Tors Galore on Dartmoor – 31/05/2020

Driving across Dartmoor in sunny weather is always stunning. Heading out of Princetown, Emily and I stopped near Merrivale to start our afternoon. Walking to Kings Tor we wrapped around the Bronze Age settlements, taking in the stone rows, circles and standing stones that have been in place these past 4000 years. I always find it hard to imagine what it must have been like for prehistoric man in such a windswept and open environment. It makes it all the more amazing to think that as a species, even with the most primitive tools, we shaped our environment so early into our history that it would last for millennia.

Emily by the standing stone with the clearly visible remains of a stone circle in the background

Trekking south we passed lambs and streams, enjoying the open moorland and space to ourselves. With skylarks all around us and the sun hot enough to burn, it really felt like normality had resumed and we were fully able to make the most of a hot British summer. As an outing before Emily started her life working for the city council it couldn’t have been better.

Little black lamb 

Starting to climb towards King’s Tor we passed the old tin train line and began our first ascent of the day. At the top of King’s Tor we had spectacular views across the south of Devon. Past Dartmoor we could see Plymouth, the Tamar, out to sea and across into Cornwall. An amazing view and well worth the climb and chill out at the top.

Views out to sea

Once the exposure to racing winds had got the better of us we decided to head back down. Walking south and heading west our next stop was Swelltor Quarries. These impressive scars are the remains of a once towering tor that was mined for granite. Sitting on the rim we caught our breath before leaving and heading to janner favourite, Foggintor Quarry.

Scars in the earth at Dartmoor

Foggintor Quarry is stunning. The walls of the quarry give easy access from two different sides and inside is an iridescent pool of cool water that is perfect for swimming. Emily had never been before and, after seeing a few mentions on Instagram recently, knew it was one of her top places to visit on Dartmoor once able. Unfortunately, being a very popular spot, it was top of the list for plenty of others. It was packed. Loads of families intermingling with friends. BBQs despite high fire risk. No social distancing. To each their own, but with the current risk and guidance we decided to leave. Foggintor will be there for a proper explore and a swim in the future. If people don’t ruin it for everyone in the meantime!

What you don’t see is the carefully cropped out crowd to the right

Heading north we met my parents at a nearby car park before heading out to our final stops of the day. The Mis Tors. The first, Little Mis Tor, is a neat stack of granite that really only serves as a fun climb on the way to its bigger brother. Leaving my parents at the base of these rocks we made our way to Great Mis Tor. This famous tor is the highest for several miles and the views across Dartmoor to the north are spectacular. True wilderness with no roads, farms or towns, central and north Dartmoor are my favourite places in the National Park.

The rocky outcrops of Great Mis Tor and Mistor Pan

Before heading back we explored the rest of Great Mis Tor, including Mistor Pan. Also known as the Devil’s Frying Pan. It is a natural stone basin that locally is said to have been used for Druidic rituals for thousands of years. A pretty cool point of interest to end our hike on before heading back to the car. Visiting these old sites on Dartmoor and remembering the mythology of this ancient place is exactly why we go so often. And there are plenty more to explore!

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Into the wilderness