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The Dartmoor Way Walking Holiday

Section 1 -   Buckfastleigh to Bovey Tracey – The Dartmoor Way

Buckfastleigh Church Dartmoor Way Walking Holiday UK

Distance :  12 miles - Easy Grade Walking with one moderate/strenuous climb to Ramshore Down. What these grades mean

Summary :  Mainly ancient droves and tracks mixed with river meadows, wooded stream valleys and a section of Forest Plantation.

Information on overnight stops at Buckfastleigh before your Dartmoor Way Walking Holiday begins.

The Dartmoor Way leaves the centre of Buckfastleigh via an ancient 200 step stone stairway ascending the hill above the town to the eerie remains of its 700 year old church.  

Ashburton Bluebell Woodland on The Dartmoor Way Dartmoor National Park

It’s a dramatic start to the walk and an immediate introduction to the dark side of Dartmoor -  in the churchyard you find the Tomb of Richard Cabell a hated local squire whose “cruelty knew no bounds”.  The locals who bore the brunt of his wickedness claimed he had sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for immortality. He was felt to be so evil in life,  that when he died in 1677 the villages insisted he be buried under a huge stone slab and then entombed in a metal barred building outside the church to ensure his ghost did not escape and torment them further.  Their tales of his phantom black hounds howling at night outside the tomb ready to accompany the Squire to hell itself persuaded  Conan Doyle to write his Sherlock Holmes classic the Hound of the Baskervilles. 

The route runs past the old alter and chancels, now roofless, crumbling and open to the elements.  The Squires tomb and the labyrinth of caves below the church have been a centuries old draw to Satanic Worshipers and the darker side and it was the former who are said to have started a fire under the alter stone in 1992 that destroyed this fine building leaving the sinister shell you wander through today. 

Ramshorn Down Area Day 1 of The Dartmoor Way Walking Holiday UK

Passing the remains of a much older chapel as you depart you take the mystical Fairies Lane, an old green trackway back to the river Dart  On the way you can divert to view the old limekilns and caves below the church which revealed fossilised remains of hippopotamus, hyena, and elephant the whole area here a mass of wild garlic and bluebells at the right time of year.

The walk onto Ashburton is an easy one which breaks you in gently for your Dartmoor Way adventure along an old drove road giving unusual views of the stunning  Buckfastleigh Abbey before a steep descent into Ashburton Village. A highly attractive place and the southern gateway to the moor Ashburton has a cluster of interesting cafes, craft shops, second hand bookshops and unique specialist shops centred around its old bridge and Town Hall. The information centre here is on your route and well worth a visit and the town itself is a most pleasant place – so much so that some walkers prefer to start and end the Dartmoor Way here.

Overnight stops at Ashburton on the Dartmoor Way

From Ashburton you follow a bubbling stream out through attractive river meadows and woodland as the forested foothills of the moor begin to rise steeply around you.  After passing the impressive old mills on the River Ashburn you have the first steep ascent on the Dartmoor Way as you leave the valley on an ancient trackway to Widdon Farm. The rewards for your efforts are the first views of Dartmoor itself  from Victors Seat (made from an old set of plough wheels).

Ramshorn Down looking to Haytor Rocks Dartmoor National Park Devon Uk

Now on the horizon is Rippon Tor the rocks so prominent they were used by sailors to navigate their arrival at Dartmouth and Teignmouth far to the south of here. Beyond this the iconic distant rocks of mighty Haytor,  Dartmoor’s most famous summit which will watch over and follow you now for the next few days.  Clearly others have enjoyed the view as Victors Seat is the only bench we have ever come across that has a box containing a visitor’s book !

Descending to the thatched hamlet of Stig you then follow another tranquil wooded river valley before the day’s big ascent up Ramshorn Down.  Here a tiny, little walked path snakes through dense and ancient bluebell woodland up a hidden valley to eventually break out onto the open gorse and bracken uplands of the down.  

Forest on The Dartmoor Way near Bovey Tracey Devon South West England

From the cairn at the top it’s a 360 degree panorama, Haytor's rocks now look tantalisingly close, Cornwall appears to the West and in the other direction you will be able to spot the twinkling blue sea at the end of the Teignmouth Estuary many many miles away.

A fast descent brings new terrain as you cut between the two dark forested hills at Rora Woods and Penn Woods your route  a zigzag descent through huge pines and forestry operations before emerging at the pretty hamlet of Liverton, a classic Devon village all thatched cottages and millstones though there are many more to come on the Dartmoor Way.  The day ends easily with a gentle downhill amble along backlanes to Bovey Tracey following the ancient route into the market town arriving at its impressive old Mills guarding the churning River Bovey.

Dartmoor Way High Tors route including Haytor, Hounds Tor, Bowermans Nose

Information on overnight stops at Bovey Tracey on the Dartmoor Way

The Southern High Tors Option 

Not to be missed if you can make the time for it -  with an extra night at Bovey Tracey you can tackle the High Tors Option on a “rest day” here walking a high level route linking the best loved of the Iconic and breathtaking Southern Moor Tors including Haytor,  Hounds Tor, Bowermans Nose, an abandoned medieval village, the unique high moor granite tramway and more besides on a  9 mile walk which avoids any duplication with The Dartmoor Way. 

CLICK HERE for full details about The Southern Tors Option on the Dartmoor Way Walk


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