Discover challenging and dramatic walking trails shaped by the footsteps of traders, smugglers, saints and pirates. Cornish walking trails will reveal ancient tin mines, clifftop castles, timeless fishing villages and wild moors as you travel through a landscape of huge cliffs and hidden coves that goes back to the depths of time itself. In between the coastal drama, iconic harbours such as St Ives and Padstow give walkers access to some of the UK‘s best restaurants and coastal hotels. A county encircled by the wild Atlantic ocean, there is over 330 miles of spectacular world class coast path here taking you around the farthest corners of England - put simply it feels like walking on the edge of the world.
Stretching from coast to coast across the southwest of England, Devon is a richly diverse county with rugged shores and cliffs in the north, and classic Victorian seaside resorts in the south. In between you'll find tranquil green pastures, wooded gorges and the two dramatic wild moors in the National Parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor. Choose Devon for its walking variety, and you'll find that the popular image of cream teas and thatched cottages is true - but that Devon is so much more once you explore it on two feet. Coast to coast routes like the Two Moors Way will offer a journey through it all from the wild northern shores that inspired the Romantic poets to the maritime ports of the south coast.
Free your soul and clear your mind! Walking on the wild moors of these National Parks is a wonderful antidote to modern living. England's last true wilderness, Dartmoor offers 365 square miles of virtually uninhabited freedom with high moors and twisted dramatic granite tors a land of myths, ghosts and legends. Exmoor, its smaller and more gentle neighour, is 250 Square miles of near perfect and unique beauty, with high uplands swathed in heather and steep, wooded gorges and rushing streams. See Dartmoor ponies and Exmoor stags in these wildlife rich areas, home to 30 species of mammals and over 240 types of bird. The moors offer a unique opportunity for more challenging walking where the only human sound you will hear is the rhythm of your own breath.
Avoid the crowds and discover “Secret Somerset” missed by so many rushing headlong for the far South West. The 'land of the summer people' was named in a time when this area could only be visited in the summer months as the sea receded. Today its a rich, fertile and 'for real' landscape crowned by the fine walking ridges of the Mendip and Quantock Hills both protected areas of outstanding natural beauty. Rising up over King Arthur‘s Vale of Avalon along with the magical Tor at Glastonbury, walkers will find hidden gorges, wooded combes and the best inland panoramas of the South West. Also boasting its own Jurassic Coast Path, providing a gateway into the wilds of Exmoor National Park, Somerset offers walking routes without the crowds for those who want to find..... what the rest miss.
Dorset has a comfortable old world “English” feel to it and its walking routes traverse a rather more green and agricultural land of thatched cottages, cream teas.... and fossils ! Walkers here will find the more gentle rolling farmland, pretty villages and chalk ridges beloved by Thomas Hardy that sweep down to end abruptly at the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. Here, alongside the sea, those after more challenging routes can take a walking holiday through time itself amongst the dramatic chalk stacks, cliffs and arches of the Dorsetshire fossil coast. An area that can be very busy in high season but often suits walkers looking for more gentle and less exposed walking than the far west of the region.
Wales offers some of the best walking and outdoor activities to be had anywhere in the world. The 870-mile Welsh Coast Path was only fully opened in 2012 and is the world's first walk along the entire coast of a nation. The terrain is on an equally grand scale with towering cliffs, vast stretches of unspoilt golden sands, imposing castles, offshore islands and to the north there is the backdrop of Snowdonia National Park with its stunning mountains. Wales in general offers walkers great value for money compared to more popular areas like Cornwall with walking options to suit everyone, from those who want the cosmopolitan restaurants and facilities of towns like Tenby and St Davids, through to isolated and remote forests and coastal hills that sit on the very cusp of the Snowdonian Peaks. Bursting with confidence and pride in its “Welshness”, its Celtic history, language and culture there has never been a better time for walkers to enter Wales.
The South West Coast Path is the UK's longest National Trail and one of the top ten walking routes in the world. It snakes, dips and rises continuously on its way through a staggering 1014km (630 miles) of pristine coastline, 450 miles of which is through nationally protected areas. It's a challenge too; walking the entire South West Coast Path is the equivalent to scaling Mount Everest four times! From towering cliffs to hidden coves, ghostly tin mines to lush subtropical wooded creeks. One minute a dramatic rock theatre hewn out of the cliffs, the next a prehistoric fossilized forest or a 20thC Art Deco Island Hotel. What sets The South West Coast Path apart from other trails is that around almost every corner is yet another surprise as you retrace the footsteps and histories of the tin miners, fisherman, smugglers, wreckers and the customs men who chased them.
One of the main features of the Dartmoor Way is the chance to make short diversions off the route that link in some of the highlights of the moor. Our staff have walked and rewalked The Dartmoor Way to find these “not to be missed” options. To get the most from the Dartmoor Way make sure that whoever organises it for you includes details on how to get to these options - or ask us for help ! These include -
More information and examples of these walking grades
We can arrange a short break over whichever sections you prefer - the following are some examples covering the highlights but talk to us for advice if you have other ideas.
One popular short break for experienced walkers is to walk either the East or West side of the Dartmoor Way returning across the central high Moor on The Two Moors Way.
Eastern Dartmoor Way Option - Start at Buckfastleigh walking the first two days of the Dartmoor Way to Chagford before returning on The Two Moors Way to Holne or Buckfastleigh. 3 or 4 days walking
Western Dartmoor Way Option - Start at Okehampton walking the West Dartmoor Way via Tavistock and Princetown before picking up the Two Moors Way at Widecombe to return to Okehampton via Chagford. 4 or 5 days walking
View the Dartmoor Way Map to see how these routes connect together
The Southern High Tors Route – Bowermans Nose, Hound Tor, Haytor Rocks and more – 9 miles
A superb option allowing you an easy walking option over the open moor above Bovey Tracey to visit a succession of the best loved Southern Tors as well as the abandoned village of Hundatora, long lost moorland quarries and the unique Granite Tramway route. One extra night at Bovey Tracey required for this option.
We have you collected after breakfast from Bovey Tracey and dropped at Manaton Village which takes most of the climbing from the valley out of the route today. From the shady green in the heart of the village an avenue of ash and beech trees leads to the pretty 15th Century church and thatched church-house and after exploring you head out and up onto the open moor at Hayne Down.
The first highlight is the striking human like idol know as Bowermans Nose one of Dartmoor’s most unusual Tors standing almost 7m high. The name is a corruption of Bowman – or Hunter and the tale of Bowerman is that whilst hunting up here his noisy pack of hounds unwittingly disturbed a coven of witches overturning their cauldron and ruining their ceremony – furious they decided to exact revenge and one hag turned herself into a hare and led Bowerman and his hounds to this location where at the point of exhaustion the trap was sprung and the Witches turned him and the dogs to stone – Bowermans Nose is all that remains of him and the granite dogs can be seen as a jagged chain of rocks on top of Hound Tor.
Leaving the lonely Huntsman you climb further onto nearby Hounds Tor – those that want to can take in nearby Jays Grave – a lonely place of moorland pilgrimage. The grave itself is that of a local orphan Mary Jay who fell pregnant to the farmer’s son and was thrown out of the village. Left destitute and humiliated she hung herself and on Dartmoor, criminals and suicides were treated as one and the same. Banned from being buried on Church Land they were taken to the most remote moorland crossroads to be buried, the theory being this would prevent their troubled spirits finding their way back to the village. Something of a cult developed around this poor girls remains and the grave has been the subject of poems, books and music since the Victorians. For years fresh flowers were left in secret on the grave by persons unknown (of course the locals said it was pixies) but even now you will normally find visitors have left odd toys, coins and other trinkets on this tiny lonely grave. It has to be said that its quite a poignant and reflective spot.
An invigorating climb now through the bracken to the looming towers of Hounds Tor ahead – the formation is superb though some locals refuse to visit as its said to be so badly haunted by a pack of black phantom hounds. Two wide avenues run between one of the moors most stunning Tors a mass of pillars, caves and towering stacks that provided an otherworldly background for the Sherlock Holmes classic Hound of the Baskervilles as well the 1975 Doctor Who story The Sontaran Experiment.
Beyond the Tor you start to descend to towards to the clear waters of the Becka Brook – on the way you encounter the fascinating remains of the deserted Medieval village of Hundatora. 13th Century doorways, alcoves, fireplaces and the crumbling remains of huge ovens used to dry Corn poke out of the bracken and gorse here linked by ancient paths and lanes.
Excavated 50 years ago and left to nature since then, Hundatora was a former settlement of longhouses and outbuildings hurriedly abandoned during the Black Death Plague when over a third of the Devon population were wiped out.
A steep descent to the ancient clapper bridge at Becka Brook then sees you striking out over the open moor on easy to follow tracks to the Hay Tor rocks and quarries a protected SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). This is Dartmoor’s best loved summit and its largest and most impressive Rock Face sitting at the heady heights of 1495ft. The two improbably huge outcrops were formed a mere 280 million years ago - rough steps cut into them allow you to reach the top for incredibly far reaching views off the moor . To the South, you will spot Torbay and Dorset’s Lyme Bay on the coast whilst in all other directions open rolling moorland stretches away as far as you can see and better than any map, you can trace at least three days walking on The Dartmoor Way from up here.
From the Tors you descend quickly to reach the Haytor Quarries lonely harsh places that provided granite for some of the UK’s finest buildings, London Bridge, the British Museum and the National Gallery. Wander through the remains of the old village that included houses, a pub and even a school for the families of the hundreds of men that toiled here in the 18th Century.
Basking Lizards, Dragonflies, Damselflies and butterflies are now endemic flying around the remains of old hoisting cranes in the attractive deep pools left in the quarries. At Holwell quarry you can still enter the small beehive type shelter built as a blasting shelter for the quarrymen with huge granite slabs for a roof.
The walk now starts its descent from the Moor back to Bovey Tracy but before you leave you can take refreshments in the famous Rock Inn at Haytor Vale. You then follow a remarkable route along the old Granite Railway, part of a two day walking route to the coast known as The Templer Way. James Templer born 1772 as an orphan ran away to sea and returned having made his fortune in India to build the world’s only tramway that ran from Haytor Rocks, not on rails but granite blocks. Teams of 19 horses dragged flat bed trolleys laden with 3 tonnes worth of stone an incredible 1,300ft down the mountainside towards the Canal at Bovey. The granite blocks which were painstakingly grooved out for the wagon wheels are there to this day and provide a superb trail off the moor as you drop over 1000ft on the Granite Railway Route. You quickly lose all the visitors to Haytor as you descend and instead find peace and wildlife on a now silent tramway that has long since passed into history.
Watch for Peregrine Falcons , hare, Ravens and Kites on the high moor, stoats, woodpeckers and if you are lucky perhaps an adder as you enter the glorious oak, birch and beech trees in Yarner Woods part of the East Dartmoor Nature Reserve. Everywhere butterflies, wild flowers and birdsong accompanies the walker on The Templer Way as you follow the granite blocks and milestones step by step back to your accommodation in the valley at Bovey Tracey
Managed by the National Trust, Castle Drogo sits in a commanding position right on the lip of the mighty Teign Gorge just above the Dartmoor Way between Mortenhampstead and Chagford.
“England’s last Castle” built around 100 years ago its imposing granite ramparts and keeps were built by Julius Drewe a Colonial Tea Magnate who sought out this stunning Dartmoor location for his ambitious project to create an ancestral home to beat all others and it eventually took him over 20 years to complete.
Its Medieval and Tudor style is evident throughout as you explore the great halls, kitchens and stately bedrooms of this granite masterpiece. Surreal uber Kitsch relics from the turn of the Century contrast with the Jacobean architecture – have you ever seen an electric table cloth before? Outside get lost in grandiose gardens of Rhododendrons that lead to Croquet Lawns, miniature rose gardens and hidden Victorian Wendy Houses – the whole thing is like something from Alice in Wonderland. Runner up in the South West’s tourist attraction awards in 2010 this is rightly the National Trust’s flagship Devon property and is currently receiving financial support for ongoing restoration and protection from the National Lottery.
Above all else its the location that is so breathtaking, the whole place looks ready to tumble headlong into the gorge itself and you can reach it from The Dartmoor Way by taking the “Hunters Path” past Sharp Tor on the higher level Two Moors Way option through the Teign Gorge.
For those who just want to admire it in passing from the outside you can walk this upper route on the day to Chagford and make use of the ever welcome National Trust tearooms here en route. However if you want to take a full visit through the Castle and Grounds - and you won’t be disappointed if you do, then consider either a short day from Mortenhampstead to Chagford on The Dartmoor Way OR splitting the section with an overnight stop at the Drewe Arms in nearby Drewsteignton, itself an idyllic thatched Devon Village. The 17th Century Inn in the middle of the village was formerly The Druids Arms but was renamed after the Castle was constructed though it claims to have changed little in the last 100 years. Drewsteignton is a short diversion from the route using the Two Moors Way and is a mile or so from the Castle itself reached over some imposing Dartmoor Heathland.
Ask for more details and for the best way to include Castle Drogo into your Dartmoor Way walk
The deepest gorge in this part of the South West and the former hiding place of the Gubbins Outlaws, who were infamous sheep stealers from the 17th Century. Not to be missed by anyone walking through Lydford. Visit this incredible chasm and you will understand why the Gubbins remained at large for so long.
You may think you have seen a lot of watercourses on the Dartmoor Way but this one is truly unique, totally at odds with its immediate surroundings and a designated SSSI (Site of Specific Scientific Interest) for its geology. The raging narrow gorge is now managed by The National Trust (click here to view their website information on the gorge) and whilst there is an entrance charge expect vertical lush woodland ravines towering above white water highlights such as Devils Cauldron and Tunnel Falls mixed with sections of peaceful and still dragonfly pools. Networks of foot bridges and viewing platforms link a dramatic path parts of which were hewn out of the rock by enthralled Victorians to run right along the side of the gorge so you can walk just above the churning waterfalls and plunging drops. The highlight is the 100ft high White Lady Waterfall that dwarfs the walker as it crashes down the vertical side of the gorge.
To take a full circuit of the gorge adds 3 miles to the walk from Okehampton but you won’t have wasted anything exploring this superb environment and with a tea shop at each end you will be able to recover from the steep ascent and descent into this other world.
Make sure you stay overnight at Lydford and a visit to the Gorge fits perfectly into the end of the shorter days walk from Okehampton.
The Dartmoor Way between Lydford and Tavistock is dominated by the sight of this iconic little squat church built from hard granite in the most improbable of locations at the top of a conical shaped Volcanic Tor. Full name The Church of St Michel de Rupe or Saint Michael of the Rock its just 5 metres wide and 11m long and it is indeed a perfectly formed place of worship, its 12m tower which somehow survives this most exposed of locations has three bells that mournfully chime out over the moor calling the locals to service...when the weather allows an ascent.
Its appeal one would suggest is that It feels as close to heaven as any church can get ...literally and whilst for keen photographers its probably Dartmoor’s most desirable image thankfully the climb to the top and its remote and lonely location protects it being reached by most casual visitors. Its views over Dartmoor one way and far west into Cornwall the other are unmissable - if it looks familiar it is beacuse it was used for filming in the production of Daphne du Mauriers Jamaica Inn by the BBC.
How did it get here and how does it survive are the two most common questions for anyone making the pilgrimage here. The story of its construction is that of a Seafaring Merchant so grateful at surviving a fearful storm at sea that in thanks to God for protection he promised to build a church on the highest point of ground he could see when he returned to land. You can see this miniature mountain from Plymouth and so the promise was kept and the church constructed during the 12th Century. Its at this point that the usual Dartmoor legends embellish the tale as the Devil infuriated by the plan did his best to stop construction by removing the stones overnight that were laboriously dragged up the 325 ft slopes every day. This it appears delayed the construction project for so long that the Arch Angel Gabriel took control and flinging a rock at the Devil from a nearby Tor managed to hit him right between the horns – he fled the spot and the Church was finished as promised by the Merchant.
What is true is that the church is actually built on an old volcano the rock being pillow lava. During some restoration work 40 skeletons were discovered buried beneath parts of the church suggesting this place has had a burial significance for a much older culture that goes back into the depths of time. If you have come this far around the Dartmoor Way you don’t want to miss climbing to this magical and atmospheric spot where it feels like only the call of a stonechat and the moorland plains stretched below you sit between you and the next world itself ! An ascent of the Tor fits perfectly with a short detour from The Dartmoor Way on the short days walk between Lydford and Tavistock and can be built into the standard and relaxed itineraries for those staying in these locations.
By now you will probably have understood that Dartmoor, wild as it may be, is actually littered with evidence of prehistoric antiquities and sacred sites from its mystical past.
Many of these were deliberately sited by those that built them in the wildest and most difficult to reach locations on the moor, places of special significance to the seasons and the equinox positions of the Sun and moon
Merrivale, managed by English Heritage and less than a mile off the Dartmoor Way gives a unique opportunity not only to see Dartmoor’s most famous site but in one small area of moorland exhibits all the major examples of antiquities in one easy to reach location. Here you will find three stone rows, a stone circle, standing stones, a 3m high Menhir, burial cairns, long houses, kists (stone built coffins) and cremation pits constructed at various times between 2500 BC and 1000BC.
That those living there kept returning over 1500 years to build and rebuild is testomony to the power of this location and one can only try to imagine the ceremonies and rituals that took place on this spot.
Since Medieval times the area was referred to as the Potato Market or Plague Market as food from moorland villages was left here for the desperate townsfolk of Tavistock to collect during the black death. The Plague wiped over a third of Devon’s population and the villagers of the higher moor would do anything to avoid face to face contact with the plague ridden townsfolk from Tavistock.The Stone rows themselves run to almost one km in length with key stones set to align with the setting sun at specific points in the year. This is without doubt the most significant set of prehistoric remains on not only Dartmoor but the whole of the South West Peninsula preserved by the peat in the ground and the lack of cultivation up here. This is a short diversion that every level of walker can make from the Dartmoor Way below Kings Tor on the way to Princetown. Those that want longer to explore the site and perhaps make use of the nearby 17th Century Dartmoor Inn at Merrivale Quarry, should allow for this in the walk from Tavistock to Princetown which is offered as an option on both our relaxed and standard itineraries.
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