In the Gutter: Dartmoor – 29/08/2020

An early morning start saw Emily and I heading to Dartmoor before the bank holiday crowds. Taking the car through the smallest of country lanes to get to Gutter Tor car park we were thrilled (and a little relieved) to be out on such a clear and crisp morning with miles of moorland more or less to ourselves.

Gutter Tor

We started our hike with the eponymous Gutter Tor, tracing the path up the hill to the exposed granite stack. The sky was clear and blue and at the top the wind whirled around us as we took in the views for miles. Walking a little further we reached the trig point where the full majesty of the region was clear to us – views stretching out to sea and across Plymouth Sound to our south and our north was bordered by the mighty Sheepstor with Burrator reservoir snaking around it below. Soaking up these views on our own was absolute perfection.

Views out to sea

We ambled south, passing fell runners before exploring the site of Eastern Tor. Not very impressive when compared to Gutter Tor, as it is small and strewn across a wide area. Still, it was another tor for us and it did give us some elevated views of our next spot: Ditsworthy Warren house…

Ditsworthy Warren House

Now this is a very cool place. Cool enough for Stephen Spielberg to use it for his base of operations and major film set for Dartmoor scenes in Warhorse. It is intact but abandoned, with crumbling outbuildings and grounds giving an overall feel that is more ruined than the main building actually is. It is in the middle of nowhere and honestly for such a cool little Dartmoor spot I’m amazed I’ve never been there before. We shared the grounds with ponies and cows while we rested, giving the place animal farm vibes like nowhere else – we were the intruders in this place now. Originally it was used by the largest commercial rabbit warren in England before being abandoned in 1947. Still standing today, it will be somewhere I will come back to for sure!

Sharing the space with the locals

Leaving the warren we headed further back in time, crossing bogs on the way to Drizzlecombe, a location littered with Neolithic and Bronze Age history. In short succession we were surrounded by menhirs, stone rows and kistvaens – ancient tombs from 2500 years ago. We rested in the most prominent cairn, the Giant’s Basin, soaking in the history of millennia past. It’s incredible to think that this place was so important to prehistoric Britons and we still do not really know why! I’ve probably read too much fantasy over the years but I always spend the time imagining barrow wights just below the granite and soil. It’s a mystical place, that’s for sure.

Two Menhirs (standing stones) marking the stone row

Our final stop, before fording the boggy water of the river Plym to return to the carpark, was Whittenkowles Rocks. Another broken tor and the remains of a Bronze Age and Medieval settlement. On first look it wasn’t much to look at, but after looking a little closer it became clear how interesting a place it was. The site has over 30 ancient hut circles and a medieval longhouse. A brilliant end to a stunning walk as, once again, we were reminded of just how much there is to see at our local National Park.

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Clear day across Dartmoor