Located in the south west of England, Dartmoor is a deservedly famous moorland to enjoy and a great one to walk in particular. It’s popularity can be attributed to the variety the park has to offer: rolling lush hills, mystic woods with rivers passing through and fantastic granite features, also known as tors, that rise up out of the ground and often serve as markers for a lot of the hiking routes. Thanks in part to its acidic soils, the majority of the moorland is incompatible with intensive farming which The entirety of Dartmoor national park is well worth exploring but that would of course take some time which is why I’ve narrowed this list to my 5 favourite.
1 – Yes Tor
A moderate 8km walk which you can conveniently begin at Meldom Dam car park which, as you would expect, takes you directly across the formidable dam as the first spectacle of the walk. It’s a clearly marked and well-trodden path that you follow all the way to the top of Yes Tor where you’ll be rewarded with stunning views over the north of the national park as this is the second highest peak in the area. Fortunately if you want to see views from the highest peak, 621 metres above sea level, then all you need to do is a quick walk south to High Willhays Tor. So after this hike you can say you’ve climbed the two highest peaks in one day!
2 – Teign Gorge
An invigorating 4km circular walk through luscious woodland that actually begins and ends at Castle Drogo, the last castle built in England right at the beginning of the 20th century. This is a proper English countryside walk that crosses meadows, the 13th century Fingle Bridge, past Sharp Tor and through a deer park. The woodland around this walk is actually being restored by the National Trust and Woodland Trust to ensure that it’s protected and can flourish for the public to explore and appreciate it.
3 – Wistman’s Woods
Starting at Two Bridges car park this is a 4.5km clamber through the mystical woods that have inspired a great deal of English literature, poetry and art. An area of unique woodland that you would be forgiven for thinking it’s a set from Lord of the Rings; it really is a fairytale landscape. The dwarf oaks’ branches form contorted shapes overhead as tree roots stretch across the mossy ground – it’s quite the contrast to much of Dartmoor’s expansive and open moorland. Because of its popularity the woods are well signposted and the route is easily manageable.
4 – Venford Reservoir
Perfect to fit into a busy schedule, the peaceful walk around Venford reservoir is a 3km stroll through open moorland. It offers wonderful features to appreciate along the way such as babbling brooks, cascading waterfalls and of course a granite feature: Bench Tor. You may even bump into some wildlife along this path, there are trout in the reservoir as it’s a free wilderness fishery.
5 – Hound Tor
This 8km route actually encompasses a number of Dartmoor’s most famous Tors: Haytor, Saddle and Hound. This is a quintessential hike that gives a real flavour of what Dartmoor is famous for: moorland and large granite outcrops scattered throughout. The route begins at Saddle Tor which can be ascended quite easily as it then leads you toward Haytor rocks and the quarry there too. From Haytor, head to Hound Tor where you’ll pass the remains of a medieval village along the way – truly a sight to behold.
There are a lot of legends associated with these three Tors in particular such as dragons making their lairs in the rocky outcrops and a ghostly pony that can occasionally be heard crashing its hooves against the granite. This sums up a lot of the mystique around Dartmoor and its fairytale landscape.
Jess Cleave works for Oak Tree Parks who have over 50 years experience in running quality residential retirement parks and owner occupied holiday parks in the South West of England.