Walking The Dartmoor Way, Devon
Luggage Transfers cover the full circular Dartmoor Way route from Buckfastleigh. Established in 2009, we move over 36,000 bags each year for visitors walking and cycling throughout the South West.
Below, you’ll find more information about the route, a popular itinerary for The Dartmoor Way, as well as a link to our walker friendly accommodation for the entire route.
The circular route allows you to experience the stunning wild spaces on the outskirts of Dartmoor National Park. Additional days can be added to take in a higher Moor Link (+22.5 miles) making the route as a figure of eight, or walk a shorter north or south circular route. There are no official start or end points meaning you can have the freedom to travel wherever works best for you. Whichever route you decide on, Luggage Transfers are there to move your bags allowing you to hike unencumbered. This is a well signposted route, which when complimented with the leaflet produced by the Dartmoor National Park Authority, can be enjoyed by all ages during all seasons. It explores bridleways, wooded valleys and the moors and tors around this popular National Park with its abundance of flora and fauna. Picturesque stone bridges cross the many streams running down from the higher ground as you follow the purple arrows to the many villages and towns hidden in this stunning area of South Devon.
This route is one that can also be cycled, further information on this can be found at Explore Dartmoor – Cycle Route.
Popular itinerary for walking the Dartmoor Way
Your adventure starts in the centre of this historic town and rises via a 200-step stairway to the hill housing its 700-year-old ruined church. It is here that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took inspiration of phantom hounds crossing fog ridden moorland to write The Hound of the Baskervilles. Trackways and old drovers’ roads lead you through villages not looking out of place on postcards and chocolate boxes. Take the time if you can, to visit the information centre in Ashburton Village, a mine of information pertaining to the local area. The mighty tors of Rippon and the imposing Haytor provide you with an stunning views for the next few days. This landmark has long been used by sailors returning to the ports on the coast. Climb higher and your views become panoramic before you drop through woodland onto local roads into Bovey Tracey.
Optional day – Stay an extra night in Bovey Tracey to explore part of the Higher Tor route. Here you climb up onto the Southern Moor to tackle Haytor and Hounds Tor to survey the breathtaking open landscape and view what terrain you will meet on your journey in the days ahead. This is a day incorporating 9 miles of the Southern Tor route.
Today is a mixture of all things: moors of gorse and bracken, woods, valleys, disused railway lines and open spaces. Old stone bridges cross the River Bovey as the slopes of the moors loom before you. Nature reserves offer the opportunity to see the moors resplendent in their glory; an array of scented flowers and a chance to watch rare butterflies and birds as you amble along. Medieval stone-built cottages and tiny hamlets line the route. There are several overnight stops along the way allowing you to reduce your daily walk, but if wishing to fulfil the full mileage today, push onwards. The trail from Moretonhampstead rewards you with further woodland and meadows which feel unspoilt and uninhabited by anyone but the resident wildlife. Gorse-laden Butterdon Down brings you to an ancient standing stone which will afford you a view on a good day of the far north coast and Exmoor. You can appreciate why this stone was given pride of place in its surroundings. Your descent from the moor gives you many photo opportunities; amongst them the famous fingle bridge which spans the river Teign. Just when you think you could not possibly have any more treasures in one day, you can climb the Hunters Path to visit Castle Drogo before rejoining the Dartmoor Way. This castle looms above you as you continue along the gorge towards the haven of Chagford for your stay tonight.
Alternative route +2.5 miles via High Tor route.
A more testing walk lies before you, but again the moors will bestow more amazing sites and scenes. Walk along the sunken granite lined trackway of Throwleigh until it opens out into the village which has thatched farmhouses and a towering church. Continue across the common, dodging boulders and the ever-present gorse bushes, avoiding the free roaming sheep as you go, especially during lambing season. The mining heritage of the South West is most apparent here, with ruined engine houses and stacks reminiscent of some of Cornwall. Take a while to visit the Finch Foundry, one of the last water powered forges of its kind. From here you merge with both The Tarka Trail with The Dartmoor Way. Keep an eye out for the quotes from Henry Williamson’s tale of the brave otter, Tarka, on the bridges as you cross them on your climb up the valley to Belstone. This is really where you reach High Dartmoor, as wandering ponies graze in the village. Crossing Belstone Moor from here you encounter the stone circle of the Nine Maidens, allegedly a group of naughty rebellious maidens turned to stone for dancing on a Sunday (a common theme when discussing the history of stone circles); once you start counting you will soon realise there must have been more than nine of them as there are about 17 stones! The site is believed to be a Bronze Age burial chamber though depending on who you ask they will certainly have their own tale to tell. Follow the gorge down to lower ground following the crashing rivers and magnificent waterfalls to a gentler end to the day into Okehampton.
A chance for a few detours to add to the camera roll are offered today; Okehampton itself provides more than a few opportunities before leaving. The Dartmoor Way leaves by the West Okement, a river which at the right time abounds with Atlantic salmon. In spring the woods are carpeted with bluebells as you walk close to the ruins of Okehampton Castle, which itself is worth a visit if time allows. From here you climb to join the old railway line and Meldon Viaduct, a masterpiece of Victorian engineering spanning the gorge which gives you views across the dam and reservoir for those brave enough to walk over. This is not obligatory, of course and can be avoided if heights are not your thing. The moors become brooding wide-open spaces with their unique and hardy vegetation as Sourton Tor towers in the distance. The grimly titled Corpse Path takes you into Sourton to The Highwayman Inn. This is a place you should definitely stop for refreshments, marvel at the antiquities and curiosities which grace its doors, floors and walls. All provide talking points and have wonderous tales attached to them. You may decide to head onward to Lyford, famous for its castle and church. This may be a place you wish to stop for the night and explore even further. The Gorge here is owned and managed by The National Trust and holds natural wonders aplenty; the valley boasts waterfalls and whirlpools which hold a magical and enchanting quality. However if you wish to get more miles under your belt, continue onwards with the impressive Brent Tor and St Michael’s Church holding on tight to its summit. If the day is clear you can see over to neighbouring Cornwall; the high tops of Bodmin could be one of the last highlights of the day as you drop into Mary Tavy to rest and reflect on this epic day.
Today starts with a generally easy walk compared to previous days with views of the higher tors in sight as you walk the gentler edges of the moors. The upstream River Tavy is your companion as you reach Tavistock, an ancient and still busy market town full of places to stock up for the days’ travels ahead. It is here you can decide to continue southwards and aim to reach Shaugh Bridge via Yelverton and the many smaller villages, woodlands and river paths, or whether you wish to brave the elements and travel up onto the darker, more challenging aspect of Dartmoor taking on the High Moor Link. Whichever you choose, Luggage Transfers will be there to move your bags to save you the trouble of carrying them yourselves, and if opting for the High Moor we are describing next, we are certain you will be glad you did! The high moor route awaits… the climb is actually easier than first imagined as small lanes and a disused railway line help you along. The Dartmoor National Park opens before you again and the central Tors await. This part of the route was also a pilgrimage route for monks between the abbeys of Tavistock and the churches dotted out on the moors. High stone formations offer climbing and photo opportunities before the now disused tracks of the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway. The founder of Princetown in the early 1800’s created this set of works to ‘civilise’ the area and mine its main resource, granite. Horses and later steam trains took the precious load down to the Plym estuary to be used country and worldwide. Given Thomas Tyrwhitts earliest ideas of how the area would become a hub, its is ironic that the closest civilisation here is the ponies and the notorious prison, which is very nearby. Todays walk is interspersed with evidence of the working which were carried out here, large quarry pools and the remains of the granite industry are strewn around. If you wish to be more adventurous, detour off to the famous climb up Kings Tor and survey the views of both coasts and marvel at the gravity defying rock formations. If less exertive pleasures are required divert to Merrival with its ancient and world renown procession stones, menhirs, stone circles and burial chambers. Once back on the path stroll across the open moorland to the comforting sight of Princetown.
Leaving Princetown by the ‘Conchie Trail’, a track supposedly leading to nowhere was the designated punishment for conscientious objectors during the war who were held at Dartmoor Prison. This soul destroying and physically challenging endeavour was designed to break mind and body as they refused to support the war effort. Take a moment to thank them for their work as you tread upon it for it did indeed do just that for many men. The path abruptly stops, the war ended, and their incarceration did too. As in the days you have walked the landscape tors scatter the land. Today is more a day of solitude to contemplate on the walk you have undertaken, wide open land meets wide open skies showing the barren but beautiful moors in all their glory (weather permitting).
The remnants of the abandoned village of Swincombe is evidence of previous inhabitation before a more varied vista and walking environment returns, valleys and bridges lay ahead. There are a few places to grab refreshments prior to attempting todays challenge of Sharp Tor and you will need them. The climb up the valley to this monumental edifice will leave you grateful as you hit halfway at the aptly named ‘Coffin stone’. Whilst this is a chance for you to take a breather before climbing the next section of this beast. This stone is the stopping point on a coffin road which allowed the carriers of any bodies a chance to drop the load and wait before moving onto the closest church at Widecombe. This cleft stone obviously carries marks and stories aplenty but the most popular is that whilst a wealthy but cruel landowners’ body was placed there on his last journey, the almighty took it upon himself too send down a bolt of lightning to show his displeasure at the man’s lifestyle choices. One can only imagine he didn’t make it through the pearly gates when arriving there! Think lightly on the life you are leading and avoid any thunderbolts from above as you complete your climb. This view will be one of the highlights of your entire trip and will show you how much of the moors you have conquered on your journey as most of it can be seen. The route down is quicker and easier than the ascent and you can join a carriageway said to have been commissioned by a local doctor over 100 years ago as a place to come and visit on his days off. With stunning tors and gorge views you can see why he went to the trouble.
The further down the carriageway you go the flora and fauna change from the harsh gorse of the moors to more lush and verdant greenery in this woodland leading to the Dart river with a chance to spy a kingfisher or an otter if you are lucky. The edges of the moor brings you to Holne, a quintessential Devon village with tearooms and inn offering rooms. The last few miles are relatively easy as you make your way back to the starting point of Buckfastleigh you left only a week before. Arriving there once again you will feel you have walked through the ages and history of a landscape forgotten and left to thrive as it sees fit, where humans have tried and not always succeeded to tame nature and the place is better and happier for it.