Miles Without Stiles: Shipley Bridge to Avon Dam (linear)

Grade:Easy Easy, 4 km / 2.5 miles, 70 m total ascent

This walk does not enter any of the Military Firing Ranges.

Route Special Concerns:

This is a lovely gentle walk, suitable for all abilities including families with young children and those with limited mobility. Starting at the Shipley Bridge Car Park, where there are toilets and sometimes a refreshment trailer, you will head northward on a tarmac road (not used by the public) alongside the wonderful River Avon. The road is well surfaced throughout (with the occasional pothole to look out for!) and is only used by South West Water vehicles accessing the waterworks and dam – so it is always very quiet. The road continues all the way to Avon Dam where you will turn around and return via the same route.

This route is wheelchair and pushchair friendly. Should the weather worsen significantly during your trip, you can always turn around as this is a linear route. After heavy rain, parts of the tarmac road can be wet and, in parts, occasionally slippery, so take care.

This is also an accessible route; check out Miles Without Stiles.

Firing Ranges: 

This walk does not enter any of the Military Firing Ranges.


If the refreshment trailer is at the Shipley Bridge Car Park (usually during summer and spring/autumn weekends) you can grab an ice cream, cake or drink there, but if not, the nearest town with eateries is South Brent, which you will need to drive to. There are toilets at the main car park including a disabled toilet with baby changing facilities.

Route Description:

  1. The car park here was once the site of the South Dartmoor clay industry, with a number of pits located behind on the hillside; part of the Brentmoor China Clay Works. A second industrial venture was where peat was transported down the Zeal Tor Tramway to the naphtha works as evidenced by the unsightly granite columns above you. Leave the car park taking the gravel track passing the toilets. Join the tarmac road and continue northward. Quite quickly, you begin to discover the delights of the river to your right; a stunning waterfall in Shipley Gorge which can be roaring after heavy rainfall. After this look out to your left and notice a small, oddly shaped granite rock. This is called The Hunters’ Stone and was noted way back in 1892 by John Lloyd Warden Page to commemorate members of the South Devon Hunt. You will notice many names inscribed; see Tors of Dartmoor for more.
  2. Ignore the left fork and keep right signposted Avon Dam. The road continues to run adjacent to the river. A delightful set of rapids across huge sheets of granite can be seen, often a popular picnic spot, as well as numerous rock basins. Passing between two large gateposts (there is a gate here) keep an eye out to your left. A granite outcrop, nestled within the trees of Whisky-and-Soda Wood, is crowned by a pedestal. This is in memory of a little girl called Mary Meynell, who died in 1863 of tonsillitis and laryngitis. She was only 4 when she tragically passed away. Please refer to Tors of Dartmoor for the detailed story.
  3. Ahead the left-hand side of the road becomes an open field, within which are the foundations of the once grand Brentmoor House. This dwelling has long since been abandoned after it was destroyed in 1968.
  4. The road pursues its northward course and crosses over the River Avon on a concrete bridge. Briefly we lose sight of the river as it makes a grand curve to the west, but ahead is open moorland and we find ourselves wandering up this sheltered moorland valley. To the right are a couple of picnic benches perfect for a stop. Otherwise the road runs closer to the river again and we come across an unusual building. This is the pump house and there is also a weir here.
  5. The stretch of river to our left is known as ‘Long-a-Traw’ and is simply beautiful, with its mixture of oaks, granite boulders and lichens. We cross over Small Brook which passes under the road through pipes, and as we round the corner the massive dam looms.
  6. At a track junction keep left on the road and cross over the Avon again at Ryders Ford (on a bridge) and make your way to the foot of the dam. Avon Dam is Dartmoor’s second-newest reservoir that was built in 1957, only succeeded by Meldon Reservoir in 1972; it provides drinking water for the communities of the South Hams. The reservoir is not particularly large but upon completion it did submerge a prehistoric settlement and a blowing house at Brockhill Foot.
  7. OPTION: Retrace to the last track junction and, if you’re feeling able, turn sharp left and ascend the bumpy track up to the same level as the top of the dam. This is well worth the effort because you are rewarded with sublime views of the lake stretching off in the distance. Retrace once again to the track junction and turn left onto the tarmac road.
  8. On the road keeping your back to the dam return to the car park. While it might be the same route back there are different views to enjoy, including up to the sentinel peaks of Black Tor, first, and then Shipley Tor.

We hope you enjoyed this DarteWalk!

Map may take a few seconds

Dartefacts to visit: 12