• Start: Parking area just west of Hemsworthy Gate off the B3387 (grid ref SX743762)
  • End: Parking area just west of Hemsworthy Gate off the B3387 (grid ref SX743762)
  • Country: England
  • County: Devon
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub: Cafés plus Old Inn and Rugglestone Inn, Widecombe; Rock Inn, Haytor
  • Ordnance Survey: Explorer 28 or Landranger 191
  • Difficulty: Medium
Google Map


Join Robert Hesketh on a Dartmoor walk that offers three superb viewpoints and a visit to the intriguing Ten Commandments Stone.

As well as splendid views, this invigorating walk incorporates a number of other points of interest along the way. These include prehistoric roundhouses and cairns, granite and thatched cottages and an ancient church.

Rippon Tor (473m/1561ft) is the first and highest viewpoint, with an especially fine vista of Haytor Rocks and Saddle Tor. The summit is crowned with a triangulation pillar a historical artefact since the advent of digital mapping.

The views from Buckland Beacon (380m/1254ft) stretch over much of southern Dartmoor, the South Hams and on to the Channel. Below is the deep and thickly wooded valley of the Double Dart and Bucklands pretty church, reduced to toy-town proportions by the vast landscape, with its suggestion of biblical grandeur. Indeed, two impressive tablets of stone lie here, bearing the Ten Commandments. They were carved in 1928 at the behest of the then Lord of the Manor. The task took WA Clements, an Exmouth stonemason, some ten weeks to complete. He camped by his work and earned the nickname Moses.

Buckland-in-the-Moor has some charming vernacular houses of warm grey granite, some thatched, some slated. St Peters is of the same local stone. The tower clock chimes All Things Bright and Beautiful on the quarter hours. Its clock face has no numerals, but is inscribed My Dear Mother. Bucklands tower has a fine peal of eight bells and the Buckland team is widely respected, having established a world call-change-ringing record in 1990 with 5,040 unrepeated call changes in 6 hours.
Lit by converted oil lamps, the interior contains a beautifully carved Norman font and a barrel roof with medieval bosses. Its finest feature is its typically Devonian 16th-century rood screen, decorated with a frieze and painted panels.

The steady 200m (660ft) climb to Top Tor (432m/1426ft) is rewarded with a panorama from Rippon Tor and Saddle Tor in the east to Hameldown Ridge to the west. Deep in the valley below is Widecombe, its famously high church tower of 41m (135ft), appearing only a fraction bigger than Bucklands.

1. Walk towards Bovey Tracey through Hemsworthy Gate. Turn right through the small gate in the stone wall and follow the well-beaten path up Rippon Tor, with its prehistoric cairns and trig pillar. Near the first cairn, on the north-west side, is a partly worked millstone (at SX74649 75569). It was probably discarded because of some flaw.

2. Follow the path south-west downhill to a pair of gates. Take the gate on the right and keep the stone wall on your left. Head downhill to the rock pile. Regrettably, the rocking or logan stone known as The Nutcracker and marked on some maps was damaged by vandals in 1975. Follow the track downhill to a tarred lane. Turn left and walk on to Cold East Cross.

3.From Cold East Cross take the lane for Buckland. After 400m (440yd) turn right at the cattle grid and follow the stone wall on your left along a clear path to Buckland Beacon. As well as the Ten Commandments with Christs eleventh to love one another added a tablet commemorates the Silver Jubilee of 1935, when a beacon fire was lit here And all the people shouted and said God Save the King. Like the beacon fires lit to warn of the Spanish Armada in 1588, this fire was one of a chain of beacons on high hills.

4. Continue as before, following the stone wall steeply downhill. Turn right onto the lane. Although the Roundhouse Craft Centre is now closed it has, like other vernacular buildings in the village, been admirably maintained. The cottages a little further down the lane by the brook at Bridge are especially attractive. Continue to the church.

5. Take the lane, signed Elliotts Hill, opposite the church. Follow it uphill, past Elliotts Hill farm, to a gate. Continue ahead on what is now a bridleway. Cross a tarmac lane. At a second tarmac lane turn left.

6. After only 100m (110yd), turn right and cross the stone wall via a ladder stile. Head north-north-east across rough ground to another stile at the far left corner of the field. Continue on the same bearing and head for the nearest tor, Tunhill Rocks, which has the foundations of a prehistoric circular hut, some 7m in diameter, and its boundary wall, approximately 30m in diameter. Turn north-east and walk on to the next tor, Pil Tor, and the next, Top Tor. Enjoy the views and look out for ponies, which often gather in this area in summertime with their foals.

7. From Top Tor take the easterly track downhill to Hemsworthy Gate.


: 9.7km (6 miles)
Time: 3 hours
Start/parking: Parking area just west of Hemsworthy Gate off the B3387 (grid ref SX743762)
Maps: Explorer 28 or Landranger 191
Terrain: Open moorland, tracks and quiet lanes; two ascents, one short, the other long but gentle; one steep descent
Refreshments: Cafs plus Old Inn and Rugglestone Inn, Widecombe; Rock Inn, Haytor
Public transport: For summer weekend services from Bovey Tracey, contact DNP (01626 832093) or Traveline (0871 200 2233)
Note: The major landmarks are easily located, but map and compass are essential on open moor

For more walks in this area see North Dartmoor Pub Walks by Robert Hesketh (Bossiney Books, 2006) and Shortish Walks on Dartmoor by Paul White (Bossiney Books).

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