|Smallacombe Rocks view to Holwell and Top Tors|
Luckily, many tors in the National Park are open to the public all year round, but there are some exceptions:
This is quite a controversial, sensitive topic to discuss but I'll give it my best shot. You will notice that quite a few tors, especially those lesser-knowns, are entirely on Private Land; in a case such as this, you should seek permission from the landowner(s) before visiting. Luckily, many of these rockpiles can be viewed from Public Land without the need to lightly trespass or require permission which can be sometimes difficult. An example of where this is the case is Vixen Tor, the most famous forbidden tor on the moor that can be viewed from its border-wall.
Then, on the south-eastern side of the moor, many of the woodland tors that reside on Private Land can be visited outside of the bird nesting season, achieved by obtaining a permit from Fountain Forestry, the owners of the land. An example of where this is the case is North Wood Tor situated in the greater complex of woods collectively called Buckland Woods.
Lastly, there is a small selection of tors where access is either denied or, more commonly, the outcrop has been left unkempt/forgotten about, sometimes in woodland, with little sign of a landowner looking after it. I do not encourage or support trespassing, but in rare cases, it is the only option if the tor is to be bagged. If you ever consider doing this, and I wouldn't, then Leave No Trace, leave everything as you found it, and respect that it's not your land, and if you are challenged admit defeat and leave the scene promptly.
I will not be held liable for any damages caused, as this is just a piece of advice as to how difficult tor bagging can get. The rule of the thumb from me is to always try and view the outcrop from public land, and if this is not possible due to tree cover etc, then please respect landowners' wishes by staying away if they do not welcome visitors.
Military Training (Live Firing)
= Public (bagged)
= Private (bagged)
= Public (unbagged)
= Private (unbagged)
I am currently in the process of adding a photo to each tor which is the first thing you will see when you click/tap on each icon; there are also blog post links and bagging dates listed.
The Tors & Rocks of Dartmoor
My Favourite Tors
1. Watern Tor
This tor always brings me joy, not just because of the walk in to get there, from whichever direction you take, but rather the outcrops here which are just gorgeous! Watern Tor has, without a doubt in my arrogant opinion, the best horizontal jointing on all of Dartmoor, which makes it all the more distinctive and special. The most northerly outcrop of the collection has a gap between the rocks called "The Thirlstone", a feature crafted by geology and nature many millions of years ago. The position of the rocks here, in lamellar fashion, means that you can shelter from any wind direction were you caught out here. From Batworthy Corner, the closest access point, a large boggy plateau prevents an 'as the crow flies' crossing, requiring a detour past Teignhead Farm and Manga Hill (unless you use the Manga Rails). My Ten Tors teammates would always go on at me and say that this is the worst checkpoint you could get. Well, from Kes Tor, it is quite a detour, to be honest, and if you are only fussed about the route then fair enough. That said, a visit to Watern Tor in any weather will be welcoming.
|The Thirlstone at Watern Tor|
2. Birch Tor
I never seem to visit this tor on a bad day: the weather is always kind, the views are always top notch, and there are always welcoming guests here, usually sheep. I witnessed a beautiful sunset from this tor in July 2020 and its rock formations are some of my favourite on the moor. The tor is not trying to be impressive and does sit below the summit of the hill, but it has special outlooks that I will never forget, and it helps that there is so much to see in this area regarding industrial remains, especially to the south-west, and easy accessibility. There's not much more to say other than this is a splendid location with a pub nearby!
|Birch Tor Sunset|
3. Hucken Tor
When you think of the Walkham Valley, tors which spring to mind include the mighty Great Mis and Staple Tors, and the forbidden Vixen Tor. Yet above all, there is a secluded tor in the woodland just south of Merrivale which is a candidate for the best woodland tor on Dartmoor - a personal preference, obviously. It's known for sure, but how many people actually make the effort to explore this stunning set of granite outcrops? For me at least, the four rock basins at SX 5478 7382, the moss and the view of Vixen Tor from the lowest viewpoint create a scene from a fiction book, and add on the many mossy outcrops which just keep giving and what you have here is a fantastic tor, much of it hidden from above.
4. Steeperton Tor
For me, Steeperton Tor is one of the best tors on Dartmoor as it has everything you'd expect of a typical Dartmoor location: great views, outcrops and isolation, as well as accessibility and surrounding interest. It is unlike anywhere else I've been to so far. Eric Hemery says of this lofty peninsula; "...its narrow crest (is) crowned by the rocks of Steeperton Tor (1,747 feet). Although not commensurable in scale with the dramatic hill on which they stand, the rocks possess a certain intrinsic dignity - not matched by a conspicuous military hut. They constitute a cohesive rock-ridge with three main exposures: the southern pile is known as 'Eagle Rock', the centre conceals an OP built into the east side and the smaller, north pile is bedevilled by the hut. Views are impressive, as might be expected from any such landmark on north Dartmoor. Taw Plain with its waterways is laid out, map-like, below, the natural beauty of the wide basin being much enhanced by the steep rise from its verges of majestic hills."
5. Burra Tor
Where do I start? A lesser-known tor making my top 5? Oh yes, this is goodun, and it's one of best tors on Dartmoor. It's huge, intimidating and so easy to access, yet so little known despite being situated metres away from the famous Burrator Reservoir. It is a tor which has been poorly documented in the literature, with no one barring Tim Jenkinson describing its beauty and size. He likens its appearance to "a giant granite fortress" which I couldn't put any better myself. It's a granite playground and a tor I never tire of revisiting. Burra Tor is a real gem.
Other Honourable Mentions
Any of these tors could quite easily make my top 5:
- Bellever Tor
- Crow Tor
- Kestor Rock
- Hen Tor
- Tunhill Rocks
- Great Links Tor
- Fur Tor (Okehampton Range)
- Sharp Tor (Harford Moor)
- West Mill Tor
- Fox Tor (Fox Tor Mires)
- Wild Tor
- Rooks Hole Tor
- Sharp Tor (Harford Moor)
- Pil Tor