Encounter Walking Holidays UK Logo

1st March 2023 -    We are now fully booked on our coast path routes until the end of May but please send quote requests in for June onwards as there is availability for the rest of the year.  If you do plan to walk between now and June then our inland routes, Coleridge Way, Mendip Way, Saints Way  Dartmoor Way and Two Moors Way still have availability for most dates so please get in touch.

The Dartmoor Way Walking Holiday

Section 1 -   Ivybridge to Buckfastleigh – The Dartmoor Way

Dartmoor Gorse Distance :  16.3 miles - Moderate Grade Walking with two steep climbs onto and back off the Moor today  What these grades mean  
This day can be split at South Brent after 7 miles if you want a shorter walk - see the options tab
Summary :  A great introduction to Dartmoor with two climbs to and from the moorland and your first Tor. In between drops to the woodlands on the edge of the moor and a stunning trek to and beyond the Avon Damn reservoir on the high moor.
Information on overnight stops at Ivybridge before your Dartmoor Way Walking Holiday begins.
Western Beacon IvybridgeThe official start of the Dartmoor Way circle starts by the bridge that gave the town a name the 13th Century Ivy Bridge which sits, still with its Ivy above the gushing waters of the River Erme at the base of the moor. Leaving the town pass its long disused Paper Mills as you climb steeply to the very edge of the moor and the Dartmoor National Park entrance sign. Its a lung busting ascent on the bridleway to the open moor at Harford Moor the Tor at Western Beacon looking down whistfully as you inch towards it from below. You briefly share the trail with the Two Moors Way route here a Devon coast to coast long distance path that heads across Dartmoor whilst you head round.  The trails split when you reach the old Redlake Railway which ran for 8 miles into the Moor in the early 20th Century to help with the extraction of China Clay.  Now its a great base for walking along the moor and it contours below the Tor at Western Beacon through braken and stunted bushes and occasional piles of quarry stone. Of course everyone should try to divert the short distance UP to Western Beacon and explore the Tors, Cairns and quarries along with the best views over the South Devon Coastline which is laid out below you. As the closest Tor to the A38 corridor its one you will easily spot again if in the future you are visiting this end of Devon or Cornwall
Dartmoor SignYou descend back off the Moor as you approach the village of Bittaford with its huge viaduct that literally slices the village in two.  Refreshment options here at the Horse and Groom pub before its back up the moor again though this time on a dead end lane which passes at one point the old Plymouth Asylum now Moorhaven village.
You can divert for a quick look at the impressive buildings (now flats) and grassy grounds which at least had fine views for those allowed out to see them from what was a location clearly picked to be as remote as possible from the centre of Plymouth. More steep climbing and then suddenly the moor is back in all its glory with the two peaks of Butterdon Hill and Ugborough Beacon looming above you. 
Wrangaton Golf CourseOn a flatter area below the hills is the surreal sight of Wrangaton Golf Club a bizzare golf course if there was ever one with gorse lined bunkers, huge views off the moor, open moorland broken up by the greens, and patches of moorland marsh and boulder litter giving a real end of the world feel to it.
If I was going to play Golf then this would be where I would do it and the Dartmoor Way takes your right through the action.
Dartmoor Bridge near South Brent Leaving the golf behind you drop once again off the moor this time onto back lanes giving easy walking through pleasant Devon hamlets like Cheston, past the nature reserve at Ladys Wood and then through lush sections of farmland and river meadow before reaching the outskirts of the town of South Brent at Lydia Bridge.
One of the larger settlements on the route whilst the Dartmoor Way does not go through South Brent, its a nice diversion of around 1/2 mile along the bubbling river Avon to see the striking town at the end with its impressive church and several eating and drinking options.
Information on overnight stops at South Brent for those wanting shorter walking days
Stone Balls above Avon DamLeaving Lydia Bridge above the churning Avon, well, you guessed it, back up to the moor again this time breaking out on Aish Ridge just shy of the oddly named Corringdon Ball Summit. This is a lovely section of moorland following a very rough old drove track below the summit. Its ends at a bizzare and deslote spot know as Ball Gate where two huge stone gateposts stand alone in solid defiance of the emptyness around it
Its an exhilarating descent from the "Stone Balls" on a bridleway that as you near the river valley below gets steeper and stonier and more tricky by the minute - this is Diamond Lane another section of the historic Abbots Way, the Buckfast Abbey to Plympton Abbey Monks trail. 
Crashing out of the stunted trees and bracken you find a lane at the bottom by a racing rivercourse which is in fact the Avon river once again. This time you stick faithfully to it following the road to Shipley Bridge and the start of the trek to the Avon Dam
River Avon near Dam on Dartmoor This is lovely easy section along a tarmac track but with wilder and wilder views of the moor. As its a dead end access road to the Dam at the Avon Reservoir there is no traffic to worry about. You follow the infant Avon further and further into the interior its deep pools and dashing rapids accompanying you all the way to its source at the main Dam.
As you leave the wooded sections for the open moor you pass the tumbling remains of Brent Moor House which was the last habitation before the moor - during the war it was a home for evacuated deaf children, in later years deemed to be at risk due to its position downstream of the dam it was blown up by the Army who used it for target practice! You can wander through the remains of the walls and gardens as you pass by.
Avon Dam DartmoorBeyond its you the track and Moor until you round a bend in the steep sided valley to see the Dam looming above you. Its a climb now past trees to reach the right side of the Dam a desolate and at the same time beautiful spot with the blue waters stretching away into the hills on the horizon whilst behind you dramatic views off the Dam wall into the valley below and on out over coastal Devon. 
After treking along the lapping waters of the Reservoir you lurch off following a stream towards the next ridge joining at one point the Abbots Way an ancient route used by the Monks of Buckfast Abbey to reach Tavistock Abbey on the other side of the moor.  A journey of well over 20 miles of hard moorland travel with no settlements, little shelter, watery bogs, marshes, steep sided valleys and changeable weather - still there was no danger of robbers up here and I guess its as close physically to God as you get in Devon.
Avon Dam Dartmoor As you sumit the ridge above the Avon Dam the, below you valleys reach up towards you showing a green and wooded welcome in the line of your descent whilst above them is a stunning ring of Tors like a vast stone circle sitting on the Horizon above.  A rambling descent on bridleway takes you past plantations of trees, grassy meadows and then into more Ancient Woodland at which point you pick up the old route to Buckfastleigh.
As you near the town you leave the Abbots Way to climb noce more through trees arriving on the Western Edge of the very agreeable town of Buckfastleigh with its old cottages, friendly pubs, Steam Railway and eerie ruins of The Holy Trinity Church - but then that - is a story for tomorrows walk when you will encounter it.
Information on overnight stops at Buckfastleigh


Asked Questions

Request a

Map of all
our walks

View options
for this walk





Go to top