UK 2019: Dartmoor

Pictures from this part of the trip can be found in the Dartmoor gallery.

Day 13: Thursday May 30

We did a morning hike from our hotel to Fingle Bridge, then up the cliffs near Drago Castle, and back to Chagford. It's clearly a common place for a day hike, because we saw a lot of people near the Fingle Bridge. It felt a lot like being on Minnesota's Superior Hiking Trail again. We ate Roger's Stilton cheese for a trail lunch along with some nuts, then did a driving tour of the Dartmoor National Park suggested by Rick Steves.

On our drive, we spent time in the moor areas, whereas our hike was in the forest areas. We stopped at Grimspound, a Bronze age settlement now used by sheep, who were not bothered by the passing cars. We also climbed to Hookney Tor above Grimspound for a good view of the area, and stopped by the Haytor visitor center for some hiking ideas for the next day.

Before dinner, we decided to drive to Scorhill Stone Circle, about a half hour drive into the countryside from our hotel in Chagford. The (two-way) roads were skinny and full of blind corners, with one bridge that was only 7 feet wide. Fortunately, we didn't meet many cars, and they were in places where you could squeeze two cars across if you were careful. We had some vague walking directions to the circle, and eventually Julie was able to sight the stones a ways to the right of us. Rick Steves was right that if there had been any fog, it would have been very easy to get lost on the moor with no compass. When we eventually got to the circle, a group of horses were grazing inside, so we kept our distance.

After a little while of wandering around the moor, we returned to Chagford and ate dinner at the Globe Inn (just next to our hotel), which we liked a lot more than the previous night.

Day 14: Friday May 31

Today was supposed to be an easy day, but it wasn't! We drove to Haytor visitor center for a few hours of hiking. It ended up taking 4 hours because we got horribly lost not once, but twice, during the walk. Our booklet said that it wasn't sufficient for navigation, and they were right. In retrospect, we should have bought the official Ordnance Survey map and brought a compass (per the Rick Steves recommendation), but we didn't realize how important that would be even on a short hike in a touristy area.

The trails weren't marked at all, and after the first few easy-to-find landmarks, the trail was impossible to follow. We made a few educated guesses and asked a couple people for directions, and got back to the car about 4 hours later, feeling like idiots who should have known better. By then, Ken was in no mood for sightseeing, knowing he had a 3 hour drive to Portsmouth ahead of him.

Except... it wasn't a 3 hour drive. Instead, it took us over 5 hours to drive the 150 miles. We ran into horrible traffic on the single-carriageway roads. The worst was a 45-minute traffic jam caused by a guy painting (washing?) his house in Wilmington. The house was right up to the street, so they turned the main road through town into a one-lane road with stop lights at 3:00pm on a Friday afternoon. Every time the light changed, 3-5 cars got through. <sigh> We were very happy to reach the motorway and eventually the McDonald's oasis, where we finally got some dinner. We then continued into Portsmouth, where had no problems finding the cute Lombard House B&B.