This year, I was really keen to give MTB bikepacking a try as I had an ideal XC/downcountry rig on test, and there seemed like no better place than Dartmoor.
This national park holds a very special place in my heart. It’s the place where I spent a lot of my teenage years hiking during the Duke of Edinburgh's Awards and my Granny was evacuated here during World War II. She worked on a farm in Belstone. It's hard to describe, but I've always felt a magical sort of connection to this wild, rugged and often inhospitable place.
In Emma Kingston's book 'Bikepacking England' released this summer, her Dartmoor route was the very first listed, and according to the author, her favourite too. At a time when booking any last minute accommodation across the UK was nigh-on impossible, a holiday with my partner John to the only place where you can legally wild camp in England seemed like a great idea.
The route followed in this Collection is largely based on Emma's Dartmoor route from her book. We missed part of the eastern loop around Manaton to head directly to Moretonhampstead, where we had a hotel room booked for the second night. We must return to sample the trails here by the River Bovey soon.
The loop that Emma has put together is nothing short of fabulous: with incredibly varied scenery from the high moorland doubletrack around Princetown to the gorgeous stone towns and villages of Lydford, Moretonhampstead and Sticklepath, tranquil riverside trails through the Teign Valley to Castle Drogo and the charming mossy woodlands around Burrator Reservoir.
This is certainly a route for mountain bikes, as the wide tyres and suspension really come in handy with the larger granite boulders of Dartmoor, and really allow you to enjoy some of the more rocky descents and bridleways. You could attempt this on a gravel bike, but be aware that you'll need to hike-a-bike down and up a few sections.
Three days was the perfect length for us, with the first night spent camping in woodland and the second night in a more luxurious setting under a roof to refresh! We were dubious of the weather, but given a good forecast I'm sure you could easily spend both nights out under the stars. Check out where you can wild camp on Dartmoor here: dartmoor.gov.uk/about-us/about-us-maps/new-camping-map
Make sure you plan plenty of time to take in the many fascinating landmarks that you pass on this route, from the ancient town wall of Grimspound to Nun's Cross, the iron serpent atop South Hessary Tor, Norsworthy Bridge and the river crossing stepping stones among many others. There's also a great visitor centre at Postbridge that's well worth a visit.
The summer months often offer the most reliable weather and best trail conditions, but be warned that weather on the moor can often be unpredictable and severe. Make sure you pack decent waterproofs and a survival bag, and monitor the forecast before you set off.
In terms of access, the great news is that the Okehampton railway line is being reinstated, so that makes reaching the start of the loop much easier from Exeter St Davids. Find out more about the new service at dartmoorline.com
If you're interested in a copy of Emma Kingston's Bikepacking England book with another 19 cracking routes across the country, visit: v-publishing.co.uk.
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Last updated: November 16, 2021
Our three-day ride started in Okehampton, a short distance from Exeter on the A30, or soon even more accessible thanks to the reopening of the railway line. It’s a handy place to start, especially as you can take the chance to stock up on snacks from the bakery like we did.
From this town on the northern…
There are some real Dartmoor classics lined up for day two: brace yourselves for a belter of a day!
Start by riding around the eastern side of Burrator Reservoir and join the most corking singletrack trail over Sheeps Tor. Again, this really is one for hardtails or full-suspension mountain bikes, with…
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The third and final day of our tour of Dartmoor took us to the east, from Moretonhampstead down to the River Teign and along the valley to Castle Drogo, before a network of lanes and bridleways closed the loop to Okehampton.
There’s a rude start out of the town, with a very steep bridleway climb up to…
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