The traditional fishing town of Brixham is tucked away in the green hills of South Devon, along the spectacular...
Boasting 368 square miles of open moorland, forests, rivers and craggy granite tors, Dartmoor is Southern England’s largest and wildest area of open country. This popular patch of Devon is a walker’s wonderland and is home to a myriad of footpaths that navigate the Dartmoor National Park. A place of true remoteness and tranquility, the beauty of Dartmoor isn’t just found in its landscape, but also in its rich history and abundant wildlife. Expect to tread a wealth of Dartmoor walks full of flora and fauna, where buzzards, kestrels and skylarks dominate the sky, whilst on land, wild ponies and cows roam free, and adders and lizards take shelter in the heath. The land is somewhat ancient, and has been lived on for thousands of years, with many walking routes exposing historic features evidencing a deep rooted relationship with the land.
From challenging hikes that navigate the wide open moor to mystical paths through ancient woodland and secluded riverside retreats, Dartmoor is the perfect natural playground, and you’re certain to find a walk to suit, regardless of your ability. At Coast & Country Cottages it’s no secret that we love walking, and so we’ve detailed a handful of our favourite routes, allowing you to become privy to our favourite Dartmoor walks. These range from a few miles, to upwards of five miles, so always check the route and weather conditions beforehand.
Looking for a specific Dartmoor walk? Use our quick links below, or read on for our guide to the best Dartmoor walks…
Dartmoor is a landscape ringing with myths and legends, and the enchanting Wistman’s Wood is no exception – in fact some believe that the woods were planted by the druids. Regardless of its history, the tangled mound of stunted oak trees reside on the slopes of the West Dart River, and they are quite a spectacle. The oaks grow no taller than five meters high, and the trees grow amongst electric green moss and lichen covered boulders, and in some places the bearded lichen grows up to half a meter long!
One of the most popular circular Dartmoor walks, it takes in both Wistman’s Wood and Crocken Tor, and is approximately five miles – we recommend allowing at least two hours so that you can spend a little time exploring the magic that is Wistman’s Wood. On your return, fill rumbling tums with lunch at the Two Bridges Hotel – they have a large garden, so if the weather allows, be sure to sit outside and make the most of the fresh Dartmoor air. Car parking is available at the Two Bridges Hotel, and costs £3 for four hours, and is refundable against a purchase of food or drink.
Bellever Forest is a beautiful Dartmoor woodland that boasts walks through the trees and along the river. Easily accessible, with plentiful parking, a picnic area and toilets open all year, it’s a popular spot for those who want to explore Dartmoor at a gentler pace. With various walking routes, Bellever Forest caters for every ability – choose one of the waymarked trails, or join the historic bridleway, The Lich, and what’s more, there are plenty of archaeological sites to discover as you explore. If you’re up for the challenge, hike up Bellever Tor – you’ll feel exhilarated when you reach the peak which boasts amazing moorland views, and if you’re feeling really brave, why not take a dip in the river on your return!
On the south eastern edge of Dartmoor resides the craggy, distinctive outcrop that is Haytor, which is also visible on the skyline from many places in South Devon, especially from Totnes! The National Park Visitor Centre is well placed to start your walk and also provides parking (there are additional parking fields staggered up the road adjacent to Haytor). From here, enjoy a short stroll up to Haytor, which is a popular spot amongst both rock climbers and walkers, and if you’re able, scramble up the rock formation and enjoy views across both Dartmoor and the South Devon coast. From Haytor there are various paths leading onto moorland should you wish to extend your walk.
This famed beauty spot is located near to the historic village of Widecombe-on-the-Moor with its popular pubs, The Old Inn and The Rugglestone Inn. Why not build up an appetite exploring Haytor before indulging in a delicious pub meal, which always tastes better after a long walk!
Venford Falls is one of Dartmoor’s most hidden gems, located in a secluded spot near Venford Reservoir – it is so secluded that many people that visit the reservoir don’t even know there are waterfalls nearby. To find Venford Falls, you really need to head off-the-beaten track…
Arriving at Venford Reservoir from Ashburton, you will approach the reservoir and see a car park on your right. Do not park at this car park, instead, continue driving until you see a second car park on the right hand side and park there. Once you’ve parked up, walk the opposite direction to the road and follow the path through Venford Brook, be warned, this is a very steep decline so wear appropriate footwear. After approximately 200 metres, you should hear the sound of the waterfalls, which means you’re near! Continue walking until you see the stunning water display unfold before you, and enjoy this hidden Dartmoor delight.
The deepest river gorge in the South West, the steep-sided Lydford Gorge is a spectacular chasm nestled within Dartmoors hills. Stretching over a mile, at one end you will find the impressive ‘Devil’s Cauldron’, while at the other, the 30m high White Lady waterfall. The wooded gorge on the western fringe of Dartmoor has inspired many myths and legends, all of which can be explored with a choice of circular walks, varying in distance, from one to three miles. As you would expect, there is an abundance of wildlife, with lookout points peppered throughout the woods. Owned by the National Trust, there are great facilities at Lydford Gorge including car parks, tea-rooms, a children’s play area, orchard and a well stocked shop, making it one of the most popular Dartmoor walks for families.
At Coast & Country Cottages our South Devon holiday cottages are situated within easy driving distance of Dartmoor, ideal for those who want a secluded countryside escape that provides quick and easy access to the playground that is Dartmoor. Book a break in the market town of Modbury, just a short drive from the entrance to Dartmoor National Park, or stay in the harbourside towns of Salcombe or Dartmouth to enjoy both coast and countryside, and Dartmoor walks.
Gitcombe Estate is a complex of nine luxury holiday cottages nestled in the countryside of Cornworthy, near Tuckenhay. The estate is home to a variety of outstanding leisure facilities, including an indoor and outdoor pool, hot tub, tennis court, playground, sauna and steam room to name just a few. It’s the perfect location from which to explore Dartmoor, and upon return, rest tired legs – sometimes nothing beats the idyll of a country escape!
Church Thatch, Abbotskerswell, is a cosy cottage that sleeps 12 and accepts pets, so your canine companion can enjoy exploring Dartmoor with you! This spacious luxury dog-friendly cottage enjoys ample space which is perfect for playing your family holiday games after a big walk. What’s more, the property boasts an open fireplace to get cosy beside after blustery walks, and also a fantastic pub within walking distance.
For even more inspiration, browse our collection of walking holidays located just a stone’s throw from the ever popular South West Coast Path in South Devon. Once you’ve found your perfect cottage, download our South Devon Walking Guide for a selection of our favourite rambles in South Devon.