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Walk on Hound Tor, Dartmoor, Devon
I am very fortunate to live in the Dartmoor National Park, amongst some of the prettiest scenery in the UK (although, as I write this, it is blanketed in mist!). Rather than keep all our wonderful walks to ourselves, I'd like to share them with you. After all, they are free, and how often can you say that about anything in life these days. It will not cost you a bean to read about some of these trails, but it gives me immense pleasure to write about them. So we all win.
Taking a walk on the Moors puts your heart rate up a bit (quite a bit on some walks), so you'll be getting a bit of excercise and burning a few calories whilst letting all that wonderful scenery and fresh air lift your spirits.
Hound Tor Slide ShowClick thumbnail to view full-size
Dartmoor is formed by ancient volcanic activity and comprises igneous rocks, such as granite. The covering soil is shallow and peaty, so can get boggy when it rains, which it does alot in the south west. Donning a good sturdy pair of boots is a great idea before trekking off, and an Ordnance Survey Map is a must (I particularly like the Landranger Series, as they show all the small details). It's pretty easy to get lost on the Moors; you can see why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loved it so much (Hound of the Baskervilles).
Hound Tor is one of the more easily recognised Tors on Dartmoor, as it has two large and distinct outcrops of rock on its peak (not to be confused with Hay Tor, whose twin peaks are more pointy). It's not too difficult a walk to do, but you can easily extend the walk to include some of the surrounding footpaths if you like a challenge and want to make life more difficult for yourself.
It's probably easiest to begin from Moretonhampstead, Gateway to The High Moor. From the town centre, take the B3213 towards Two Bridges and Princetown, past the Miniature Pony Centre (Ithink it's the ponies who are miniature, not the centre) and Bovey Castle Hotel. Continue along this road until you see a left hand road, signed to Manaton. This is watching Place Cross.
Hound Tor Manaton
Ghost of Watching Place Cross
Watching Place Cross itself has an interesting story. It is an eerie place, so if you're easily spooked, try to be off the Moor before dusk. There appear to be two main reasons for the odd name of this junction. The first is that Watching Place Cross was the site of a gibbet (which is true), where a person would be designated to watch the hanged bodies to ensure that they were not stolen for use in black magic. The second story tells that there was a cottage close by where the family succumbed to the Plague. Villagers put food outside for them and watched to see if it was taken. When the food was left alone, villagers knew the family had perished and burnt the place to the ground.
From time to time a figure is seen at Watching Place Cross, heavily muffled against the cold, standing and watching as if in a state of mourning. If you see them don't stop to give them a lift. Others have tried and been terrified.....
The Hound of the Baskervilles
You will pass a few houses at a place called Heatree. The manor house here (Heatree House) was chosen by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as the setting for his book, The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Hall is now an outdoor activity centre for education.
Continue straight along this road for a few miles, ignoring any other turnings. Parts of this road are very narrow, with passing places. As you get closer to Hound Tor it is signposted, and crossing another cattle grid tells you that there are animals on the loose, so you're likely to find sheep and Dartmoor Ponies on the road, and it's the done thing to let the animals have right of way on the moors, even if you have to wait - enjoy the scenery!
Continue to follow the signs to Hound Tor, and park in the car park, where there is usually a snack van called The Hound of the Basket Meals.
The Tor is in plain sight from the car park, and the peak is probably a quarter mile gentle walk. Once at the top, there are spectacular views all around, and you can settle for a stroll around the rocky outcrops, have a picnic, or climb to the top of one of them. You could search around the rocks to see if you can find a letterbox if you're into that collecting/cataloguing/orienteering kind of thing, which I've detailed in my Hub, Hiking in the Dartmoor National Park.
- Dartmoor Hiking Store - Essential Hiking Equipment
Stock up on essential equipment before you set foot on the Moor
- Ring of Bells North Bovey
Ancient thatched pub with great food
- Stone Circle. Mardon Down. Dartmoor
Visit this ancient, mysterious site
- Hiking in the Dartmoor National Park
Some of the best hiking
If you stand with your back to hound Tor Rocks, and the snack van, proceed down the hill, passing the site of the medieval settlement on your left. Follow the bridlepath signs downhill, through a gate and into a gently wooded area. This path often has quite a few loose rocks strewn around, so you need to watch your footing, but it brings you to a stream, Becka Brook, which is forded by an ancient granite bridge.
Cross over the bridge and up the hill the other side. This is quite a steep mud path scattered with granite boulders, forming a natural causeway. Once you are though this wooded area, the path clearly veers to your left and runs through open moorland at the foot of Black Hill. After half a mile or so, you reach the country lane. Take a left through the houses, Leighon, and up the narrow tarmacked lane. This part of the walk is quite steep, but levels out as you near the Hound Tor car park again. The entire walk is fairly short, around three miles, but the views make it well worthwhile.
The snack van does good ice creams and hot drinks, as well as other snacks, so you can replenish all those calories burned if you need to.
Visit this online store for essential hiking gear. Click here to see the products.