The Hound of the Baskervilles is set in the late nineteenth century. The story takes place partly in London but, for the most part, in and around Baskerville Hall, an ancient house on Dartmoor. The bleak, wild setting of the moors does much to create the atmosphere of the book, as does the gloomy grandeur of Baskerville Hall itself. Conan Doyle describes the house as dark and covered in ivy. There are two towers, "ancient, crenelated, and pierced with many loopholes," high chimneys and mullioned windows.
Sir Henry Baskerville observes: “It’s no wonder my uncle felt as if trouble were coming on him in such a place as this ... It’s enough to scare any man." The moors that surround the house are similarly described as dark, brooding and melancholy.
Sherlock Holmes had an unromantic view of the countryside at the best of times. In "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches," when Watson remarks on the beauty of the country through which they are travelling, Holmes replies that it fills him with horror, remarking:
The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.
In The Hound of the Baskervilles, the grim setting makes the atmosphere of hidden wickedness explicit long before Holmes uncovers the crime.