Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Dartmoor National Park - Northern Section

Dartmoor National Park is the fourth oldest in the UK, being established in 1951. The park lies entirely within the County of Devon, and is 368 sq. miles in area. Similar to neighbouring National Park Exmoor, the landscape is one of high moors, rocky outcrops called "tors", and wooded valleys. Dartmoor is a magical place, and a true wilderness in SW England.

Along the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park lies the beautiful Teign Gorge, home to the National Trust's Castle Drogo (a modern castle), and the stunning 17th century Fingle Bridge. The gorge is deep and winding, formed by the beautiful River Teign that snakes its way through a canopy of deciduous trees.

Teign Valley

One of the most popular Dartmoor walks (stunning especially in Autumn) is along this stretch of the Teign valley. Starting at Castle Drogo, you follow the top of the gorge, passing Sharp and Hunters Tor, and descend to follow the river below. At 4.3 miles +/- it is not too strenuous, but does involve some steps, steeper descending, and some ascent back up from the valley.

Teign Gorge loop

There are plenty of photo worthy viewpoints along the loop, starting off with Sharp Tor and its stunning view along the valley across to the high moorlands of Dartmoor.

Teign River Valley

Sharp tor

What I love about this walk, is how the high part of the trail, and the lush valley are so different. Once you descend to Fingle Bridge, you follow the River Teign for 1.5 miles. The River is especially stunning during Spring and Autumn, and if you like wild swimming, there are several "pools".

Fingle Bridge

River Teign

River Teign

Wild swimming pool by foot bridge & Salmon leap

After you cross the River Teign via the footbridge (if you took the trail along the southern bank), you gradually climb your way back up to Castle Drogo, passing Hunter's tor. In late October the Autumn hues and patchwork of fields from this viewpoint are hard to beat.

View from Hunter's tor as a rain storm moves in

Roof of Dartmoor

Whilst Dartmoor does have some wonderful lush valleys, the real meat and bones are the high moors and tors. The moors are where you head for a feeling of true wilderness, but watch out for the Hound of the Baskervilles!. The moors were the inspiration for the famous Sherlock Holmes novel, and "Hound tor" pays homage to this.

Hound tor

The moorland around Hound tor

Hound tor medieval village

There are very few towns/villages on Dartmoor (further leading to its sense of wilderness), but one village really stands out, and that is Widecombe in the Moor. Although often busy in summer due to being a great hub for many walks, it is highly worth a visit to visit the stunning church, village green and National Trust building.

Widecombe in the Moor Church Yard

The NT Church House

No visit to Widecombe in the Moor is complete without a short walk "down" the hill (0.25 mile) to the wonderful Rugglestone Inn. This picture perfect pub has a wonderful garden to relax and refuel in after a walk on the moors.

Essential information

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