A Mini Adventure on Dartmoor

Dartmoor makes me slightly nervous. It’s quite big, a bit bleak and a little scary when the fog descends.  I remember being in the Cadets, hiking across the vast open expanse of moorland near Okehampton, trying to map read and getting wet feet!  I’ve been back a number of times during a pre-children rock climbing phase, but I don’t really know my way around many areas.

I see other people’s pictures and posts of gurgling rivers, pretty bridges and beautiful views and think I really need to be a bit braver. Well I haven’t really been yet, but following the Moor Otter Trail was a good start to finding our way to some new areas of Dartmoor.

When I first wrote this in 2017 we followed The Moor Otter Trail which has now finished but these are still great places to visit.  I have recently learned that there will be a new Moor Otter Trail in 2021. 

Our Dartmoor Route

The Devon Guild of Craftsman

Coming from the Exeter direction we headed for Bovey Tracey.  Sat nav helpfully at the ready.  The first stop was the Devon Guild of Craftsmen (free parking) in the centre of Bovey Tracey right by the river.  This gallery and studio area hosts lovely art and crafts displays,  holds courses, craft fairs and you can also buy the locally made crafts.  This was a new place for us, it was very calm with a cafe on site as well.

Please check the website for opening days, times and facilities.

The house of marbles

Our second stop was The House of Marbles which was a lot busier.  My girls had been before with Grandma but this was also a first for me.  What a great attraction that is free to enter and also free with free parking!  

Not surprisingly there are many types of marbles on display as well as vintage toys and lots of lovely things to buy.  It’s surprising child friendly with only a few “don’t touch” moments needed!

We really enjoyed watching the free glass blowing demonstrations. It was amazing how they can make such delicate and intricate ornaments. There’s also marble runs to entertain, a play area and cafe.

A Mini Adventure on Dartmoor following Moor Otter Trail House Of Marbles
Dartmoor Moor Otter Trail Bumbershoot
Dartmoor Moor Otter Trail Colin
Dartmoor Moor Otter Trail Otter Spotter
Dartmoor Moor Otter Trail Otterly Spotterly
Dartmoor Moor Otter Trail Tiverton

Parke National Trust

Our mini adventure next took us to Parke Estate. This is a fabulous National Trust owned site.  A huge area of land on the edge of Dartmoor with the River Bovey running through the middle. 

There are lots of walks including a river walk which takes you all the way back to Bovey Tracey if you have the time.  Maps are available with suggested routes and also an orienteering course to download.   Cycling is permitted on the old railway line which now forms a part of a cycle route between Bovey Tracey and Lustleigh.

Well known locally is the all important tea room.

Despite being a NT member for many years I had never heard of this before.  Free parking for NT members.  We will be back to have a good look around.

Back in the car (this was a whistle stop tour!) to another new place for me (and one to go back to!) just up the road from Parke.  A delightful farm shop and tea room called Ullacombe Farm.  There was a lovely play park and one of my favourite otters – the spotty one!

Hay Tor

Just a few miles outside Bovey Tracey, Hay Tor is a an easy to reach part of Dartmoor and also home to the Dartmoor Visitor Centre. 

A Mini Adventure on Dartmoor following Moor Otter Trail Hay tor
Dartmoor Moor Otter Trail Haytor climb

The girls couldn’t remember being taken as toddlers.  At least now they can make it all the way under their own steam. We climbed right to the top (no health and safety signs or don’t climb rules –  horray!) It was very windy but with amazing views.  It’s a very popular Tor being so accessible so be prepared for crowds on a sunny summers day!

Back in the Dartmoor Visitor Centre we found our last otter of the day just as it was closing at 5pm.

“It’s a short hike up the hill to Haytor is perfect for all ages. Climbing to the top is entirely optional!”
A Mini Adventure on Dartmoor following Moor Otter Trail view from Hay Tor

The View from Haytor looking South East

Given more time, our trip around Bovey Tracey and Haytor would certainly have been a full day out.  It really should have included a cream tea as well, there were enough chances!

In fact we were on the way to Tiverton for a night camping and then caneoing the next day.  We had a lovely time on the River Tamar.  Our trip took off from Cotehele Quay (a wonderful National Trust location just across the border into Cornwall).  You can read about our canoeing trip on my post about Tamar Trails.

So in summary if you are looking for an enjoyable day out or something to add onto a trip to Dartmoor then this route is a really great idea even though the otter trail has now finished.

We have since found an otter at Canonteign Falls, another  great place to explore. 

Dartmoor Moor Otter Trail Haytor view

 Moor Otter Trail

This trail has now finished but a new one is coming for 2021.

The Moor Otter Trail is a great arts project that is raising awareness and money for the protection of the Dartmoor ecosystem and helping to fund the Junior Rangers programme in the South West.

Otters have slowly been returning to Dartmoor and are becoming more established. They are hard to spot in real life, but fortunately these works of art are much easier to find.

Where Can The Otters Be Found Now?

The Otters were auctioned off after the trail finished. There were 100 otters dotted around Dartmoor and a few in nearby towns such as Newton Aboot and Totnes. They stand about 3 feet high on a plinth and each one has been beautifully painted by a local artist. You will find some of them now on display at tourist attractions, pubs, cafes and hotels.

The otters were a great way to help navigate Dartmoor, but even once the project has finished the little route that we took would be just as worthwhile for a day trip.