Medium, 10 km / 6.2 miles, 322 m total ascent
This walk does not enter any of the Military Firing Ranges.
Route Special Concerns:
This walk is quite strenuous in places, especially at the beginning with a lung-busting climb up to Brat Tor that is only suitable for the fit. However, due to the route back being on a nice, gently descending track, I have chosen ‘Moderate’ as a category; but, like all walks, this could easily be upgraded to Strenuous in mist, heavy rain, etc. This route is not wheelchair or pushchair friendly.
This walk does not enter any of the Military Firing Ranges.
The starting point is the fair-sized car park at High Down that requires you to drive up a stony track to a gate. The car park is not often full but an early start is always recommended. There are no pubs at the car park but two are nearby: the Fox and Hounds at Shortacombe and the Dartmoor Inn which is beside the entrance road to this car park. Both are highly recommended after a day’s Dartefacting!
- Leave the car park by passing through the gate at the north side and carry along the track, noticing soon to your left a memorial to a person named Stuart Thayre. Follow this track with the dominant tors of Arms and Brat to the River Lyd. Here, you have three options: take the footbridge on the left, use the stepping stones or wade through the ford. The ‘ford’ is the Dartmoor 365 item but if you want dry feet then the footbridge option might be best!
- Here, a few tracks head off in different directions. With Brat Tor on your right, take the footpath heading straight up to it, initially heading a little right. Passing between gorse and bracken this soon turns up left and you now begin the horrendously steep ascent to Brat Tor with its distinctive ‘Widgery Cross’, another 365 square. Please do take regular breaks to turn back to admire the views and catch your breath.
- The cross does disappear but soon reappears and once you have reached the tor give yourself a huge pat on the back. The views from here are incredible and embrace much of the western fringes of the high moor and out to Bodmin Moor and North Cornwall. The name of the tor is interesting but, it would seem, a complete misnomer. Hemery (1983) remarks that the OS’ invention is ‘absurd’ and should be Brai Tor or, as pronounced, Bray Tor. On the south side of the tor, there is an OS benchmark. The cross was erected to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and not only is the highest cross on Dartmoor but boasts the largest size, and unlike the traditional cross is composed of several blocks.
- Once you have taken a look for the benchmark and soaked up the vistas, you will need to head north-east in the direction of Great Links Tor which from here is clearly visible on the skyline. The grassy track takes you to a cairn pile of stones that marks the junction with the old peat track that runs between High Down Ford and Bleak House. Cross the peat track still in a north-easterly in the direction of Great Links Tor which briefly disappears. Negotiating a small clitter the tor reappears and so does a large prehistoric cairn just off to the right. From here head up to the tor.
- Great Links Tor is majestic, a tor of awesome proportions that graces the high north-west edge of Dartmoor. Not only is it high, at 586m above sea level, and another 365 square, but it is also a huge concentration of weathered granite outcrops that form a spine. The views are sensational and are among the finest in the South-West of England. The tor boasts a peat cutters’ boundstone, a trig point and a shelter on the north side. The Dartefacter is encouraged to visit all of these items.
- Leave Great Links Tor by heading northward on a grassy track, steep at first, before you gradually rise to the Rattlebrook Railway, your fourth 365 square. This railway once transported peat off the moor from nearby Rattlebrook Peatworks and evidence of peat ties occurs everywhere on Amicombe Hill. Turn left and follow the track and, where it rounds a bend, you may be interested in visiting a small lesser-known tor that is visible to your left. This was named Woodcock Tor by the Tors of Dartmoor team. If you decide to visit the small outcrop return to the railway.
- Gren Tor comes into view on the right but this is not en route as such (but by all means divert if you wish) and you come to the infant River Lyd. If you head below the bridge you will see that the river passes through a tube! Continue in a northerly and as the railway gently curves right look out for a grassy track heading down the hill to the left. Turn left and descend to meet the railway again where you will need to turn left again. (If you miss this turning don’t worry, simply follow the railway and turn sharp left at the hairpin.)
- With Great Nodden, aka ‘Plum-Pudding Hill’ ahead, you cross a lovely railway bridge. Here, you have the option to summit Great Nodden by taking the obvious path up to it, or you can simply follow the railway as it passes through a cutting. Views to the east disappear but those to the west are well worth taking in, of the arable fields of West Devon.
- As you emerge you come to a track junction where, had you ascended Great Nodden, you would have reached after descending it. If you have followed the railway turn right which, if you have approached from Great Nodden, is straight on. This will lead you on to Nodden Gate which you must pass through.
- Nodden Gate has a boundary stone marking the parish boundaries of Lydford and, presumably, Lands common to the Parishes of Bridestowe and Sourton. Immediately turn left through another gate and head alongside the wall to the right to reach a fine example of a granite stile.
- At this point, turn southward over the brow of Vale Down (or possibly Little Noddon) where the tall High Down Stile should come into view. Scale this and turn right along the track you walked at the very beginning of this route back to your car. Don’t forget to tick-off those Dartmoor 365 items and Dartefacts once you get home!