Devon’s best walks: A circular bluebell stroll on Dartmoor

PUBLISHED: 10:05 08 May 2019

Bluebells at Emsworthy and Saddle Tor

Bluebells at Emsworthy and Saddle Tor


In this special extra walk for Devon Life to catch the precious bluebells while they are in flower, HAZEL SILLVER enjoys majestic granite outcrops on this circular Dartmoor stroll


1) From the car park head downslope north, away from the road, walking alongside a wall on your left. Go through the gate and walk alongside the wall on your right.

Dartmoor is a haven for the English bluebellDartmoor is a haven for the English bluebell

2) At the signpost, head right walking between walls towards a building. Eventually where the walls and trees end, head straight on upon the wide grassy path towards a signpost. Go through the gate, along the granite strewn path towards a signpost and gate.

3) Before the gate, head left to one signpost, then another, until eventually you bear slightly left and walk alongside fencing on your right. The path leads over boardwalks and a stream and through gates.

Bluebells at Emsworthy nature reserveBluebells at Emsworthy nature reserve

4) In the corner of the mire field, at the signpost beside a tree, head right. The path leads across another field to a signpost where you bear right past granites with houses on your left.

5) Go through the gates and walk along the field edge with fencing on your right. Pass through more gates, walking alongside the stream. Eventually, after a picnic table and a gate, head right through a gap in the wall and continue walking alongside the stream.

Hound Tor, Greator Rocks and Holwell TorHound Tor, Greator Rocks and Holwell Tor

6) At the wide grassy area, bear left and at the signpost head left up steps. Eventually you will come to a signpost where the way divides - maintain direction straight ahead. The path leads through gorse and then over a series of boardwalks.

7) Just before the road, climb over the signed gate on the right. Dogs can clamber over the gap in the wall to the left of the gate. Cross the stream and walk alongside the road on your left.

Hound Tor and Greator RocksHound Tor and Greator Rocks

8) Head right, taking the middle of the three paths through bracken.

9) At the signpost, maintain direction east across Holwell Lawn past horse jumps. Eventually walk through the gap in the wall and head left past more horse jumps; soon you will see Greator Rocks in the distance.

Saddle TorSaddle Tor

Before the wall and the gate, head sharp right, walking on a narrow path through bracken towards Holwell Tor and Haytor Rocks in the distance.

10) Ignore the stile on the left and remain on the path, which will take you all the way down the hill, passing more horse jumps.

Hound Tor and Greator RocksHound Tor and Greator Rocks

11) At the bottom of the hill, go through the gate and left at the signpost. Bear left and cross the stone bridge over the brook. Then head right and take one of the paths on the left up the bank.

Follow the path through bracken towards Holwell Tor, which is now looming above you; then bear left walking around the bottom of the tor.

Hound Tor, Greator Rocks and Holwell TorHound Tor, Greator Rocks and Holwell Tor

12) The path bears right taking you uphill with Holwell Tor on your right.

13) Almost at the top, head straight on over an old tramway (once used to transport stone from Holwell quarries) and maintain direction alongside a small stream.

Bluebells at Emsworthy and Saddle TorBluebells at Emsworthy and Saddle Tor

At the (less defined) remains of the next tramway, head right walking along it before passing around the right hand side of a pond. The path leads towards a skyline of ten granite outcrops, and heads between the middle of them.

14) At the top, bear left past the biggest granite outcrop, and then head across the moor to Saddle Tor, eventually taking the path up the right hand side of it.

Emsworthy Mire nature reserve and HolwellEmsworthy Mire nature reserve and Holwell

15) From Saddle Tor, follow the path downhill back to the car.


During May, the walk passes through swathes of bluebells at Emsworthy Mire and Holwell Lawn. Like many places on Dartmoor, these precious spots provide a haven for the English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta).

Sadly this beloved flower is under threat from the Spanish species (Hyacinthoides hispanica). Whilst the English has dainty, fragrant, blue-indigo bells, the Spaniard is a big, pallid, scentless thug.

Unlike our native species, whose slender stalk curves like a shepherd's crook, this ugly sister grows upright on a broad stalk.

Where it comes into contact with the English, it hybridises, forming a new bluebell: Hyacinthoides × massartiana, which lacks the intense colour, perfume and grace of our native flower.

Experts advise digging up and destroying the invader if you find it growing on the edge of the moor.

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