Looking over Burrator Reservoir – 14/07/2018

Another sunny summers day and another trip to Dartmoor, if you live in Devon you really can’t beat it when the weather is this good! Burrator Reservoir is one of those places on Dartmoor that is great to visit, but does get overcrowded at summer time. Very easy to access, with an easy walk around the outside, it is understandably popular with families. I can’t recommend it enough if you wish to go for a walk that is neither challenging or far from civilisation, but still wish to take in some of the more stunning countryside that the southwest of England has to offer. However, if you are a keen adventurer like me, it may seem a tad less appealing than some more remote locations. In reality though this couldn’t be farther from the truth, as I will explain! So when my friend and colleague MRP (Matthew Rowing-Parker) suggested we go to Dartmoor this weekend for a hike and we decided we were going to Burrator I couldn’t have been happier.

Setting off early in order to ensure parking and avoiding the majority of Burrator’s weekend visitors, we arrived shortly before 9am. Perfect timing, the day was already hot, a few spaces were taken at the dam end, but largely the area was free and open. Walking across the south of the reservoir we headed along the reservoir path and the pair of us were impressed at how far the water had dropped due to the recent heatwave in the area.

Low water level compared to my last visit in May

With Burrator Reservoir being a working reservoir, completed in 1898 to provide a water supply for the growing population of Plymouth and surrounding areas, it goes without saying that every time the water level starts dropping local people start wondering about hose pipe bans and everything else associated with drought! Leaving these thoughts behind, the pair of us moved veered off from the reservoir walk and started the ascent to Sheeps Tor, the most prominent feature in the surrounding area. I said earlier that Burrator was worth visiting for the more adventurous of you, and this is precisely why. 15 minutes and a bit of huffing and puffing later, we reached the top. The view stretched for miles. We could see the breakwater and across Plymouth Sound to the south, into Cornwall to the west and over Dartmoor and across Devon to the east. 

The view from Sheeps Tor back down over Burrator Reservoir 

It was what lied north that was important to me and MRP however. After basking in the views of Burrator Reservoir that Sheeps Tor gave us – and impressive views they were from 369 metres (1211 feet) up – we picked out the twin Leather Tors looming in the distance, knowing that further away Sharpitor was there to be climbed and decided to take a route around Burrator that looped all the way round to Peek Hill before moving back down to the car. In other words we wanted to get as high as possible, for as long as possible! So we headed off, hiking with intent as the sun got hotter towards Lower Leather Tor. Scrambling down the other face of Sheeps Tor we made good time, rejoining Burrator, crossing the bridge and beginning our ascent. 

Lower Leather Tor, looking out over Burrator

Lower Leather Tor is an outcrop immediately in the shadow of Leather Tor. 331 metres above sea level (1086 feet), a quick water stop and we moved onto Leather Tor. Only a small distance further north, Leather Tor is the parent peak of the two, and there is a enough broken granite all around to suggest that in ancient times the two may well have been joined. At 366 metres (1201 feet) the view from Leather Tor is slightly higher, and of course shows Lower Leather Tor in the foreground. In need of a quick bite to eat at this point we shared some lemon drizzle cake made by MRP’s mum. Delicious. Can’t beat a good snack on a hike!

Leather Tor with Lower Leather Tor in the foreground. The ascent to Sheeps Tor can just be seen to the top left of the photo, giving some idea of the distance we had covered to that point

From Leather Tor, Sharpitor beckoned. Sharpitor really is the giant of Walkhampton common, dominating the landscape further north of Burrator. One of my favourite tors on Dartmoor, yet I have never before climbed it as part of a Burrator walk, rather I have always headed south onto Sharpitor from the nearby carpark on the road to Yelverton. So heading north and climbing the southern face was a first, despite having conquered this part of Dartmoor multiple times. The views from Sharpitor are always fantastic, as you would expect at 396 metres (1299 feet) and is a highlight of any walk, making this hike around the crown of Burrator Reservoir extra special.

The view from Leather Tor to the south face of Sharpitor, basking in the sunshine

Sharpitor marked the point of our hike where we started to loop back towards Burrator and the car. Heading along the ridge we reached the top of Peek Hill, not a tor, but the tallest point in the surrounding area at 400m (1312 feet). After taking in the views (and some more water!) we missioned to the tor situated half way down the hill, Lowery Tor. Just 319 metres (1047 feet) it was the lowest of our peaks, but the closest to Burrator and gave us some of the best views.

The view of Burrator Reservoir from Lowery Tor as clouds gave some respite from the sun, a stunning view of a truly beautiful area

After a stunning walk high above Burrator the pair of us headed back down to the reservoir, parallel to the leat and back to the car. A well deserved ice-cream later, one of the benefits of parking at one of the more popular spots on Dartmoor, we headed home – some 3 and a half hours after we arrived. A fantastic walk with great company. I cant wait for the next one! Only one source used for this walk, due to the number of times I have walked it, but it is credited below. Until then please check out my new page https://indianajanner.com/peak-bagging – a log of the peaks I have bagged since starting this blog.

As always, see you soon and please watch this space!

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Credit is due to the following page for some fact checking: