael de Rupe, more commonly known as Brentor Church, traces its origins to the 12th century when it was constructed on the summit of Brent Tor, a granite tor formed by, and this sounds made up, Volcanic rock.

Volcanoes in England? Yes! Brent Tor is often referred to as a “volcano” due to its distinctive conical shape, which is actually a result of the tor’s solidified magma.

Even within the name, St Michael de ‘Rupe’, translates to “St Michael of the Rock.” The term “Rupe” is derived from the Latin word for rock or crag, emphasising the church’s location on the prominent tor. And just before you think that’s it, then you’re wrong. As much as the volcano is hard to believe, then the local folklore of the “Vampire Brides and Ghostly Sightings” will send you over the edge. It definitely made my first encounter with the church a lot creepier!

The ‘Volcanic Rock’ formed from solidified magma

Ghostly Sightings & Vampire Brides

As with every old structure and location, local folklore is never too far away. Brentor Church is steeped in tales of ghostly sightings and stories we’ve all been told sitting by the fire. The most notable of those, like something straight out of a Tim Burton movie, is the eerie presence of a vampire bride. These stories are passed down through generations.

Numerous accounts speak of ghostly apparitions in and around Brentor Church. Witnesses claim to have seen spectral figures, often described as translucent, wandering the churchyard or the interior of the building. Now I love ghost stories, obsessed with watching ghost hunters on TV, but I wish I had read these stories before my first trip. I have watched the video below over and over to see if I was lucky enough to capture one of these figures!

VIDEO HERE

Some locals and visitors refer to these apparitions as former parishioners, while others believe they are remnants of souls seeking peace. One common ghostly tale involves the sighting of a hooded figure within the church.

The most spine-chilling tale in Brentor’s folklore revolves around the legend of the vampire bride. According to local stories, the tormented spirit of a bride, who met a tragic end or was denied a proper burial, is said to haunt the vicinity of the church…But, this is folklore.

The real link between Brentor and ‘The Vampire bride’ is the tale that revolves around a character known as Margery of Quether. Published in 1891, this story predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by six years. However, its origins trace back even further, with an initial publication in Cornhill Magazine dating back to 1884.

Remarkably, Margery predates Dracula by a substantial 13 years. It’s noteworthy that Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, drew inspiration from the works of Baring-Gould, solidifying the connection between Margery of Quether and the iconic vampire novel.

Crescent moon above Brentor Church during sunrise

The Stunning 360 Views of Dartmoor

Let’s now shift away from folklore for a second and immerse ourselves in the stunning panoramic view that awaits at Brentor Church.
Brentor Church offers stunning 360-degree views of Dartmoor National Park. Having visited the church several times, it consistently stands as my first stop on each trip because it’s my preferred spot to witness the sunrise (or hopeful ghost sightings).

The brief yet steep 15 minute walk up to the church from the nearby car park makes it an ideal initial stop as you journey into Dartmoor. As the sun begins to rise, the volcanic rock and the church gracefully emerge in a picturesque silhouette. With each passing moment, the moors unfold, revealing an incredible landscape that dips and rises, especially during the vibrant frosty mornings.

The weather on Brentor is a character in its own right. Even as the sun rises, you might find yourself standing in a gentle rain shower. For those partaking in a wild camping adventure on the moors and happening upon Brentor Church, it serves as the perfect spot to brew a comforting cup of coffee while watching the sun paint the sky with its early morning hues.

The rain and sun mix to form a rainbox over Brentor

Parking & Access at Brentor Church

The nearest parking facility to Brentor Church is positioned directly at the entrance gate of the trail. The good news is that parking here is entirely free, which is great for those non-National Trust members.

I’ve found that all my time visiting this landmark during the off-season, particularly in autumn and winter, early mornings are the perfect time as at these times the car park is nearly empty! However, from 10 am onwards it starts to fill quickly so brave the cold and get out there early!

Frosty morning views from atop of the volcanic rock

Worth a Visit?

Rounding up my trip to Brentor Church – it’s definitely a must-see! Not just for the stunning view, but also appeals to the ghostly lover out there with its unique and creepy folklore. It’s a quick and easy spot to perfectly kick-off your Dartmoor trip.

I’ll be there again soon as I’m adamant I’ll see a ghost! if you’re feeling up for more after catching that sunrise at Brentor, I’d suggest cruising into Dartmoor and checking out Foggintor Quarry, perfect for wild camping with equally stunning views!

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