Dartmoor walks this way | News

Enjoy Dartmoor Without a Car

2016-06-02 13:09:18


Visitors to Dartmoor, particularly those from Europe, are frequently taken aback at the lack of public transport into and around the national park.  Depending on where you’re staying, it can be tricky to find a way to get up to the moor without hiring a taxi to take you there or walking for miles on roads before you get to the proper moorland scenery.  But there are ways to enjoy Dartmoor without a car if you plan your stay right.  Here’s a few of my top tips, from the more challenging to the more accessibl

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·         If you’re on a budget and used to camping and carrying your own equipment, you can take advantage of the fact that Dartmoor is the only national park in the country that allows wild camping.  Take a small tent and pitch it at least 100m from a road or house and the moor is your oyster (with the exception of a few areas – see link below).  You can walk from Ivybridge to Okehampton (or vice versa), or follow the Two Moors Way from Ivybridge on a more easterly route.  Or start in Tavistock and follow the old packhorse track to Ashburton.  (All these towns have regular bus services from Exeter and Plymouth.)  It goes without saying that you need a compass, a map and the ability to navigate before you venture out onto these high moorland routes!  Information on wild camping can be found here

·        For the slightly less hardy, you can stay in a town that is easily accessible by bus and from where you can walk more or less straight onto the moor, without having a lot of tedious lane walking first.   For south Dartmoor, the best two options are Ivybridge or South Brent, both served by the excellent Stagecoach Gold bus.  Ivybridge lies on the lovely river Erme and you can follow the river upstream from the town centre through beautiful woodland, then cut across to the picturesque hamlet of Harford and onto the open moor at Harford Moor Gate.  The energetic can walk from here all the way to Piles Copse, one of the three areas of ancient woodland on Dartmoor and an idyllic spot for a picnic.  The Two Moors Way runs along the ridge above, and you can follow it back into town passing prehistoric stone rows and with magnificent moorland views.  In South Brent you can follow footpaths up the equally lovely river Avon valley, then walk up to Corringdon Ball and the Glazebrook valley where there are many prehistoric remains and great high moor scenery.  Return on footpaths via Aishridge and Aish.

For north Dartmoor, the 6A bus runs from Exeter to Okehampton and you can stay in either the villages of Sticklepath, South Zeal or Belstone, or the small town of Okehampton itself.  From South Zeal and Sticklepath, footpaths lead you up to Cosdon Beacon, a magnificent viewpoint, from where you can drop down to visit the impressive triple stone row known as The Cemetery, and return on a range of ancient trackways through crumbling enclosures.  Or you can follow the Taw valley through lovely woodland to Belstone, from where paths lead up onto the common, to the Nine Maidens cairn circle and up the Taw valley to serious high moorland walking.

Chagford is another possibility – the 173 bus runs there from Exeter 4 times a day, and it’s a delightful town to stay in.  You do have to walk westwards on lanes and footpaths for a couple of miles before reaching the moor, but when you do you’re in a stunning part of it with Kestor rock, the Shovel Down prehistoric remains, Scorhill stone circle and a couple of beautiful clapper bridges to see.

·         If you can’t find accommodation in these smaller moorland towns (and they can get quite full in the summer months), staying in Exeter will enable you to reach the above towns by a reasonable time in the morning and return in time for supper, leaving you enough hours in between for a decent walk such as those outlined above, which give you a good sense of the variety of Dartmoor scenery.

However you do it, I hope you will have a great day out in our wonderful national park!

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