Crockern Tor and Wistman’s Wood
Enjoy a wealth of Dartmoor history and legend on this lovely route above the valley of the East Dart river.
One of Dartmoor’s most visited natural attractions, Wistman’s Wood (a National Nature Reserve) is one of only three remaining patches of ancient high-altitude oak woodland, which would in prehistoric times have covered the moor. The others – Blackator Copse near Meldon Reservoir, and Piles Copse in the Erme Valley north of Ivybridge – are far less accessible, hence the popularity of Wistman’s Wood.
Myths and legends
It's a magical spot: a dense mass of stunted oak trees, festooned with mosses and lichens, growing amongst a clutter of mossy granite boulders (which protect the trees from the ravages of sheep and ponies). Not surprisingly the Devil is linked with this atmospheric location, which is said to be home to his terrifying Wisht hounds. These drive sinners across the treacherous boulders until they fall and are seized upon by the bloodthirsty creatures. Longaford Tor also enjoys its share of legends, and is said to be home to the Ghost Foxes of Dartmoor. The remains of a missing shepherd were once found there, and every year during the week before Christmas the foxes’ haunting cries may be heard around the tor.
The stannary parliament
Point 3 leads to Crockern Tor, the site of Dartmoor’s stannary parliament, held at a central point on the moor between the four stannary towns. The first stannary charter was granted in 1201 in the reign of King John I; under Edward I stannary towns were established round the edge of the moor (Ashburton, Chagford and Tavistock in 1305, later joined by Plympton). The charter set up stannary courts, which administered a set of laws to regulate the tin-mining industry. The earliest known sitting of the stannary parliament at Crockern was in 1494. By the mid-18th century the tin industry had started to decline; the last stannary parliament at Crockern took place in 1749, and the stannary courts were abolished in 1896. At Crockern Tor you can still see Parliament Rock, a large natural amphitheatre, and rock-hewn tables and seats.
From the car park opposite The Two Bridges Hotel, pass through the gate heading away from the road, and follow the track, with the West Dart River across marshy ground below leftt.
Follow the rocky path along the wall to the right of Crockern Cottage to meet a footpath post. Keep ahead uphill as signed, on a rough track through gorse bushes. Look up the valley for the first signs of the stunted oaks of Wistman’s Wood clinging to the eastern slopes, with pyramidal Longaford Tor above. Stay on the track, which heads towards a gap in the wall ahead.
Before reaching that, bear right along a grassy path to pass through another wall gap, aiming for Crockern Tor on the hilltop ahead. Bear right across pathless and rocky moorland to reach the tor, site of the old stannary parliament, with wonderful views south.
From the tor turn left and then head north along the ridge, parallel to the West Dart valley, aiming for the Littaford Tors, with pointy Longaford Tor beyond. Look across the valley to the Beardown Tors on the edge of the military ranges. Note also the Devonport Leat (built in 1790 to carry water to Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth) running along the contours on the west side of the valley. A wall comes in right; pass over a stile in the wall corner ahead.
Continue to the northernmost outcrop of the Littaford Tors, keeping right of the rocks. Longaford Tor comes into view along the ridge, and Powdermills, the site of an old gunpowder factory, is to the right.
Bear left and pick your way round the rocks, soon bearing right to walk downhill towards Wistman’s Wood (note that there is no obvious path, and the way is studded with granite blocks).
On reaching a rough path about 50yds (46m) from the wood, turn left. Pick your way carefully along threaded paths over rough ground to leave the wood behind, and cross a stile in a wall. Follow the path on through a wall gap, then rejoin the outward route past Crockern Cottage to return to your car.
Pathless moorland, rough underfoot and wet in places after rainfall; several stiles
Under control at all times; on lead in nesting season (1 March–15 July)
OS Explorer OL28 Dartmoor
Quarry car park opposite Two Bridges Hotel (free)
None on route
Do not attempt this walk in misty weather
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
With magnificent coastlines, two historic cities and the world-famous Dartmoor National Park, Devon sums up all that is best about the British landscape. For centuries it has been a fashionable and much loved holiday destination – especially south Devon’s glorious English Riviera.
Close to the English Riviera lies Dartmoor, one of the south-west’s most spectacular landscapes. The National Park, which contains Dartmoor, covers 365 square miles and includes many fascinating geological features – isolated granite tors and two summits exceeding 2,000 feet among them.
Not surprisingly, in Dartmoor the walking opportunities are enormous. Cycling in the two National Parks is also extremely popular and there is a good choice of off-road routes taking you to the heart of Dartmoor and Exmoor. Devon’s towns and cities offer stimulating alternatives to the rigours of the countryside.