In the very heart of Devon, England, you will find Dartmoor National Park. Travellers come for the ancient landscapes, stunning views, and flowing rivers, but stay for the complete peace and quiet the park has to offer.
Dartmoor National Park walks and hiking trails will have you feeling like you are wandering through a fairy tale. These are the best Dartmoor walks to experience the enchanting English countryside.
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Handy Dartmoor NP Tips
How to Get to Dartmoor
There is hardly any public transport going into Dartmoor National Park. Over the summer months, you can take advantage of the Haytor Hoppa to get a lift to the famous rock outcrop and surrounding tors for £5. (More on that further down.) There is also the option of jumping on the bus 193, which runs every now and then and connects Newton Abbot, Bovey Tracey and Haytor.
Check out local Dartmoor walking groups, too. I joined a local Sunday walking group in Ashburton. This way I got to carpool up to Hound Tor and meet lovely locals AND get interesting information from the super knowledgeable guide Inge.
Another option is to take advantage of the Tavistock Local Country bus, which is run by volunteers. There are different lines but the one between Tavistock in the West of Dartmoor and Ashburton to the East, runs only twice a month. You need to reserve a seat via mail or phone and pay in exact change on the bus.
More info: The best walks around Holne Woods
It is possible to take the bus to Ashburton, Buckfastleigh or South Bent and do a few rather easy hikes around the woods there. Take bus 88 from Newton Abbot or Totes or X38 from Plymouth or Exeter. Also, you could take a train to Okehampton to do some hiking around Northern Dartmoor.
However, if you really want to see the moors and get up, the hike is quite challenging and takes a few hours. Remember, you have to get back. So get a taxi, rent an ebike or hitchhike up (or back). I did all of these and hitchhiking was not difficult at all and I felt safe. Locals too kept reassuring me of its safety.
How to navigate Dartmoor National Park
Google Maps isn’t very helpful around here. To see hiking trails on- and offline, download the free maps.me app. It helped me a lot!
Always stick to the public paths. There are plenty as are signposts to keep you on track. Since most of Dartmoor is farmland, you can’t just walk anywhere.
Essentials to Pack
As always, don’t forget to pack sunscreen. Even on cloudy days, the sunshine might burn your skin and you don’t even notice it until after a few hours of hiking. It doesn’t have to be a high factor, factor 15 sunscreen is mostly sufficient.
Water and snacks are crucial on any of these Dartmoor walks. There are no kiosks to just stop at. If you have a car, you can drive to a pub in a town in Dartmoor, such as Widecombe. But please take your rubbish back with you.
Note: Drone flying on public land is not allowed.
Next, Dartmoor is tick area. And ticks can carry lyme disease. This means, you should at least wear long pants and if possible hiking boots as opposed to just walking shoes. This way, they go up to your ankle. You need proper grip with your shoes anyway. The terrain is uneven and after a wet or foggy day, it can get muddy as well.
After each hike, your all your clothes and your entire body for ticks. Should you have caught one (or it you), get your tick tweezer or tick remover card and gently but firmly lift the tick out of your skin and kill it.
Inspect the wound and minitor your wellbeing over the next few weeks. If uncertain or symptoms show up, seek a doctor as soon as possible. A close by clinic in the region is in Newton Abbot or Totnes. I recommend packing your own tick tools as local pharmacies didn’t seem to stock it while I visited.
More info: What to see in beautiful Totnes
Oh, and in case of a medical emergency (or to insure your baggage and belongings as well), don’t ever forget your travel insurance. I never leave without it. But even if you’ve already left the house, fret not. Luckily, World Nomads offers the options to take out insurance at any point and they are made for travels – including adventure travel. Check details and rates here.
Where Should I Stay?
I stayed in Ashburton thanks to a super lovely airbnb I found. It was in a cute little cottage with a bus stop right outside and nature walks super close to my backyard. If you’ve never used airbnb before, get a $25 here. Pro tip: You might get a sweet discount if you stay for a month. (I did.)
For exploring the South Devon hikes around Dartmoor as well as nearby cities, such as Totnes, Newton Abbot, Dartmouth, Brixham and Teignmouth, I can only recommend Ashburton. It’s not huge by any means but it’s super walkable and there are a lot of things to do in Ashburton.
Newton Abbot also has great connections as it is a main hub for local public transport. From here, you can take buses up to Exeter, Exmouth and down to Dartmouth and Plymouth. But it’s not that close to the Dartmoor moors and not that exciting, to be honest.
Another key destination is Plymouth. From here, you can reach the southern parts of Dartmoor easily and there are more bus lines close to the woods and up to Buckland Abbey and Tavistock.
The latter is also an option that is well connected to public transport but reaches more the West of Devon and Dartmoor. For the North, check out Okehampton.
A popular option for a stay in Dartmoor is camping. Individual wild camping in small tents is allowed under a few rules and you should check out official campsites here.
The Best Walks in Dartmoor
Hound Tor and Emsworthy Rock
This hike I did twice, it was so nice! At Hound Tor, there is a small car park from where you can start on the circular walk, which takes around 3-4 hours. You could also walk all the way back to Ashburton, which takes 5 hours but leaves out Holwell Lawn, which is a must during bluebell season.
The hike will lead you past Hound Tor, Greator Rocks, the Hound Tor medieval village ruins, down to Becka Brook (straight like a setting out of Midsummer Night’s Dream) and up to Smallacombe Rocks, Holwell Tor, Emsworthy Rocks (and a nearby Bronze Age village) and down to Emsworthy Mire.
The latter is best visited at the end of May, when the fields around it turn blue. For more blues, walk back up to Holwell Lawn and enjoy the most stunning flower fields and views back over the valley and tors you’ve just visited.
Fun fact: There are over 365 tors in Dartmoor. (Source)
Haytor and Becky Falls
Haytor in Dartmoor might be the most popular tor. It can also get incredibly crowded, so get here early. There is a small car park in the area too. But you can hike here from Hound Tor or Emsworthy Rock as well.
From Haytor to Becky Falls, it takes over an hour but it goes downhill a lot. The falls are an iconic site within the British moorland and is located within 50 acres of ancient woodland.
Note: Dartmoor ponies are super cute and all over the place. However, they are basically wild (albeit owned by the farmers) so do not approach and definitely not touch or feed them.
If you’re looking for a short walk on Dartmoor, Wistman’s Wood is one of your best options. Take this easy walk through the middle of the English national park to feel like you’ve stepped out of 21st century England and into an ancient folktale.
You can pick between the easy (4.1km/2.6 miles) and medium difficulty hike (4.6km/7.4 miles). The hike starts at the Two Bridges Hotel and leads you through the twisting moss covered branches of stunted oak trees that give this walk such a distinctive look and ancient feel.
If you’re into ghost stories and epic travel photography, take this walk on a misty day to feel like you’ve truly stepped into uncharted territory. This means, this hike is scenic even on cloudy days. Just come prepared with sturdy, waterproof shoes and a rain poncho or jacket.
Fun fact: Only 13% of England is still covered in forest. (Source)
For a lazy day with beautiful views, check out Potter’s Walk. At 1.2 km long, this mostly flat walk is perfect for a pleasant stroll or for wandering with young children.
Potter’s Walk is one of the nicest Dartmoor circular walks, where you can stroll along the Fernworthy Reservoir with a beautiful view of Thornworthy Tor. This trail offers picturesque rest spots as well as a picnic spot.
Scorhill and Teignhead Walk
The Scorhill and Teignhead Walk offers two different routes. The first goes into the valley of the North Teign River, through to Scorhill Down and back to the parking area at Batworthy Corner.
The second option goes over Shovel Down to Manga Farm and the Teignhead Farm ruins before returning back to the parking area. Each route is about 16km, and both are filled to the brim with natural beauty.
Fun fact: You might see burned land every now and then. That’s due to controlled burning to keep vegetation in check. This is known as swaling.
War Horse Walk
The War Horse Walk is a circular trail that leads you through the landscape where Stephen Spielberg’s movie War Horse was shot. The trail is 5.5km and isn’t terribly strenuous, however, good compass and map skills are necessary on foggy days.
Besides vast, rolling landscapes, you’ll also have the opportunity to visit three stunning tors on this walk: Middleworth Tor, Down Tor, and Combshead Tor.
Dog of Baskervilles Walk
If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, you can’t miss this Dartmoor hiking trail. The spooky, fog coated landscape around Fox Tor Mire inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, and when walking around here it is easy to see why.
Besides beautiful, eerie landscapes and adorable ponies, you can also find a beautiful church, creepy graveyard, and even the Old Church House Inn, which dates back to the 13th century and is said to be one of the UK’s most haunted inns. Hound of the Baskervilles tours are available through Unique Devon Tours.
Bellever Forest Trail
Bellever is one of the most peaceful Dartmoor walking routes. On this 4km walk through the forest, you’ll find quiet hut circles, adorable ponies and even some elusive deer. This walk is not strenuous but it does have some gentle slopes.
Postbridge Trail gets its name from the 13th century clapper bridge and its neighboring 18th century granite bridge that you will encounter on this walk.
This is one of the most popular Dartmoor circular walks because of the unique bridges and the captivating open moorland that most of the trail runs through. The trail is 4.5km and has some steep rocky sections.
Teign and Turrets Walk
Dartmoor hiking is some of the best in England, and the Teign and Turrets Walk is an absolute must-do while you’re in the region. This 12km hike follows the beautiful river Teign through abundant wildlife, but the highlight is Castle Drogo.
Castle Drogo was constructed between 1911-1930, and was the last castle to be built in England. Be sure to budget some time to check out the castle’s beautiful gardens as well. This hike is best for those who are moderately fit.
Okehampton Deer Park Circuit
This 7km circular hike flows through the Deer Park Hunting Lodge as well as many medieval longhouses. It passes through Old Town Park Local Nature Reserve and offers a variety of stunning landscapes from green lanes to woodland tracks.
While on this hike you will come very close to Okehampton Castle, which has been in ruin since 1539. It is well worth a stop. This hike is steep at times and is best for hikers who are moderately fit.
Pro Tip: Get the English Heritage Pass and take advantage of access to all the over 140 included sites, such as Okehampton, Totnes and Berry Pomeroy Castle. Book it online here and get the printable ticket.
The Meldon Quarry Circuit
The Meldon Quarry Circuit is one of the most beautiful Dartmoor trails. It is a circular route that stretches for 10.5km. The walk is often wet with uneven surfaces, but the jaw dropping moorland fringe scenery makes it all worth it. This trail also has some steep climbs, leading to truly picturesque views that should not be missed. Plus, it’s a great workout!
The Meldon Dam Circuit
If you want to see some of the stunning natural beauty of the Meldon Reservoir but don’t have the time to squeeze in the 10.5km Meldon Quarry Circuit, the 1.6km Meldon Dam Circuit is for you.
This short walking trail has very steep ascents and descents, as well as remarkable views of the Meldon Reservoir, the valleys of the West Okement River and the Meldon Viaduct.
If you’re looking for a little adventure, Abbot’s Way is the hike for you. At a lengthy 35km, this hike is not for the faint of heart, however, it is an excellent opportunity to experience the best of what the English countryside has to offer.
The trail runs from Buckfast Abbey to Tavistock Abbey. Along the way, you’ll see rocky tors, quaint villages, and babbling rivers, as well as great aerial views of the National Park.
One of the most beloved Dartmoor National Park walks is the trail leading to the Canonteign Falls. Follow the woodland trail through dazzling valleys, along flowing streams, and across charming wooden bridges.
The 2.5km path leads to Canonteign Falls, the highest waterfall in all of England at 70m. If you have some extra time after marveling at the waterfall, check out the Victorian Fern Garden and the Secret Garden.
Are there Dartmoor Hikes for Everyone?
I say absolutely. You don’t have to love trekking for days or hiking for a full day to enjoy Dartmoor. There are plenty of short walks on Dartmoor as well as small car park areas, some more obvious than others, to cut hiking trails shorter.
On sunny weekends and especially during holidays, they fill up quickly and you can’t just park anywhere. So come early.
Some hikes, especially at the fringe woods of Dartmoor are easy to do. Others can be quite challenging. If you aren’t sure which to pick yet, pin this post or tweet it out here to keep it on your socials.
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