I have a lot of favourite walks on Dartmoor, so I’d struggle to choose a favourite, but Haytor Quarries would definitely be in my top 5. An ideal afternoon walk while on holiday in Dartmoor.
I like it because its great at any time of the year. I’ve walked here in spring, when the buds are coming into bloom. I’ve walked here in the heat of summer and picnicked on the soft grass, before swimming in the waters. I’ve walked here in autumn when the colours become warmer. And I’ve walked here in winter, making tracks through the snow.
It always amazes me how few people make the walk to Haytor Quarries. Perhaps the name doesn’t quite sell them; but be assured this is a true beauty spot in every sense of the word. When you park you’ll think you’ve arrived at the Piccadilly Circus of Dartmoor because it gets so full in the car-park. Before you leave the car park it is well worth visiting the visitor centre, where the staff are always really helpful and you can find a few items are for sale. It is also worth visiting the mobile ‘Home Park at Haytor’ food van. They serve delicious coffee, and great bacon baps, as well as some lovely cakes. Read more about the brilliant food vans of Devon.
Although the car park area gets crowded, the moors are vast, and most people go straight on up to the Tor itself. When you head towards the quarries, by turning off the footpath and crossing a small stile between two boulders, you always leave the crowds behind.
Haytor Quarries describes a large pool of water surrounded by high rocks and trees. It hasn’t been a quarry for a couple of hundred years so nature has reclaimed the land. The granite rock faces are beautiful and dramatic and near vertical. The sharply rising rocks make this a sheltered place, which can be useful on the exposed plains of Dartmoor, where the weather can change so quickly. The rocks are covered in small shrubs and trees, as well as moss and lichens. There are plenty of flat grass areas for picnics.
The pool is perfect for wild swimming and I’ve often brought my wet suit and swum here. It gets covered by water lilies and has an abundance of aquatic life. (The aquatic life can include leeches, which is one of the reasons for the wet-suit!) Apparently, there are wild goldfish in the water, but I’ve yet to spot them!
Nature has re-claimed the land so abundantly that you could be forgiven for forgetting the origins of the quarries, but a few rusting tools remain. The most visible is some old winding gear which sits beside the pool, but there is also a broken crane arm, plus a few metal rings. I find these rusting features strangely attractive, and like the way they remind us of our industrial heritage. This area is now a site of special scientific interest.
Haytor Quarries is an easy walk from the car park so it is perfect for children, or people with mobility issues. But if you want a longer walk, the quarries connect to the granite tramway, the remains of the tracks for ferrying granite down the hillsides.
Whether or not you have any interest in the heritage of the quarries, they are a stunning place to see at any time of the year, and I can highly recommend a visit.
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