Yealmpton to Ivybridge  Back to Devon Coast-to-Coast index Dartmeet to Chagford

The Walk

This is where, for the first time, you reach first class walking country.

Dartmoor is a land of wide open spaces, gentle gradients, firm terrain, glorious views and few people. In contrast to the rather bitty walk from Plymouth to Ivybridge, this is a place where you can really stride out and feel the miles melting away under your boots. The moor is not hazardous as long as you don't undertake the walk in wet or misty weather. Today's walk, which reaches the centre of the moor at Dartmeet, initially follows the Two Moors Way, most of which lies along the trackbed of an old mineral railway. Then it strikes out along an ancient and rather ill-defined path, the Abbot's Way, before climbing Puper's Hill. From there a glorious ridge walk lies ahead as far as Ryder's Hill, from where you walk northeastwards to drop down to the road at Comberstone Tor, and then take the footpath down to Dartmeet in the valley just below.

The key to today's walk, if you're relying on public transport, is the bus service out of Dartmeet (in 2002 this service is scheduled to run on summer Sundays, and daily mid-July to mid-August, see timetable link below). An early start from Ivybridge is advisable and you should certainly be on the trail by 9.30am. If you're backpacking then remember that there are no campsites and no B&B at Dartmeet. A second point to bear in mind is that the walk crosses the West Dart, just short of Dartmeet, by a set of stepping stones. This crossing might be hazardous, or even impossible, if the river is in spate after heavy rain or thawing snow. A detour via Hexworthy to circumvent the obstacle would add nearly an hour to your journey. But, in high summer and under blue skies, there is nothing to worry about. The walk is pure joy.

Walk Statistics:
Length: 14.72 miles / 23.7 km
Total ascent: 2003 ft / 610 m
Total descent: 1434 ft / 437 m
Estimated time: 5 hrs 16 mins

Map:  OS 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure 28 (Dartmoor)

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The walk begins from yesterday's finishing point, where the shopping arcade joins the high street. When I was there in 1995 the street was being repaved and was one large building site, but by now it should look very smart. Walk northwards until you reach the bridge over the Earme, on your right; cross it, and turn immediately left again, following the road uphill past a school and through a residential area, until you come to the bridge over the railway. The new station is a few minutes' walk to your right.

The boundary of Dartmoor National Park lies immediately north of the railway. Follow the Harford lane a little way until you reach Stowford, where a Two Moors Way marker directs you to an unmade lane to the right. Turn immediately left again onto a track that leads uphill, through trees. After another five hundred yards you reach a gate and stile and beyond you lies wild, open country.

Ivybridge;   Addiscombe Hill;   gate to open country

Butterdon Hill

Three tracks lead away from the gate. Take the middle one, leading north east. After about 400 yards it converges with a substantial track, the remains of the old mineral line that served the china clay works at the head of the Earme, about nine kilometers to the north. The views are already substantial. The valley of the Earme lies down to your left, while the first moorland summits of Western Beacon and Butterdon Hill rise to your right. The ridge walk that takes in these summits makes an adventurous alternative to the track, if you prefer it. Many miles to the north east you may catch a glimpse of a prominent rocky tor; this is Eastern White Barrow, currently some six miles away, a landmark that will remain in view almost all day.

Plymouth from Addiscombe Hill;  South Hams

The old railway trackbed, which you now follow, loops around the western shoulder of Butterdon Hill, gaining height all the time. The walking here is effortless and the views are glorious. A mile further on the track reaches the ridge south of Piles Hill and then goes on to cross it. Ugborough Moor lies beyond.

Ugborough Moor

Piles Hill from Ugborough Moor

Plymouth from Ugborough Moor;  telephoto view of Plymouth;  Three Barrows

Ugborough Moor, a stretch of moorland actually indistinguishable from the rest of Dartmoor, lies just south of the prominent summit of Three Barrows. When I did this walk in July 1995 I left the old railway at this point and walked up to the summit of Three Barrows, named for the three rocky outcrops that stand on the crest of the rise.

Three Barrows

View eastwards;  summit of Three Barrows;  Harford Combe

Walk northwest, roughly towards the BBC radio mast at North Hessary Tor (which should be in view by now), to regain the tramway just short of the lake at Leftlake Mires.

Earme Plains

Earme Plains from Three Barrows;  Leftlake Mires;  Earme Plains trackbed

You are now entering what was formerly a complex of china clay quarries at the head of the Earme valley. You pass a body of water to the right of the track, Leftlake Mires, a filled-in clay pit. Remains of buildings and processing works can be seen here and there. North of the lake, the tramway loops around the shoulder of a nameless hill before curving back along the eastern edge of the formless, flat bowl of Earme Plains itself.

Western White Barrow

As the path swings through north, at grid reference 653649, leave the tramway to the right and climb diagonally uphill. In about three hundred yards you should arrive at the summit of Western White Barrow and the bed of another old tramway, known as Zeal Tor; this tramway is, however, far less obvious and has pretty well reverted to virgin moorland. Follow this path northwestwards off the summit. In about five hundred yards, just before the main Earme Plains tramway comes back into view, you should notice a faint path crossing east-west. Turn right and follow this path, the Abbot's Way, to the east. If you miss the path it's no great problem; just turn east before you reach the steepest part of the downhill slope.

Last view of Plymouth;  the path to Huntingdon Cross

Huntingdon Cross

The path now starts to descend to the east, towards the head of the Avon valley. The hill to the north, or your left, is Huntingdon Warren. East of that is Pupers Hill. If you missed the path off Western White Barrow you should soon pick it up again, as it descends towards the tiny Avon at a clapper bridge.

Huntingdon brook;  the clapper bridge

Cross the bridge and follow the north banks of the stream for a few hundred yards. The bridge might appear to be a tempting lunch stop, but every insect in a five mile radius also has the same idea. Press on to Huntingdon Cross, where the valley turns south east and is joined by another stream coming down between Huntingdon Warren and Pupers Hill. The remains of an ancient settlement can be found nearby. Huntingdon Cross makes an excellent lunch stop. (It might also make an ideal wild campsite, but don't tell anyone I said so. In particular you should avoid polluting the streams hereabouts as the Avon is run into a water supply reservoir a mile downstream).

Huntingdon brook;  the crossing point

Pupers Hill

After you finish your lunch cross the side stream and walk uphill, roughly northeastwards, to reach the ridge south of Pupers Hill. The ridge itself is named Hiccaton Hill but there is no seperate summit. Turn northwards and make your way to the prominent cairn at the top of Pupers Hill. You have now left the official course of the Two Moors Way.

The summit cairn on Pupers Hill

Once again the views are little short of amazing. The rocky tors (granite outcrops, for our non-UK readers) of Eastern White Barrow, which have been in view for most of the day, now lay about two miles to the south. The Dart valley is coming into view to the north and east, while beyond it is an impressive array of hills and tors surrounding the village of Widecombe, most notably Haytor. Two principal objectives of tomorrow's walk, Laughter Tor and Bellever Tor, can be seen slightly west of north. Your route now lies in this direction. Keep to the top of the ridge - it's as simple as that. The map shows no path but a faint track is appearing and will become more prominent as hikers discover what an excellent ridge this is.


View southeast from Snowdon

View north from Snowdon;  the ridge to Ryders Hill;  eastwards to Buckfast

Snowdon is the next top on the ridge, about a kilometer north northwest of Pupers Hill. Veer to the northwest now and continue along the easy ridge towards Ryders Hill, the highest point of today's walk.

Ryders Hill

At 515 meters, (roughly 1700 feet), Ryders Hill is the highest point of the southeastern sector of Dartmoor. The views, as you would expect, are all-encompassing. The Dart valley is now the most prominent feature; the West Dart, with its landscape of woods and pastures, is particularly beautiful and the view of it improves as you descend to Comberstone Tor.

Summit of Ryders Hill;  retrospective view of Snowdon

The next section needs some careful navigation. You're heading for Holne Ridge, to your north east. There is no path. My advice is to head initially north, for two or three hundred yards, until you come to an earth bank (obviously artificial but not marked on the map). Now start heading north east. Occasional traces of path appear, only to peter out again. You also pass a number of standing stones, obviously erected as markers of some kind. Holne Ridge, being a convex slope, hides the road at its foot until you're quite a way down. Once the slope starts to steepen veer around to the north again. If you hit it right, the car park at Comberstone Tor should come suddenly into view, a mile to the north. The descent, on pathless short grass, is easy and delightful.

Bellever and Dart Valley from Holne Ridge

Comberstone Tor

It's quite likely that you'll have seen few, if any, people all day. Arriving at Comberstone Tor, then, is likely to be a rude awakening as the place gets crowded on summer afternoons. But the crowds are more than compensated for by the grandeur of the rock formations. If you've seen the film "Picnic at Hanging Rock" then Comberstone might seem eerily familiar, though it's actually much smaller in scale.

Comberstone Tor;  West Dart from the tor;  Comberstone Lane

Pick your way among the granite outcrops and the gorse bushes in a northwesterly direction, where you'll soon pick up the footpath leading down into Dartmeet. The path swings north, ambles through pastures alongside Comberstone house and between stone walls, then descends through an area of boulder-strewn open woodland to reach the stepping stones over the West Dart.

Comberstone wood;  West Dart stepping stones;  West Dart


And so you arrive at Dartmeet, a place of supreme beauty, the meeting place of the East and West Dart rivers, a playground of water, rock, trees and pastures. There's a large and busy car park here and it's a bit of a tourist trap, but the beauty of the scenery more than compensates. There's also one of the best coffee shops in England waiting at the end of the walk; Badgers Holt, at the north end of the car park.

Badgers Holt, Dartmeet;  Dartmeet Bridge

busBus service 172, Totnes - Newton Abbott - Dartmeet - Tavistock, 2002 timetable for summer Sundays and bank holidays, and weekdays mid July to late August

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Yealmpton to Ivybridge  Back to Devon Coast-to-Coast index Dartmeet to Chagford

This page last updated 17th May 2005