There’s nothing like a good old country walk to blow out the cobwebs and get the joints going again. I love the feel of the Dartmoor moorland air blowing against my face and hair (even if I end up looking like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards). I’m here to tell you about a little walk on Dartmoor that I have always loved, that keeps you away from the masses that flock to Haytor every time the sun peeks out from behind a cloud.
A Very Brief Dartmoor History
It’s common knowledge that Dartmoor was mined and quarried back in the day, and those of us that live down here are lucky enough to live in our radioactive granite houses – my mum opens the windows to let the radiation out every day… Today Dartmoor is known for the granite tors that break through the surface of the rolling hills, attracting tourists, walkers, and climbers alike.
Haytor is probably the most famous tor on Dartmoor, and as I have mentioned, it gets very busy when the weather is nice. In the winter if and when it snows, families speedily make their way up there sledges in hand as the slopes make a perfect run. When I got home in February I went for a walk up to Haytor with a friend, and it was sitting in its own little microclimate of snow clouds.
The Perfect Walk on Dartmoor
However, for a different kind of walk that will probably take you about an hour and is perfect for dog walkers or those that don’t think they can take the hills, follow these instructions.
If you are driving towards Haytor from Bovey Tracey, you will drive past the Edgemoor Hotel and Colehayes Field Studies Centre and continue going. You will go over the cattle grid, and keep on going. You will twist and turn (taking moor care of the sheep, cows, and ponies on the road, obviously), and keep on going. You’ll see Haytor in front of you, but just before you turn the final corner to the car park that lies at the foot of the hills, you’ll want to turn right almost back on yourself up the hill next to you. Follow this road and you’ll come to a car park.
From here you can start to walk. Ooooh, look at the open moors around you, feel that fresh air, isn’t it refreshing? Stand and laugh at all the little people scrabbling up to Haytor, isn’t this better? Mwa haha. OK, back to walking. Follow the wide paths up the hill, and eventually you will be able to follow one to the left, that goes down the hill towards Haytor. You’ll amble through heather and bracken, but please make sure that you stick to the footpaths!
At the bottom of this hill, you’ll be able to see the old tracks for the mine carts that used to pull granite from the hidden quarry (we’ll get to that part in a minute) all the way down to Torquay. They’re still there because they are made from granite, duh. Cross over these tracks, and cross the ‘bridge’.
Ahead of you you’ll be able to see two heaps of granite boulders, almost in lines or high walls. There will be one to your right and one to you left. You want to bear towards the right one. Once you reach it, follow it up and you will find a gate actually set on top of the ‘wall’. This is the exciting bit!
The Quarry Haven
Go through this gate and follow the path, over the stile, to reveal the secret haven of the quarry. It can be either a little eerie or absolutely magical, depending on how you look at it. I think it’s awesome, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable being down there on my own! What was once a quarry is now a collection of ponds, lakes, trees, and perfect picnic spots if the weather is good! As it is below ground level, it’s partly protected from the high winds that Dartmoor is known for, and if the sun is out it’s glorious. This is a perfect spot for your dog to go for a dip! You’ll be able to find old pieces of mining evidence such as machinery and links in the rocks.
Walk around the base of the quarry, and you’ll see that on the other side the foothpath rises out of the basin and back onto the open moors, on the other side of the left hand wall of granite rocks. From here you can head back to the car.
On the way home, why not stop at Ullacombe Farm? It’s back over the cattle grid on the way to Bovey Tracey, on the right hand side. They have a great selection of local produce including fresh meat, but they also have a nice little restaurant and café selling homemade and local delicacies, including local beers and wine! I personally tucked into a cheese and chutney toastie, whereas my friend enjoyed a beef burger that he said was the nicest that he had eaten in a long time.
Are you a moorland wanderer? Ever been up to Dartmoor? Which is your favourite spot?