Section 1 - Ivybridge to Buckfastleigh – The Dartmoor Way
Distance : 16.3 miles - Moderate Grade Walking with two steep climbs onto and back off the Moor today - what these grades mean
This day can be split at South Brent after 7 miles if you want a shorter walk - see the options tab.
Summary : A great introduction to Dartmoor with two climbs to and from the moorland and your first Tor. In between the walk drops to the woodlands on the edge of the moor and includes a stunning trek to and beyond the Avon Damn reservoir on the high moor.
The official start of the Dartmoor Way circle starts by the bridge that gave the town its’ name - the 13th Century Ivy Bridge which sits, still with its Ivy, above the gushing waters of the River Erme at the base of the moor. Leaving the town, pass the long disused paper mills as you climb steeply to the very edge of the moor and the Dartmoor National Park entrance sign. It’s a lung busting ascent on the bridleway to the open moor at Harford Moor - the Tor at Western Beacon looking down wistfully as you inch towards it from below. You briefly share the trail with the Two Moors Way route here, a Devon coast to coast long distance path that heads across Dartmoor whilst you head round. The trails split when you reach the old Redlake Railway which ran for 8 miles into the Moor in the early 20th Century to help with the extraction of China Clay. Now it is a great base for walking along the moor and it contours below the tor at Western Beacon through bracken and stunted bushes and occasional piles of quarry stone. Of course everyone should try to divert the short distance UP to Western Beacon and explore the tors, cairns and quarries along with the best views over the South Devon Coastline which is laid out below you. As the closest tor to the A38 corridor, it is one you will easily spot again if in the future you are visiting this end of Devon or Cornwall.
You descend back off the Moor as you approach the village of Bittaford, with its huge viaduct that literally slices the village in two. There is a refreshment options here at the Horse and Groom pub before returning up the moor again, though this time on a dead end lane which passes at one point the old Plymouth Asylum (now Moorhaven village.)
You can divert for a quick look at the impressive buildings (now flats) and grassy grounds and fine views from a location clearly picked to be as remote as possible from the centre of Plymouth. More steep climbing and then suddenly the moor is back in all its glory with the two peaks of Butterdon Hill and Ugborough Beacon looming above you.
On a flatter area below the hills is the surreal sight of Wrangaton Golf Club, a bizarre golf course with gorse lined bunkers, huge views off the moor, open moorland broken up by the greens, and patches of moorland marsh and boulder litter. The result is a real end of the world feel to the landscape here, and if I was going to play golf, then this would be where I would do it and the Dartmoor Way takes your right through the action.
Leaving the golf behind you drop once again off the moor, this time onto back lanes, with easy walking through pleasant Devon hamlets like Cheston, past the nature reserve at Ladys Wood and then through lush sections of farmland and river meadow, before reaching the outskirts of the town of South Brent at Lydia Bridge.
Although the Dartmoor Way does not pass through it, South Brent, one of the larger settlements on the route, is a nice diversion of around 1/2 mile along the bubbling river Avon to see the striking town at the end with its impressive church and several eating and drinking options.