The Dartmoor national park is situated in Devon, South-West England approximately 4-5hrs driving from London. Dartmoor covers around 368sq miles, with the towns of Plymouth, Exeter, Tavistock and Okehampton on each side.
A mixture of farm land and wild moorland, Dartmoor is stuffed full of legends and ghost stories, easily imagined when alone on a misty night!
Dartmoor is a pretty popular tourist destination, with lots of Walkers, Mountain bikers and Rock Climbers. The “tors” on Dartmoor are rock outcrops on the hill tops and valley sides that are scattered all across the moor.
Some of these Granite tors are pretty minor from a climbers point of view, not even offering any bouldering but many tors are perfect for bouldering or traditional roped climbing. The main climbing area is on the South-Eastern side of the moor near Bovey Tracy and Ashburton, where there are a good concentration of climbing venues such as Hay Tor, Hound Tor and Bonehill rocks being the most famous.
The Dewerstone is one of Dartmoors great venue for the low to middle grade climber, with some fantastic long pitches up granite cracklines and corners with plenty of gear. It’s one venue we use a lot on our Dartmoor courses. It’s situated on the Southern end of the Moor, near Bickleigh and Plymouth, about 45mins from Bovey Tracy.
Dartmoor has the usual mix of venues, some are a mere five minutes walk from the car whilst others are more remote needing some proper Dartmoor bog hopping to get there, solitude guaranteed!
The scenery and backdrop to all of the climbing on Dartmoor is spectacular, wild moorland terrain rolling into the distance. On a summers evening with the sun setting and the granite cooling off nicely you can’t really beat it.
The Granite is particularly rough on Dartmoor, akin to sand paper with glass embedded in it. The routes aren’t normally too bad, especially the popular ones, it’s the bouldering that is more unforgiving and often you are limited to how many times you can try a problem before you start damaging skin.
When to climb:
You can climb on Dartmoor year-round, although the winter is better suited to bouldering rather than trad climbing. The nearby venue of Chudleigh is a great backup option if the moor is damp or chilly.
See our forecast page for weather information.
There are a few climbing guidebooks that cover Dartmoor. The favorite among the locals is the 1995 guidebook written by Nick White, whilst being fairly tricky to actually use as a guidebook, it’s an excellent read and full of whacky comments.
The fairly recent West Country Climbs by Rockfax covers the whole of the south-west, with the main tors on Dartmoor covered, such as Hound Tor, Hay Tor, the Dewerstone and a few quieter venues as well.
The Topo’s certainly are very good, and if your just passing through then it would do the job. Many routes aren’t included though, it’s a selected guidebook after all.
The climbers club are developing a new Dartmoor guidebook, it’ll be a little while yet though.
For a definitive online resource you need to head to javu.co.uk which has some excellent online guides for the bouldering on Dartmoor, all the new route developments in the South-West and some good online topos for the traditional climbing as well. It’s pretty common to see folk wandering around Hound Tor with a printed copy of Dave Henderson’s (Mr Javu) topo.
To get the most of of the climbing on Dartmoor it’s useful to have a car. You can visit several venues in a day and stay super flexible. It is certainly possible to catch a bus to the Haytor area, on a Saturday – Info.
There are plenty of bus services to Ashburton and Bovey Tracy, from where you could hitch, cycle or even walk up to the moor if your feeling fit.
You will need to decide on how much driving you’d like to do each day, and where your likely to do most of your climbing. Tourism is pretty big on Dartmoor, and there are masses of options for places to stay, it’s more about choosing location than anything else.
For our courses we generally recommend people stay here:
For a traditional Dartmoor stay, Princetown on the center of the Moor is about halfway between the Dewerstone and the Haytor area. It’s got a couple of pubs, B&B’s, a basic bunkhouse and a shop, and of course the famous Dartmoor prison! You will have to drive to get to any climbing, there is lots of walking from the village.
There are loads of B&B’s in the Haytor area, especially around Widecombe village which is 5mins drive from Hound Tor and Haytor. Special mention goes to our friends at Lowertown Farm, 15mins drive from the Haytor area in a very secluded Dartmoor farm, with excellent breakfasts!
A few years ago I blogged about my favorite routes in the South-West, many of which are on Dartmoor.
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Other climbing options:
Devon has a huge variety of climbing and this means that you can climb all year round, if you pick the right crag. There are some good inland limestone crags near Dartmoor, in particular, Chudleigh for trad climbing, and Torbryan for Sport climbing, both about 20mins from Haytor, and always warmer and more sheltered if the moor is chilly.
Along the Torbay coast are lots of sea cliffs, bolted sport at Ansteys Cove and trad climbing from Anstey’s to Berryhead, including some excellent deep water soloing. It’s all about 45mins – 1hr from Haytor, depending on the traffic.
For more blogs are photos from our days out on the moor have a browse of the following posts:
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