Kit P

Sweeping moorland and river gorges — the Dartmoor Way

Stuart Allen (CC BY 2.0)

Sweeping moorland and river gorges — the Dartmoor Way

Hiking Collection by Kit P

The Dartmoor Way hiking route leads you from village to valley and from granite tor to turreted castle. It’s now 108 miles (174 km) in total, after some rerouting and trail improvements undertaken by several organisations working in partnership, and better takes in the marvels that this national park has to offer.

While Dartmoor has great swathes of high, open moorland, the main route encircles the national park, allowing some protection from the elements and easy access to villages and towns. This means you’ll enjoy some of the park’s most jaw-dropping scenery, from its stunning river valleys and ancient stone bridges to its viaducts, market squares and breathtaking granite tors.

If you want to experience the true wilderness of the moorland, you can complete the High Moor Link, a two-stage adventure right across the centre. This was created to enable hikers to have more flexibility when choosing their route, allowing for figure-of-eights or semi-circles.

I’ve written this Collection to focus on the main, circular route but I’ve included the High Moor Link Tours, should you want to add that incredible section. I’ve split it into 10 stages, which is usual for this expedition and makes the often undulating Tours manageable for most abilities. Experienced long-distance hikers can easily join stages together.

Most of the stages start and end in a settlement with some accommodation options and places to eat or buy food. Wild camping is legal on parts of Dartmoor and is certainly a wonderful experience. You must ensure you check the official wild camping map when planning your camps and to follow the ‘leave no trace’ principle: dartmoor.gov.uk/about-us/about-us-maps/new-camping-map

The Dartmoor Way begins in Ivybridge, largely because it’s well-served by a mainline train station. This little town also has local supermarkets, pubs and accommodation so it’s ideal for stocking up.

Whilst the South West can see warmer temperatures than the rest of the UK, Dartmoor has its own climate and can experience extremely changeable weather throughout the year. In winter, snowfall is not uncommon on the moor whilst fog, rain and wind can rock up with little warning. As a result, I highly recommend being prepared for a variety of conditions.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    Intermediate
    04:56
    10.5 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,725 ft
    1,225 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 1 of the Dartmoor Way takes you immediately up to the moor, just to give you an initial taste of what this national park is named for. At 10 miles (16 km) long and with around 1,500 feet (460 m) of ascent and descent, you’ll get to enjoy sweeping moorland views as well as taking in some villages, farmland and an impressive waterfall on the River Avon.

    This Tour starts in Ivybridge, which is the only place on the Dartmoor Way that has direct access to a mainline rail station, with trains to Cornwall, Bristol, London and further afield. You’ll also find local bus connections and car parking, making this an easy place to reach.

    You’ll head north out of the town and up onto the moorland to skirt around Western Beacon hill before descending into Bittaford and crossing the farmland on the edge of the moor. The trail takes you to a pretty waterfall above South Brent but this village is also an ideal lunch stop if you want to visit a cafe or pub.

    The final section takes you up to the highest point on this Tour at the edge of the moorland again, before bringing you down to the end at Shipley Bridge. This is the only stage of the Dartmoor Way which does not end in a place with accommodation. However, you can stay in South Brent or wild camp on the moor immediately above Shipley Bridge (consult the official wild camping map: dartmoor.gov.uk/about-us/about-us-maps/new-camping-map)

    Difficult
    05:25
    12.0 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,100 ft
    1,575 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This 12-mile (19 km) Tour takes in some of Dartmoor’s multiple personalities. It starts at Shipley Bridge and follows the River Avon up to the Avon Dam. The route is highest just past the dam and then it’s downhill before staying largely flat for the remainder, allowing you to enjoy a relatively easy ramble through the countryside. You’ll also pass through the historic market town of Buckfastleigh, a perfect place for lunch.

    Leaving Shipley Bridge, the tarmac trail alongside the Avon takes you gently uphill and the river flows over enormous slabs, right alongside. Brent Moor and Dockwell Ridge rise on either side and when you reach the dam, after a stretch of steep gravel path, the rounded hills of the moorland fill your view. It’s a spectacular feat of engineering and you’ll likely see Dartmoor ponies loitering nearby, munching grass.

    From the dam, you’ll cross Dean Moor with its wide-ranging views of nearby tors and then hike down through fields to reach Buckfastleigh. A pretty, historic market town, there are plenty of cafes and pubs if you want a substantial lunch. Visiting the abbey is well worth the tiny detour as it’s very impressive.

    The trail then leads you alongside fields and plantations on lanes and tracks to deliver you to the lovely Stannary town of Ashburton, Dartmoor’s largest town. Plenty of accommodation, cafés and pubs await you here. Ashburton has local bus services to Exeter and Newton Abbot, which both have mainline train stations.

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  • Difficult
    05:36
    12.3 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,475 ft
    1,625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This 12-mile (19 km) hike takes in one of Dartmoor’s most famous sights, some pretty, rambling lanes and fantastic viewpoints. The Tour is a triangle of elevation with the first half taking you steadily uphill, the reward for which is Haytor’s jaw-dropping granite boulders, and then winding down into the lovely town of Bovey Tracey.

    You’ll start in Ashburton, which has an excellent deli should you need any delicious snacks for your hike. The route first heads through fields, over stiles and alongside pretty woodlands alongside the River Ashburn. You’ll start catching glimpses of rolling hills and moorland from Owlacombe Cross and, after a few miles of glorious Devon lanes, you’ll start making your way to the moor proper.

    After crossing the River Lemon, you’ll head north onto open moorland. Walking upwards through past bracken and gorse, the view south will start getting better and better, so remember to turn around a few times to admire it. Eventually, the marvel of Haytor will appear and you’ll head straight for this granite behemoth.

    When you get to the tor, it’s well worth climbing to the top if you’re steady on your feet. There are Victorian iron handholds embedded in places to help. The views are tremendous in every direction. There are toilets and Tourist Information located in the bottom car park here, just to the east.

    After this, you’ll pass the disused Haytor Quarry and find the old granite tramway, which once carried the stone south. Walking into Bovey Tracey is a lovely affair, passing the entrance to Parke, the National Trust estate and home to the national park’s HQ. Bovey itself is filled with cafés and independent shops; plus it has plenty of accommodation and pub options. It also has local supermarkets and bus links.

    Difficult
    05:04
    11.3 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,325 ft
    750 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Starting in the lovely town of Bovey Tracey and winding through a National Trust estate to begin, this 10 mile (16 km) hike meanders around the River Bovey through woodlands, across fields and past gorgeous old villages. It’s an undulating route with a big hill to conquer around halfway. Once you’ve gained the altitude though, you stay reasonably high. Lanes, trails and footpaths make this a serene and pretty hike.

    Bovey Tracey has everything you need to begin the hike, from local supermarkets and bakeries to public toilets. You’ll head through the stunning Parke estate straight out of the town and this section can be busy with cyclists, hikers and dog walkers. It soon calms down though, once you cross the Bovey again at Drakeford Bridge.

    From here, the way leads you through wonderful woodlands to the west of the river and you can visit Hisley Bridge, a wonderful old stone packsaddle bridge. After a hill in Houndtor Woods, the views open out and you’ll soon get to glimpse the lovely cottages in the hamlet of Water.

    From Water, you’ll be hiking an undulating route through forests and countryside to the exceptional village of North Bovey, which looks like it’s wandered straight out of a storybook. From here to Moretonhampstead you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of the valley and rolling pastures as you ramble through field after field to reach the end of the Tour.

    Moretonhampstead has good accommodation options as well as pubs, cafés and local supermarkets. You’ll also find public toilets, tourist information and bus links to Exeter and Newton Abbot.

    Intermediate
    04:11
    9.03 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,175 ft
    1,200 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This 9-mile (14 km) Tour takes in one of Dartmoor’s most dramatic river valleys where the Teign cuts through glorious woodlands below Castle Drogo. With a little over 1,200 feet (366 m) of ascent and descent, this hike has a few steep descents and ascents but the scenery more than makes up for any breathlessness.

    Moretonhampstead has local supermarkets and bakeries from which to fill your pockets and you’ll set off north along pretty lanes to the base of Butterdon Hill. From here, the trail will take you to the top of the Teign valley and you’ll descend down a steep, rocky byway. While careful footing is required during wetter months, the woods here are glorious and the treat at the bottom is well worth it.

    Fingle Bridge, a 17th century stone bridge, sits over the River Teign and has a perfectly located pub right next to it. Whether you’re after a hot meal or bringing your own picnic, this is a wonderful spot to munch. The Dartmoor Way follows the north side of the river west, rising to Sharp Tor’s fantastic valley views and passing below Castle Drogo. The last castle to be built in England, this 100-year-old building resides under the care of the National Trust and is open to the public.

    Descending to the Teign once more, you’ll follow this beautiful river almost the entirety of the remaining route, before branching south to the old market town of Chagford. This ancient settlement has inns and B&Bs but there are also several areas immediately south-west where it’s legal to wild camp. Consult the map first: dartmoor.gov.uk/about-us/about-us-maps/new-camping-map

    Difficult
    05:38
    12.6 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,225 ft
    1,325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    One of the longer days on the Dartmoor Way at 13 miles (21 km), this hike has around 1,500 feet (460 m) of ascent and descent. You’ll skirt the open moorland for much of it, enjoying woodlands, fields and river crossings before getting onto the moor at Belstone and enjoying some exceptional views.

    The first thing you’ll do as you leave Chagford is cross the River Teign and head along lanes and through fields to Blackaton Copse. This Woodland Trust copse is a gorgeous spot for a quick break on the benches alongside the brook. The trail leads on to Throwleigh, a little peaceful village with thatched cottages and a 15th-century granite church.

    As you skirt the moor up to South Zeal, you’ll glimpse the majestic, towering Cosdon Hill. Once in Sticklepath, it’s worth seeing Finch Foundry, a water-powered forge maintained by the National Trust. Following the River Taw to Belstone, now’s your moment to climb up onto open moorland. You’ll get views across to Yes Tor and High Willhays, the highest points on Dartmoor, before heading back down and into Okehampton.

    Okehampton is a thriving town that has large supermarkets and plenty of shops. You’ll find a youth hostel here as well as hotels and B&Bs. To the south of the town and around Belstone there’s plenty of legal wild camping areas, so check the official map if you fancy a night under the stars. Okehampton also has good bus links to Exeter. While there is a train station here, it’s only run seasonally on Sundays.

    Intermediate
    04:24
    9.93 mi
    2.3 mph
    950 ft
    750 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    At around 10 miles long (16 km), this hike leaves Okehampton and wanders about Dartmoor’s wild and rugged north-western edge before meandering off through fields and into the pretty little village of Lydford. The elevation gain isn’t considerable and the climb up from stunning Meldon Viaduct presents you with excellent views to Dartmoor’s highest points. This is a rural walk with little in the way of settlements en route.

    Okehampton is a particularly easy place to start, thanks to the town centre’s buses, accommodation and supermarkets. Once stocked up, you’ll hike out to the west but do pause at Okehampton’s Norman castle first and admire the impressive ruins. The Dartmoor Way cuts across the A30 after a stretch and leads you to a disused railway and the Granite Way route.

    Crossing Meldon Viaduct provides lovely views up to the dam and the moor, which is more or less where you’ll be heading. The trail leaves the Granite Way not long after the viaduct and splits to the south-west. The track turns to gravel which turns to open moorland and the going is rougher from here across the moor, towards Sourton Tors.

    From this section of the Dartmoor Way, you’ll enjoy views to High Willhays and Yes Tor, the highest points in the national park. The moor is rugged and windblown up here so be mindful of changeable weather.

    Fields and pretty countryside take up the rest of your walk and before you know it, you’ll be in charming Lydford with its Norman castle. Here you’ll find pubs and a select few B&Bs. You can also wild camp in certain places nearby to the west and south.

    Difficult
    06:51
    15.3 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,475 ft
    1,875 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    One of the longest stages on the Dartmoor Way, this 15-mile (24 km) hike brings you up onto the edge of the wild moorland, round the undulating tors and down into the old market town of Tavistock. There are around 1,500 feet (460 m) of elevation and a little more in the way of descent. Due to the landscape here, the weather can be changeable.

    Starting in Lydford, you might well want to visit Lydford Gorge and the stunning Devil’s Cauldron and Whitelady Waterfall. Under the care of the National Trust, members can walk the gorge for free but it would be worth paying if necessary.

    Afterwards, you’ll head away from the river and cross the grassy bulk of Gibbet Hill before entering the village of Mary Tavy. The River Tavy crossing after the village is particularly pretty and from there you’ll head into Peter Tavy before making a break for the moor again.

    First, you’ll reach the Combe Tors and don’t forget to look back down to the village and its church below. Next, you’ll head around the middle of Cox Tor’s rotund hill and, if you fancy it, you can climb right to the top for sweeping views. Otherwise, head on to Whitchurch Common and west into Tavistock.

    This Tour has significant moorland sections and you’d do well to prepare for changeable weather. In Tavistock, you’ll find pubs, accommodation and supermarkets. There are also regular bus services to Plymouth.

    Difficult
    05:34
    12.4 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,225 ft
    1,075 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This 12-mile (19 km) Tour has got a little bit of everything. From riverside trails to villages, hills and some moorland views, you’ll get a glimpse of plenty of Dartmoor landscapes. This stage of the Dartmoor Way is undulating, with nothing particularly challenging.

    You’ll start in the market town of Tavistock, where it’s easy to stock up on picnic ingredients for your walk. The trail takes you out of the town along the canal before bringing you south over West Down and to the River Walkham. This is an exceptionally pretty stretch of path along the river and the water chuckles along through woodlands.

    Crossing the Gem Bridge across the Walkham is a real highlight and leads you onto Roborough Down where Dartmoor ponies ramble about munching grass and scratching their backs on gorse. The Way then leads you through the village of Yelverton and into the Meavy Valley. Passing by Hoo Meavy and crossing meadows and woodlands, you’ll find yourself alongside Dewerstone Wood just before the village of Shaugh Prior.

    This stage ends here but Shaugh Prior itself has a B&B and a pub. If you have the time, energy and light, walk up through the woods to the Dewerstone itself. This towering cliff rises from the beautiful forest below and is beloved by local hikers and rock climbers alike. You can walk to the top for fantastic views.

    Difficult
    05:17
    12.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,100 ft
    1,175 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This 12-mile (19 km) hike is the final stage of the Dartmoor Way and leads from the village of Shaugh Prior, over the southwestern edge of the moor, to Ivybridge in the south. This trail does take you fairly high on the moor but it’s a gradual ascent and the last half is largely a gentle downhill.

    The north end of Shaugh Prior village is where this final stage kicks off and you’ll follow a footpath across the common with outstanding views of the Dewerstone, and through North Wood to Cadover Bridge. In summer, this delightful old stone bridge is a sunbathing and river dipping hotspot.

    You’ll follow a lane around the clay workings before going off along a track and across open moorland around the south side of Penn Beacon. Along here, you’ll get your first glimpse of Plymouth Sound before skirting around Cornwood, a good detour if you fancy a pub lunch. The trail rises up again for even more views, before leading you down to the pretty oak woodland along the River Erme and its sometimes muddy path.

    As you reach Ivybridge, you’ll pass beneath a vast railway viaduct, originally built in wood by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Ivybridge marks the end of the Dartmoor Way and you can put your feet up in a pub, rest in a B&B or catch a train to Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol or London.

    Intermediate
    04:59
    10.8 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,800 ft
    875 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The Dartmoor Way has become a very flexible hike thanks to its two-stage High Moor Link route. This Tour is the first stage if you’re hiking east to west and sits at 11 miles (18 km). You’ll see plenty of Dartmoor’s personalities on this trail, from the River Dart and gorgeous woodlands to the grassy hills and granite tors of the moorland proper. The overall ascent is 1,800 feet (550 m) and you’ll lose less than half in descent so be prepared for a generally uphill hike.

    Buckfastleigh is a wonderful place to begin walking as it has local supermarkets and lovely sights. Spy the River Dart and pass by the incredible Buckfast Abbey on your way out into the countryside. You’ll soon reach Burchetts Wood, which is particularly pretty in summer. After, you’ll pass through the old village of Holne, the birthplace of Victorian author Charles Kingsley and location of a lovely tea room if you need a rest.

    After the village, you’ll descend into the wonderful and vibrant Holne Woods, crossing the Dart at an old stone bridge, ironically called New Bridge. Working your way uphill, you’ll eventually reach Dr Blackall’s Drive, a stunning old carriageway with views of the Dart Valley, Sharp Tor, Mel Tor and Buckland-in-the-Moor church. Hike to Sharp Tor with its granite jumble before hiking down to the clapper bridge to cross the meandering Dart again at Dartmeet and then onto finish in Hexworthy.

    Hexworthy is home to the Forest Inn which has food and accommodation. The other option for accommodation is to wild camp, which is allowed on the moor just to the south of Hexworthy. If you do plan on wild camping, it’s best to bring food with you from Buckfastleigh as there are scant shops on the route.

    Difficult
    05:37
    12.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    825 ft
    1,600 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    12 miles (19 km) of pure, unadulterated moorland, this new stage of the Dartmoor Way provides sweeping views of this breathtaking national park and takes you through its very heart. You’ll spot Dartmoor ponies, granite tors and all manner of ancient remnants on your hike. As you’ll be starting high, at Hexworthy, there’s only 825 feet (251 m) of elevation gain and double that of descent, heading downhill mostly in the last half.

    Starting in Hexworthy, you’ll stride out directly onto the moor and this means that being adequately prepared for changeable weather and poor visibility is important. Dartmoor can be glorious sunshine and then thick fog, all in the same day. Hiking out from Hexworthy offers stunning views of Bellever Tor before heading down to cross the River Swincombe at the Fairy Bridge.

    Ascending up the side of Royal Hill, the moor’s real character emerges here and the views are far and wide with little to obstruct them. Part of this section is a more defined track, built by conscientious objectors during the First World War, imprisoned at the looming Dartmoor Prison at Princetown.

    Speaking of which, you’ll reach this charming Dartmoor village and can make the most of its lunch stop glory. From cafés and pubs to benches with views, this is an ideal place to pause. Continuing, the next section affords excellent views of tors like Sheep’s, Leather, Sharp and King’s. You’ll hike along footpaths, lanes and commons from here to reach the old market town of Tavistock, where this Tour ends.

    Tavistock has plenty of accommodation options, shops and bus links to Plymouth where you can hop on a mainline train to Exeter, Bristol and further afield. Princetown is the only stop on this Tour that has food options before Tavistock, so snack planning is important.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    12
  • Distance
    141 mi
  • Duration
    63:32 h
  • Elevation
    15,375 ft

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Kit P

Sweeping moorland and river gorges — the Dartmoor Way