Like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World, Dartmoor looms above the hills of lowland Devon, hiding secrets. Clear rivers flow over cold granite, deep in wooded valleys, and grass plains roll to the horizon. It’s a place of pre-historic ruins and mysterious folklore. The largest and wildest area of open land in southern England.
At almost 400 square miles, Dartmoor is a back country that beckons explorers and adventurers from all over. It’s packed with invigorating and magical walks. Here are a few to get you started.
Bellever Forest & Tor
This is one of Dartmoor’s most popular walks, due to its accessibility. First, park at the visitor’s centre in Postbridge or the forestry commission car park over the way. The most common walk to reach Bellever Tor, though there’s a circular option, is straight up through the forest.
A mile or two of incline will see you emerge from thick pines onto the moor. It’s then a moderate ramble over open ground to the tor, which stands high, overlooking patches of dark forest in the distance.
An iconic Dartmoor walk. Wistman’s Wood is an oak copse, hundreds of years old, alone out on the moor. The trees are twisted and the rocks beneath are enshrined by emerald moss. In the swirling mists, it’s no stretch of the imagination to see why it’s rife with haunted tales and myths.
It’s one of the country’s finest examples of native upland oak woodland, and as such, has a protected status. The walk out to the wood is an easy one, starting at the car park opposite the Two Bridges Hotel. Simply follow the gravel trail for a little over a mile.
Do remember when visiting Wistman’s Wood that it’s a highly precious place and a habitat that needs conserving. Currently, due to people cutting off oak branches for campfires and taking moss, Natural England have banned people from walking through the woods. However, it’s still atmospheric to stroll around the edges.
Dartmoor is home to many freshwater reservoirs, each offering scenic walks. Venford reservoir is quick to reach from the road that goes between Holne and Hexworthy. The perimeter walk is a gentle Sunday afternoon type of excursion. Watching the undulating reflections of trees and clouds, and wind sweep in shivering arcs across its surface, is beautiful. Venford Reservoir is Dartmoor’s version of a mountain lake; surrounded by towering granite peaks. A moody place to visit, especially in winter.
Teign Gorge & Castle Drogo
This Circular walk up through the Teign Gorge to Castle Drogo, the last castle built in England, is nothing short of fantastical. Like something straight from the pages of a fairy tale. The way the Teign River flows through the broadleaf woods here, marbling with greens and browns, and snatches of sky is beyond pretty. You’ll think you’re in a lost valley of the pixie folk.
This walk (if you want it to finish with a pub) takes you along the river from Fingle Bridge, and then out of the Teign Gorge via the Hunter’s Path, which winds up, and up to Castle Drogo—a stone sentinel holding dominion over the gorge below. From the castle, an exposed ridge path with unbroken views over miles of rolling Devon countryside, leads back down into the gorge and Fingle Bridge again.
Many consider this Dartmoor’s most attractive walk, and they have a strong argument.
Grimspound Ancient Settlement
Dartmoor is famous for its ruins and stone circles. Grimspound is the best known of the prehistoric settlements, with the remnants of 24 Bronze Age stone round houses. The boundary wall of Grimspound is about 150 metres in diameter and the site sits isolated up on the bleak moor. Walking up doesn’t take too long, but when you’re there, the sense of seclusion and space is sublime. Grimspound represents the wildness and almost tundra-like desolation that Dartmoor is famous for.
Thanks for reading our Dartmoor walks blog. We hope you enjoy your moorland adventures in Devon.