It’s January, it’s chilly, it’s windy and it’s a beautiful day to hike around Dartmoor.
This year I want to see more of my local area as well as get back into hiking again. I’m not the fittest, the most experienced hiker or an adventure leader. Just an amateur who love a good hike. Both of us used to be part of the Explorer Scouts and started completing our Duke of Edinburgh awards. Since we finished at Explorers, hiking has not been something we’ve kept our hand in with. So what a better way to get out there and explore Devon by getting out on Dartmoor.
Joe and I decided to go to a part of Dartmoor that we were familiar with, Haytor. I plotted a route on the ViewRanger app and downloaded it so I could use it offline. Which was great. It’s easy to plot the routes or you can use other people routes that they share with the public. Then when you are out hiking you can track your hike. The GPS will show you the route you’re on as you walk it. It also shows you information on your speed, elevation of the route and the time it takes you to complete your hike. Alongside our paper map of Dartmoor, this app complimented it well in my opinion.
Kitted out with our key hiking kit: Walking boots, waterproofs, maps, woolly hats and a flask of tea, we headed out. It was a cold, crisp afternoon, parking and starting our hike at Haytor (at the top car park). One thing to remember when you are going to a hike is to be prepared for anything that might happen, and let someone know where you will be heading, no matter how long or short the hike may be.
We headed past Haytor and followed the footpath towards the Haytor Quarry. The quarry is one of my favourite little areas of Dartmoor. No matter the season its waters are still and I believe it is a wild swimming spot (I’m not 100% sure on that fact).
Smallacombe Rocks and Holwell Tor
Heading through the Quarry and out towards Smallacombe Rocks. We continued to follow the footpath straight ahead. Dartmoor has hundreds of footpaths for you to follow, so make sure to follow them! It helps to preserve the moors and the habitats there.
The climbers/boulderers within myself and Joe were itching to get climbing when we saw Smallacombe Rocks. The Tor was great to clamber all over, but also for beginner bouldering. Hopefully, if we can get our hands on a bouldering mat we will be back to practice. Here we stopped for a tea break as we were on a leisurely hike, getting back into the swing of it.
Packing up and heading back into the gales we headed towards Holwell Tor. Part of the path to this tor is the old Haytor Tramway.
This tramway was used to transport granite from the quarry to the canal. The original tramway stretched 10 miles and the plates that formed the tracks were made out of granite stone. After following the tramway for a short distance, we headed off up another footpath to the top of Holwell Tor. This one was a steep one. Parts of Dartmoor can be pretty steep, hiking up hills is not one of my favourite things to do. However just focusing on the top and don’t stop walking until I reach the top makes it much easier. The view from the top was fab. you could see miles of Dartmoor and spot the tors you are walking to next.
Emsworthy Rocks and Saddle Tor
The next destination on our hike was Emsworthy Rocks. These rocks are situated on the paths between Haytor and Saddle Tor. From these rocks, you have good views from every direction. You can even see Chinkwell Tor and Hound Tor if you look towards the west. It was rather windy up here so you’ll need to hold onto your hat.
Our final stop was Saddle Tor. Another of the popular and easily accessible Tors’ to visit. Saddle Tor is also well known to climbers. There are many clubs and courses which will teach you to boulder and climb on this tor if that’s something you fancy. We headed to the top of the Tor, found a slightly more sheltered bit for some more tea. The sun was shining on the rocks making the natural beauty of the area really shine. We finished up our walk by following the paths back down from Saddle Tor, and across to Haytor.
The route we took was about 5.5km. It took us a steady 1hr 43minutes to complete. There were some climbs, some decent, many icy patches and lots of soggy boggy patches! That’s what makes it so great, terrain that so versatile and will always give you a good and enjoyable challenge.
Dartmoor National Park has something for everyone. Beginner hikers such as ourselves can enjoy flatter, simple routes to get to grips with the hiking. The experienced hikers can go for miles across all kind of terrain as well as enjoy wild camping up on the moors too. Just remember to be prepared for the correct clothing kit, have suitable maps and navigation equipment, and take plenty of food and drink with you.
Whats your favourite hike across Dartmoor? We are already planning our next few hikes, it would be great to see where you like to visit and take some inspiration from you!
See you next time and happy adventuring!
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