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Dartmoor National Park is on our doorstep. We live in East Devon, just one hour’s drive from the sweeping vistas of Dartmoor in South West England, one of the UK’s renowned beauty spots. And yet, it took us four years to actually visit Dartmoor and even longer to really start exploring it. Now we’ve spent some time getting to know the national park, we can’t get enough of the various Dartmoor hiking trails and I wanted to write about one we did recently which took us from Princetown to Fox Tor and back in a circular route.
The lockdown in the UK has eased slightly over the past few weeks and we’re now allowed to drive to places nearby for unlimited amounts of exercise, as opposed to the one hour a day we were allowed previously. When this new rule came into effect, we knew we’d be taking advantage of the Dartmoor hiking trails on our doorstep, albeit in a responsible manner.
We decided to steer clear of the popular tourist hotspots like Houndstor and Haytor, as we knew these would be busy and instead opted for a lesser known area and a hike on footpaths that were bound to be less busy.
Princetown to Fox Tor Hike
The route and scenery
We opted for a 10-ish mile hike starting at Princetown and heading down to Whiteworks, the location of an old disused tin mine. We’d then planned to hike across Fox Tor Mires to Childe’s Tomb, up to Fox Tor and over to Nun’s Cross Farm before heading back along the road to Princetown.
The scenery on this hike is beautiful with vast rolling hills and open plains. You can really get a sense of how rugged Dartmoor is as you look out across the untouched landscape. And what’s more, this is one of the lesser known spots on Dartmoor, so if you want to avoid people (social distancing!), this is a great spot to enjoy nature to yourself.
You’ll likely spot some typical wild Dartmoor ponies too, which is always a bonus!
I’d say this route is a fairly easy one, as long as you’re comfortable with the distance. The route is mostly flat, with only a short incline up to Fox Tor. A great one for beginners or more seasoned hikers looking for a leisurely stroll.
If you’d like to reduce the distance, you can park at Whiteworks and start your walk from there. This will cut about 5.5 miles from your hike, reducing the distance to approximately 4.5 miles.
Difficulty rating – 2/5
As mentioned above, if you want to opt for the shorter route, you can park for free at Whiteworks as shown on the below map.
Or, if opting for the full 10-mile route, you can park behind the visitor centre and The Old Police Station Cafe in Princetown. This is a pay and display parking area, so make sure you have change ready for the machine.
Parking at Princetown, we made for Whiteworks via Tor Royal Lane and followed the lane around to the right when you come to Tor Royal, a guesthouse and wedding venue. Follow the road all the way to the end where you’ll come across two houses and a parking area.
From here, following a suggested route we found in a book at home, we decided it was a good idea to traverse the notorious Fox Tor Mires to reach Childe’s Tomb but halfway across the mires, we realised this was a very bad decision! They’re called the Fox Tor Mires for a reason, guys! After jumping over a stream twice and having Jamie’s entire leg disappear into the mud (!!), the ground was getting boggier by the minute and we understood the stories about Fox Tor Mires being able to swallow a horse whole was undoubtedly true. It hadn’t rained for weeks and still the ground was seriously boggy and sucking our boots into the liquid peat. So we made our way back to the safety of the public footpath as quickly as we could.
Fun fact: It was, in fact, this very mire that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write about the Grimpen Mires, the fictional lair of the infamous hound in the Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Following the path, we eventually came to a semi-steep but short incline which led up to Fox Tor. At this point, we decided to skip Childe’s Tomb and head straight up the hill to the tor to enjoy the view from the top with a cup of coffee and some snacks. Whenever we do a hike together, Jamie always brings his gas stove, camping mugs and some coffee so we can stop and have a hot cup of coffee at a nice viewpoint. And on this occasion, Fox Tor was the perfect location for a pitstop.
From Fox Tor, we could see a small cottage on the hill to the left of Whiteworks. This was Nun’s Cross Farm, our next location on the map. This part of the hike is fairly easy as the path follows the hillside towards the farm and as the ground is high, it’s also dry under foot.
Once we reached Nun’s Cross Farm, it was an easy walk along the well-marked path back to the road and along the road back to Princetown.
We really enjoyed this easy Dartmoor hike, especially after two months of lockdown and being confined to our small town. We both love Dartmoor and there are endless possibilities for day, weekend or even long-distance multi-day hikes, but if you’re looking for an easy ramble through untouched countryside, this would be a great hike to start on.