Medium, 7.5 km / 4.7 miles, 213 m total ascent
This walk enters the following Military Firing Ranges: Merrivale
Route Special Concerns:
This walk is quite strenuous in places and does involve taking at least two compass bearings even in clear conditions. Some of the terrain is difficult and pathless, so you will need sturdy footwear. There is also one river crossing excluding the bridge near the end; you will need to ensure this walk is undertaken after a dry spell or else the stepping stones at Travellers’ Ford will be impassable. This route is not wheelchair or pushchair friendly.
This walk enters the Merrivale Firing Range. Please check Live Firing times before setting out!
The starting point is the fair-sized car park at Holming Beam which is one of the moor’s best car parks in my opinion. It enables the ramber to get fairly deep into the moor without getting out of their vehicle and the views of the Cowsic are just wonderful. There is no cafe, sadly, but Princetown is nearby where you have a choice of a number of eateries, not least the Fox Tor Cafe, Old Police Station and Plume of Feathers – all of these are listed on this site.
- Leave the car park by taking the military track northward, keeping the plantation to your left. Even when this ends, continue along the track until it turns 90 degrees right opposite a gate and stile. If you look on the north side of the gate, you will see a boundary stone that is one of numerous markers in this area of the moor denoting the land that is owned by Dartmoor Prison; DCP stands for Director of Convict Prisons.
- At the right turn, you will need to turn half right so that you are heading away from both the wire fence on the left and the track on the right. The ground here is rough in places with small pools and holes making it tricky, but it is not long until you cross the track again. Continuing in the same direction, you will begin to drop down into Holming Beam Bottom, a lovely little valley that provides respite from the exposed hilltop above. This is the location of one of the Dartmoor 365 squares, so you can tick it off now!
- Cross the stream and head in the direction of Broad Hole, north of here, which can be seen ahead. There are a couple of tracks in this vicinity and it is hoped that you will find one of them because it will make the journey to the Hole much easier.
- Broad Hole is the epitome of the high moor. It is enclosed yet exposed, and a lush valley that opens out from the south. It is the meeting place of the Cowsic River and Conies Down Water, and is historically significant as the place where the Lych Way crosses that former river. You will see stepping stones down to your right which you will need to safely cross, but be careful as they can be slippery! It should also be heeded that on the other side a nice feather bed is there to greet you, so be attentive with your footing. If you wish to bag another 365 square, head upstream for a short distance to come to Travellers’ Ford, an enigmatic place that would have witnessed the dead who would have been carried all the way to Lydford.
- Your attention should be drawn to an elongated cluster of granite wedged within the newtake wall just to the south of here which is the next point of interest. These rocks have been spoken of as both Broad Hole Rocks and Beardown Corner Rocks. Beardown Corner is, as its name suggests, where the newtake wall makes an abrupt right turn.
- Now, at the wall corner, you will need to take a compass bearing to the 526m spot height which is known as Methern Hill, yet the name is not shown on Ordnance Survey Maps. Your bearing should see you locate a track that runs roughly in line with your direction of travel, and after ascending the steep valley side you should arrive at a pool on the plateau. It is a bit of a depressing place, to be honest, as there is little to whet the appetite other than taking in the thrilling vista and claiming a Bog Hoppers’ peak!
- After you have taken your photos (because, let’s admit it, you won’t be returning in a hurry), take another compass bearing, this time for Lydford Tor which lies to the south. The tor cannot be seen from here but it soon emerges over the brow of the hill as you approach. Just before reaching the tor, scale a huge wooden stile in the wall.
- Lydford Tor is a lovely tor and you should spend some time soaking up the vistas, as well as perhaps taking a snack. On the summit of the tor is a logan stone, a rather flat one, and on the east side a small rock shelter.
- From Lydford Tor head for Beardown North Tor, finding the track between the two. As tors go the North Tor of the Beardown four is perhaps the best, for while it is not the highest it covers a huge area spilling down the side of the hill opposing the Longaford Tors. The view of Crow Tor and Fox Holes is stunning.
- From the North Tor head south to the East Tor, capped by its conspicuous flagpole. The views of Wistman’s Wood capture your eyes here, and once again you should sit down and admire the views. On the west side of this tor, you might stumble upon the hidden military telephone point.
- Beardown West Tor is next, but head to the right of it at first to visit the two military firing range huts. This tor is the highest of the Beardown group and is somewhat conical in appearance, offering superb views of the Cowsic valley. The geology here (if you’re into that kind of thing) is interesting.
- Finally, as if you hadn’t visited enough tors already (!), head to the often forgotten Little Tor, a much smaller tor but nonetheless warranting attention. It presents its best side from the west. From here head north a little before turning left onto a wide, grassy track that descends to the Cowsic where a footbridge allows for you to cross without getting wet feet.
- It is a short but steep ascent to the Holming Beam track where you head due west to rejoin your route from earlier by the boundary stone. Alternatively, just after the footbridge, you can take the shorter track to the left that cuts the corner to the car park, but this is quite boggy in places. It is entirely your decision! Don’t forget to tick-off those Dartmoor 365 items and Dartefacts once you get home!