UKH

Dartmoor North to South Walking

The most extensive upland area in southern England, Dartmoor is a unique and very special place, an island of wildness rising from the rolling Devon countryside. Wooded valleys and picturesque villages fringe the edges, but it's in the austere moorland at its heart, amid the empty miles of tussock grass and lurking mires, that hillwalkers and runners will find their challenge. Meeting this uncompromising landscape on its own terms, a traverse of the entire moor from end to end is one of the great walks of Britain. With a right to wild camp in much of the National Park, and any number of isolated spots to do it in, the route can easily be stretched over two days; but given sufficient daylight, decent weather, and a bit of a following wind, it's a fantastic one-day adventure. Note: This precise route is only possible when live firing is not taking place on the Okehampton Range. For scheduled firing times see www.access.mod.uk or call 0800 458 4868

Early morning sun breaks through on Oke Tor © Dan Bailey  © Dan Bailey
Early morning sun breaks through on Oke Tor © Dan Bailey

See our article on this route

Fetching Map

Detailed description

1
SX6418194109 Go through the garden behind Finch Foundry, then through a gate into the woods by the River Taw. Cross a wooden footbridge then follow the idyllic woodland path upstream along the river's south bank. After about 1km cross back over the river on another bridge. Not marked on the map, but obvious on the ground, a path continues up-valley roughly parallel to the river. After meandering through the woods, a steep climb brings you to a trail running along the north rim of the valley to reach the village of Belstone (alternative start point).

2
SX6200093365 Head south on the road out of the village, and when this turns into an unsurfaced track continue to an outdoor centre. A footpath climbs southwest to meet the stony track that runs south into the secluded upper valley of the Taw. Pass below Belstone Tor (climbing it adds time and effort), then look out for a path branching right to make a long rising traverse onto the ridge at Oke Tor. Continue south on a clear moorland path to meet a military track, which crosses the Taw below Steeperton Tor then climbs towards the grassy hump of Hangingstone Hill. From the end of the track a path carries on uphill to the summit, where there's a military range lookout post.
Belstone Tor and Taw Plain  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Belstone Tor and Taw Plain
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com

3
SX6169986113 Weave south over blanket bog onto the vague rise of Whitehorse Hill, where a decent path is met with relief. This descends to another lookout post on a spur beside the cairn of Quintin's Man. The posts marking the Okehampton Range boundary now offer a good navigational handrail leading south. Cross a stream and climb onto Winney's Down; from the post marking the corner of the range area a useful unmarked path leads to the ruin of Statts House. Without much of a trail, make your way south from here into the upper valley of the East Dart River, one of the most out-of-the-way spots on the moor.

4
SX6206481605 Boulder hop the river at Sandy Hole Pass, then improvise your way south and southwest - some sheep tracks - onto a broad summit. The outcrop of Lower White Tor is visible about 1.5km due south, but the direct route is barred by a nasty quaking mire. Better is to bear southwest onto the higher summit (Wildbanks Hill according to Harvey Maps; spot height 539m on the OS); now descend south, then south-southeast, crossing a saddle before climbing to Lower White Tor. A clear path goes easily from here to Higher White Tor.
Looking to the south moor from Higher White Tor - the mast above Princetown is a useful long-range landmark  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Looking to the south moor from Higher White Tor - the mast above Princetown is a useful long-range landmark
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com

5
SX6195578631 Heading southwest, the path soon leads to Longaford Tor, a craggy top that's worth the short climb. Descend south, then west-southwest into Wistman's Wood, a fragment of rare ancient upland oak woodland that could have come straight from the Lord of the Rings. A path of mossy boulders leads south out of the wood, then it's an easy 2km down to the road at Two Bridges, where there's a welcome pub. You're roughly halfway, with the north moor done and the south moor yet to come.
It's a bit of a cliche to rave about how special Wistmans Wood is, but...  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
It's a bit of a cliche to rave about how special Wistmans Wood is, but...
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com

6
SX6090275043 Follow the road west (limited verge space, take care), branch left onto the B3212, then turn off left onto a footpath through a pine plantation. The right of way then goes southeast, then south through grazing pasture. Cross a footbridge and follow the stream west. Join a track south past Bachelor's Hall to regain open access land just beyond the houses at Bullpark. First a track and then a trail, the route follows field boundaries south-southeast for nearly 2km. Below Peat Cot Hill turn left along the edge of the Devonport Leat, where a narrow, overgrown path follows the water around the hillside to reach a hummocky area of old tin mines at Whiteworks.

7
SX6127671039 Cross the end of the public road and pick up a trail weaving among the workings towards Foxtor Mires. Though it looks benign the mire is almost impenetrable to land-based life forms, so it's worth spending time scouting out the almost-hidden dry path that makes a wide loop right to avoid the worst of it. A small stone cross on the hillside beyond is a useful point to aim for.
At Whiteworks, heading for Foxtor Mires and the south moor  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
At Whiteworks, heading for Foxtor Mires and the south moor
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Jul 2022

8
SX6169470237 Climb south-southeast onto the open hillside above Fox Tor, skirting east of Crane Hill. Paths tend to come and go here, and the going is fairly turgid. You're up in the heart of the south moor, a featureless expanse that needs careful navigation in poor visibility. Pass a marker post and aim south-southeast, following a decent path for 1km to a second post. From here descend south (the mapped path is nominal) into the wild upper valley of the River Erne. Cut briefly east along a track, then branch right on a trail of sorts, following the line of a stone row through the tussocks to reach the prehistoric village site of Erne Pound.

9
SX6371665663 Continuing down-valley the path is now much easier to follow. Cross the side stream of Hook Lake, then climb south-southeast onto a shoulder of Quickbeam Hill. Here you'll join the course of the old rail line built for the now-disused Red Lake China Clay Works, winding along the ridge leading out to the southern tip of Dartmoor. With distant sea views this makes for a spectacular high-level finish, and though still a long way, the easy striding is a pleasant contrast to all the bogs and tussocks that got you here.

10
SX6512058244 Before the track makes its final curve around the end of Western Beacon, cut off right to descend a grassy path leading down to the bottom corner of the open access land. A steep stony track now brings you to the road above Ivybridge. The train station is close to the east, while the centre of town (great fish and chips) is a short walk downhill.

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Further Routes

by Dan Bailey UKH



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