Walk: Hound Tor, Devon

Ghosts, witches and dragons: walkers looking for some scary stories should head for Dartmoor National Park

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This moderate walking route takes in a host of Dartmoor’s famous tors – Saddle, Haytor, Howell Tor and Hound Tor.

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Saddle Tor Dartmoor at sunset in the autumn.
The sun sets over Saddle Tor ©Getty
1

 Saddle Tor

Walk from the car park up to Saddle Tor, the favourite haunt of a phantom pony. On quiet nights you can apparently hear its thunderous hoofbeats as it gallops towards you. To your right, follow a clear path leading to Haytor Rocks.

The most famous story attached to Haytor Rocks concerns a young woman who was so desperate to escape an arranged marriage to an old squire that she announced she would only be “the bride of death,” and leapt from the top. Her body was never found, because her dress had billowed out, allowing her to float to the ground and elope with her true love.

"Taken in August when the heather and gorse were in flower, from Haytor looking towards Saddle Tor and the road to Widecombe in the Moor."
The slopes around Saddle Tor flush yellow and purple in spring and summer ©Getty
2

Haytor Rocks

With the main body of Haytor rocks on your right, go down the hill to Haytor Quarries. Join the disused tramway and follow it to a lake on your right, taking a right on to a path leading up to Smallacombe Rocks. Follow the main line (don’t take the right bend) until the tracks run out. Keep going, joining a bridleway that will take you through Becka Brook Valley, and over a small bridge that fords Becka Brook. This brook was once a site of much fear and dread, for a dragon made its lair here and lived on the moorsmen’s sheep and cows.

David Moore's images
Haytor Rocks among the blooming heather ©Getty
3

Hound Tor

You can now see Hound Tor up ahead. Follow the path until you reach the summit, passing the remains of the medieval village of Hundatora, which was only deserted around 1350AD, possibly due to a change in the weather conditions, or more likely due to a bubonic plague outbreak.

Hound Tor is one of the most famous attractions on Dartmoor. The story goes that it was created when a mighty hunter called Bowerman interrupted a coven of witches with his pack of hounds. The witches responded by turning the hunter and his hounds to stone. A mile away, in the direction of Manaton village, you can still see an rock outcrop known as Bowerman’s Nose. Hound Tor is reportedly the site that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write The Hound of the Baskervilles.

From here, it’s a short walk to Jay’s Grave, which lies in a narrow lane just below the tor. Kitty Jay was a late 18th century suicide, buried at a crossroads since the three local parishes refused to let her lie in consecrated ground. Although the body has since been moved, the site has become something of a shrine – locals claim the flowers on the grave are left by pixies, while passing motorists often report seeing a dark hooded figure kneeling there.

4

Greator Rocks

Between the two towers of Hound Tor, facing the car park below, you can turn left and see Haytor Rocks in the distance. Follow the path heading in this direction. You’ll pass Greator Rocks on your left, and a sign that says “Haytor Down”. After crossing Becka Brook again, go up the slope and take the path to your right. Bear left and go through the gate in the wall. Follow the path back to the car park.

Map

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Useful Information

TERRAIN

Steep moorland paths

HOW TO GET THERE

By car: Take the A382 towards Bovey Tracey, then join the B3387 towards Widecombe.

Public transport: Buses are scarce on Dartmoor, but there’s a summer-only bus service that crosses the moor.

REFRESHMENTS

The Rugglestone Inn

Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Newton Abbot TQ13 7TF

Tel: 01364 621327

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Main image ©Getty